News | 31 July 2020
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Fostering young minds with love of literacy

Trust a six-year-old future librarian to pick out an 1100-page novel for his mother to read to him as a bedtime story.

Librarian Stephen Clothier sitting on a mat reading a story book to a toddler.

Stephen Clothier says his best childhood book was JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, and it wasn’t until he was all grown up that his mum confessed to skipping over large chunks of the story as his kid ears listened intently, none the wiser to the gaps in plot.

Having come from a family of librarians, it’s probably no surprise that at a young age, Stephen took a shine to a book in size that would likely daunt many adults.

Stephen, 26, is Wellington City Libraries (WCL) Children and Youth Services Coordinator.

He is responsible for the planning and delivery of all services, programmes and events for children and youth (ages 0-18) across the whole WCL network, which consists of 14 libraries, seven community centres, and the Johnsonville collection/distribution centre where the Central Library collection is currently being held.

Each week, Stephen and library staff will deliver between 90 and 120 events for young people, ranging from Story Time and Baby Rock and Rhyme sessions, to craft activities and author talks.

He says a lot of effort goes into kura (education) and building strong relationships with schools, with many programmes designed in line with the school curriculum.

Stephen says libraries have always been like a second home for him. His mother, aunty, and two sisters are all librarians too, and he got his first after-school and holiday job at Hastings Library aged 14.

Librarian Stephen Clothier dressed as a penguin while performing story time in front of a bunch of children.

At 15 he discovered his passion for reading to others, and has been known to do back-to-back Story Time sessions for days on end with a genuine smile on his face.

Now with 12 years’ experience in libraries, Stephen says he is passionate about engaging with the community and fostering relationships with tamariki and their whānau.

“What I love about libraries is the whole idea of democratising access to information that’s free. It’s allowing people who might not always have access to the coolest resources or newest technology to come and have a good time, learn and engage with the community.

“It’s not always so much about teaching or people acquiring skills. It’s actually about building a community that’s like-minded, creative, and building community connections – maybe inspiring somebody, or maybe just giving them a bit of joy.”

Staff at the Waitohi Johnsonville Library smiling and standing on giant steps.

Computer coding, programming robots to navigate Lego mazes, Kōhunga Kōrero, and creative writing classes are just a few of the WCL programmes Stephen and his team deliver.

A  fantasy and sci-fi lover at heart, he reads lots of books in the young adult genre so he’s up with the play, understands the trends, and can add to his recommendation list.

His top book “at the moment” is The Fifth Season, a 2015 science fantasy novel by N K Jemisin. The Assassin's Apprentice, a fantasy novel by American writer Robin Hobb, takes the cake as Stephen's "favourite book of all time".

“I’ve read that book and subsequent series like 15 times. I always get something new out of it.”