Nancy Geiger and Yongan Wu

Recorded October 26, 2017 Archived October 26, 2017 43:51 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: ddc002251


Nancy (58) and Yongan (62) talk about why they love their jobs and what their day-to-day experiences are like interacting with library patrons.

Subject Log / Time Code

Nancy talks about coming from a family that loved to read. She remembers the book mobile when she was younger.
Yongan talks about how libraries were not accessible where he grew up in China.
Yongan describes his experience coming to the U.S. and his first experience of going into an American library.
Yongan talks about one experience when a man who had a lover in China had come to ask him to translate a letter he received from her.
Nancy talks about how as a librarian you get to help people. During the flood that impacted Iowa in 2008, she was able to field questions about getting mold out of the house and direct people to different resources.
Yongan talks about the types of questions they receive: what car to buy, what restaurant to go to, or where to live.
Yongan talks about how he wants to remembered as a helper -- someone who made life easier to for people.


  • Nancy Geiger
  • Yongan Wu

Recording Location

Cedar Rapids Public Library

Venue / Recording Kit

Partnership Type

Fee for Service


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00:01 My name is Nancy Lee Geiger. I'm 58 today's date is October 26th, 2017. We're in the Cedar Rapids Public Library in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and I am speaking with my coworker.

00:20 My name is you iron wool and spelled y o n g a n last name spelled it. W you and I'm 62 today is

00:34 October 26th

00:36 17 and I'm right now in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and I'm talking with my coworker.

00:49 One of my earliest memories involves being read to us a child every time my aunt and uncle would come to visit. They bring more Little Golden Books and sit right down and read them to me.

01:01 My grandfather

01:04 Who only went to the eighth grade was a poet and wrote poems Carlson's Corner that were in the Cedar Rapids Gazette, but his occupation was farming.

01:16 So I come from a background of people that love to read.

01:21 As a child a real treat was walking two blocks to the bookmobile and major treat was if we actually drove to the downtown library. It was one of those things that we only did a few times a year.

01:36 So it was sort of natural that I wanted to be a librarian and I love public libraries because of the variety of patrons we work with.

01:45 That's what it how I ended up where I'm at where you are located inside aspect.

01:53 My parents were not her.

01:59 Well educated and then my father I think he finished his primary school. My mother had two or three years of education.

02:13 Betsy told me stories now that's handed down from generation is after generation is so I

02:22 Has a kids loved stories and

02:30 In terms of libraries when I grew up in the 60s library is not easily accessible. You have to take a bus and

02:43 Maybe half an hour to get there and even you get there you may not be that eating.

02:52 Because

02:55 And that time I think the city is a Municipal Library parents to sirius researches.

03:03 And it was not until when I went to middle school.

03:07 Did I have a chance to visit it as a field trip?

03:13 And

03:14 Thinks they're my impression was it was a place of books with spectacled people?

03:24 It was just a place for serious people not for us kids.

03:30 And

03:34 In terms of my first memory of library is United States when I came here. I was already there and I am I

03:44 Circus

03:45 And a year after I came to the states to my daughter John and me she was one years when you do that at time and I'm taking her to a public library when she was able to walk.

04:01 And so a tourist visa library Seattle Children's Books

04:07 And as it was Sarasota times and she loved it, and she always asked me asked me to take her to the library.

04:17 And she still remembers.

04:20 Some of them idiots not all over them. And I clearly remember most of this was her so I share my first memories with my daughter into himself.

04:32 I put diaper in United States.

04:35 And it's good. It's one of the best memories in my life.

04:46 So how did you transition and become a public library and then without a lot of earlier exposure?

05:00 Start to become a librarian.

05:03 For various reasons one of the movers was he on

05:10 With some experience when I first came to the states, I start my study start my study.

05:19 At a spring semester instead of normal for semester.

05:24 I arrived.

05:27 About two weeks earlier in Hope of finding an apartment and told me that a day or two to find it with the help of the people who already here. So I didn't have anything to do for the for the for the two weeks before the semester started. So I spent all my days in the library.

05:51 And right in the middle of the hallway.

05:56 Was a travesty reference desk behind which sits usually a lady sometimes a guy.

06:07 And see seem to have answers to all the questions.

06:13 Posed to them by users of the library and I'll look at them.

06:22 And I thought it's so cool to be on that seat and I want it to be on that seat.

06:29 So

06:32 I came here to study this ship compared to literature. I spent two years cuz my master's degree in literature.

06:42 And I had a choice I'll go along with pgd or change a major.

06:49 I just have to change major.

06:51 And I remembered the ace.

06:57 At the library when I first arrived element that seat behind rev desk.

07:03 Tonight decided to go to another school.

07:09 And what's us? What what what make you to decide that you want to come Library?

07:16 I worked in my school library in elementary school when I was in high school. I worked as a shelver and a circulation desk assistant in the downtown library. I could drive by them that helped a whole lot. It was something I always love but the school in My Town Iowa State University. When I started there they thought they would be a touring Library science, but they never did. My degree was in industrial Administration with an emphasis in accounting and a minor in sociology cuz I like to know how people work and I've always found business interesting to that was some of my favorite course work.

08:00 It sort of having an Eclectic range of interests helped with that.

08:07 I just always wanted to be a librarian and went directly from graduating from college and Iowa State to going to University of Iowa and doing a full year of of Library school there and it was fun doing the reference work. We were serving as a backup reference service for the entire State at that point.

08:30 Later, when I got the job here in Cedar Rapids as a reference librarian Cedar Rapids Public Library was the East Central Regional reference service for all the surrounding smaller libraries as well. So in addition to helping our own patrons, we were answering phone calls for people in The Wider range. So that was again more experience with the wonderful variety. That's libraries. I

09:00 Totally love helping people and learning something new everyday helping them become more confident. One of the things I love about my assignment at the Ladd library is that I have a lot of direct Patron contact. So it may be the person that's trying to

09:18 Do the

09:21 Postal service exam or the person that is setting up an email account for that job. They want to sign up for or it could be someone that's trying to research the history of their lamp. And is it worth anything? It's just the variety is wonderful. Sometimes getting to read to kids on the story days and so forth like that.

09:44 I just love the variety that we get and with the microloan program that we recently have going at the library that ties in with the business and helping people and that's something that we worked on together. Yes.

10:00 We on when when I first started my job is much easier.

10:08 And

10:11 Because

10:13 It's simple that we don't have a lot of fat.

10:18 Technology involved

10:21 Say for instance, you know if somebody come seeing

10:25 Say I'm looking for

10:31 4 piece of information

10:35 And then we just look up in a book that way now. We're familiar ways and a lot of the

10:42 Since we do

10:47 How how wait wait or how well wait wait depends on our background different you are you you had a business major so you will be able to help a person with business question. Can I do too cuz I knew nothing about business, but I do have a language background. I know Chinese.

11:07 And so I can help people if they have a question about that language.

11:14 I remember when I was young.

11:18 Questions a lot of people after their steak came asking me to write down a Chinese character because they want wanted to be

11:30 Tattooed on that bad for whatever it is. And what I do know is that I write them down. So it's my handwriting and to prove it or to make the official so I go to the shelves and the dictionary.

11:48 And find that page with that character and show them that you'd make for the copy of this and it's also give the definition of the word so you can start yet decide what you want to put it on your on your body because I can't mean things that you wouldn't want to meet.

12:08 So that's that's kind of interesting and I'm always I always like to doing that because that's my

12:17 My expertise

12:19 And when I was changed to no, no, no this Google can't do all this so we don't get your scratches anymore. All they do is they say just go to Google and type.

12:30 Chinese word for bravery

12:34 Send it pops out five or six versions of yet different styles and they all need to be printed out make larger or smaller and then taking you yet.

12:46 But sometimes Google want to be able to do the same as they want.

12:53 One of the things I did I should remember it was a gentleman who came to the library and looking for me.

13:02 He asked me to translate a letter from his girlfriend with whom he had a long-distance relationship with.

13:12 2 girlfriend was at a time living in China. So she wrote him a letter.

13:19 Ask you nothing about Chinese. So she want me just to translate it to him.

13:26 And said it was

13:31 Scatter The Wiz words like Missy missing you loving kissing and the can wait inside that so I had to translate for him because that's what he wanted. So I did and cause of it. I feel kind of embarrassed feelings that I'm in truth of the privacy and he didn't matter but he brushes his teeth brushed and I brushed

13:57 And I think that Google cannot do yet Google can.

14:03 Google Maps brush as well.

14:07 That's a wonderful story.

14:11 And you're right things have changed so much as to how we do things, but we're still that intermediary in that Personal Touch and that person that cares that they get what they're after and that can maybe offer some alternative suggestions when they're trying to do this or that we can also say there are these things but have you also thought of these other local resources or this National resource a lot of times?

14:45 The people we see are not as technologically savvy as they might be or we have the other person who thinks that absolutely everything can be found on the internet and that's not true either.

15:01 CI

15:04 System and Technology helps. You know, what job?

15:10 We are.

15:14 We have a lot of databases in the library.

15:20 And so Sky devices can be subscribed can be used outside the building.

15:27 So

15:29 Christopher

15:31 At first it seems that it's kind of true people away from us.

15:36 And

15:39 Actually in a

15:43 It also helped us to chew people into the library.

15:49 Send it to learn how to use yet.

15:51 And also if say

15:55 Use it at home.

15:59 It's what my dad eats some tomorrow needs for information. And so they come back for more.

16:11 And on the other hand in the way have to teach people to use technology.

16:20 I often classes.

16:26 And the buy when I one teaching as well, well, like one of the things that you spearheaded was the

16:39 Classes for the local nonprofits on how to use some of those new databases and together. We sort of showed them some ways they could use them to find their potential donors and also told them about some of the limitations of those databases because that's another part of the information as we have to know enough to help them make wise choices and know enough from what they ask for that we need to be looking for this or that new database or other source of information. We've been doing a lot with partnering with local businesses organizations nonprofits.

17:22 The flood of 2008 just really was a game-changer for Cedar Rapids Public Library. We ended up doing a lot more Outreach. After that. There was a lot of economic need and a lot of people looking for answers and we stepped into the breach when we had that flood originally FEMA didn't regard libraries is essential providers of services and yet they were trying to send people to us to use computers to fill out our forms and we lost all of our computers. We were setting up in the mall and trying to add things in and

18:01 Helping people find out how to clean their mold and so forth off their walls. It was a time of a lot of challenges, but it was also a time when

18:14 We form closer relationships throughout the community even within city government. We had people that we're going down and helping with screening contractors and photographing them and putting out IDs and with a more recent flood this last fall. We were actually going out into some of the shelters and taking toys and games and doing story time is and we just

18:41 Become closer and more involved as time goes on we are in a time of great opportunities and possibilities.

18:50 Yazoo macaron program you mentioned earlier

18:56 Was a bond because of the flood.

19:01 And we lost a lot of businesses After the flood and the city Charter Revitalize the downtown area.

19:10 And when I was the same when I programmed it created was my girl which enables people to borrow small amount of money between 1000 to 10000 to start their own business. You can just float in Enid area.

19:27 And we have

19:29 Being talking to all kinds of people who charge a president to start their penises.

19:36 And I remember talking to people who want you to open a second hand store so that she can he knows everything about me, but I meant the used items once go to that land the field again in.

20:01 I have another person who want to

20:04 Open a scooter rental business. So the people from out of town or from surrounding areas. I can rent a scooter and they can have them for the chores to do that trails.

20:19 2 2 kind of outside

20:23 Make sis committed known to others to attract people from outside and two to a tomato City.

20:33 A welcome place

20:36 And two weeks ago. I have this guy who came being for a just for the walk-in interview for the makka makka macaron.

20:48 And so I said I'm with him a few questions.

20:55 And when we went through the application form

21:01 And he was kind of hesitated hesitating about it. He said I don't have a

21:10 Credit history

21:11 I don't have savings. I don't have even a credit card.

21:16 I don't have a bank account I can open right now.

21:21 But I don't have one yet.

21:25 I don't even have a place to live.

21:28 It turned out that he just came out came to see Cedar Rapids and he live in the Shell right now looking for place to live.

21:37 What do you want to do is to open his own public speaking firm.

21:43 So that he can go out talk to use in the community Akita in high schools at wedding Heights Community here.

21:54 And talk to the people.

21:58 How to avoid trouble how to avoid being a

22:05 Incarcerated because he said that he had to be in there. I did not have a lot of money and he did not have a lot of Education.

22:15 But he had some run-ins with the law and he had a lot of stories to tell.

22:22 And he wanted to open his business to do that.

22:26 I do not think that he qualifies it for that all but I still have encouraged him to fill out the form.

22:34 Come up with a business plan.

22:38 And submit it. Anyway, if it succeeds, that's great. If not send you learn by the process of applying for the law.

22:51 And you would know what's involved to open your own business.

22:56 If if the NASA says it's time to years from now CBS from now you build your credit you work maybe for an organization. You can still go to speak to people and tell them your experience and tell them your story is

23:16 And

23:19 In the future, you may you will be successful if you keep at it and try to meet all the requirements and

23:32 Get you alone.

23:34 At that time

23:36 So sometime I see that we have interviews with a hundred maybe 110 applicants in the course of three years.

23:48 Most of them won't be able to gather.

23:51 But all of them with cane useful experience in the process of applying for the wrong in the process of our conversation with them.

24:02 So that it would be more likely to be successful in the future. You had they have not tried. So I was thinking when I at the end of the day.

24:18 Driving back home

24:21 I think we may not know that exam.

24:25 Through the finish line

24:28 But we can always.

24:31 Take Sam beyond the starting point.

24:36 And move them forward towards at Finish Line in the future of understanding the different components of starting a business.

24:50 Sometimes you can show them. Well, you can actually cash flow this because you've got your other money coming in and you don't have to stop your current job. You can keep going with that and started as a side business.

25:06 And by talking with us and with those that we refer them onto other partners in the microphone system.

25:15 Sometimes we help them decide that they really don't want to go forward with this because they hadn't thought of some of those aspects that it was going to require. So like you said, even if they don't become that

25:31 Microloan success story they've gained something whether it's changing their focus or

25:41 Just learning a little bit more about how things work.

25:45 Yes, we are also look him in some books and we have special collection for the macaron cracked screen. And so they can check out book on how to advertise a business how to write a business plan.

26:02 All those in the maturity we have in the library and they can always come back again again, and we can also put them in touch with the governmental agencies that they need to use to set up their employee withholdings and tax information and all the other stuff that they made an insurance that they may never even thought about when I think about the people that wanted to start up restaurants with had delivery services and they hadn't yet thought about some sort of insurance for that vehicle that was going to be

26:40 Representing women care in their product

26:44 There's a lot of things that beginners don't think about that could be a real stumbling block to them in the future. We're just part of the step along the way and helping them see the whole picture.

26:56 Oh, yes. I think we're going to continue to to do it right into the future. Right the city has come up with more money a couple of times and I think we're about to the point of asking them for additional funds there for the most part right on track and paying things back in some cases so fast that that money is already out. They're going to the next applicant. So those are some real delightful success stories.

27:33 And then more incubators are starting up in the community. So again, it's building and snowballing and that's an exciting thing. The fact that the greater Cedar Rapids Foundation was able to talk to some of their donors and get them to come up with funds for people that weren't in the flood inundated areas. So again, we didn't have to turn people away that we're in our geographic area saying well your particular block wasn't in that area that's been a real bonus. It's been great working with the Small Business Development Center and score and learning more about what resources are out there every day as we work with the public we learn more about what's out there. So it's

28:20 It's a wonderful time to be a librarian. We can change learn something everyday we can do to help people everyday.

28:30 Talking about Outreach programs

28:34 And thinking back 22 years ago when I start it.

28:41 It's a different world. It's a different library and we're doing a hole.

28:49 Lot less than we thought we would do like 20 years ago in your case, 35 years ago and

29:00 Love is a place people like to be not only as a patriot, but also as a library, that's why I stayed for so long. That's why you stayed for you longer.

29:13 And I'm

29:16 It's a chance. It's a changing profession and it's rewarding as well as challenging.

29:25 So

29:31 Formula building for about 22 years. It also changed my life.

29:37 And

29:39 I benefit a lot from being a library.

29:44 You know what day to day life. We answered all the questions. We have no questions from

29:55 What car to buy?

29:59 Which electron to eat? Yang?

30:03 What's the weather like 20 years ago today?

30:09 And we don't always have answers right away. So we do research will look by things we go online with a we talk to each other.

30:22 And in the process of us just researching for our patients waiting a lot of ourselves and we become more knowledgeable.

30:32 So when it's time for us to buy a car we know which car to buy.

30:38 And we know

30:41 Where to drive to as vacation in got car

30:47 So Alive lyrics life is almost is always

30:52 Beto spend

30:55 Then I guess because we are getting formed.

31:01 And

31:04 We know a little more.

31:07 Send

31:08 Everybody else. I think when women do not women not know a lot love scenes in Taps, but we know a little of everything exactly and we generally know where to go to look for the information or who to ask. So if I have that literature question or the question about Chinese culture, I know who to go to.

31:30 We also

31:33 A lot more than when we started have become a hub for the community. We have lots of meeting rooms. We have weddings on the roof here. We have birthday parties. We have booked announcement parties we have

31:50 Events for politics right now. Mayoral candidates speaking to full auditoriums

32:00 It's been a delight and we continue to be relevant at our lab location. We are working a lot with immigrant populations and lower-income people. So there's a mobile food pantry that comes there once a month and we have people lining up half an hour ahead of time. We have people asking when's that going to be I need to tell my sister-in-law we have

32:28 The whip where senior citizens group that plays cards once a week and we have usually at least 20 senior citizens They're laughing and talking and connecting and feeling part of a larger Community feeling and touch not being lonely. It's invaluable having those sensitive connection.

32:53 I can't count the number of times a day that someone will say I love the library.

32:59 It happens on a daily basis and what greater reward can you have than to work with wonderful people and for the most part be appreciated by the public that you help with? We all have a few people that are little bit grouchy and you know what they still come and we're still happy to see them.

33:17 Yeah, I think so. I think that's

33:20 Saturday morning part of being an employee of the library

33:27 And

33:30 Send you the help and all we want to get to offset health.

33:36 So

33:40 When I'm Gone

33:43 Someday either retire or

33:49 I would be wanting you to remember that tests for like heaven being a library having being a helper.

33:57 Of the community of the people who came to the library.

34:02 And

34:05 Date today

34:10 My job is I think two.

34:13 Make life easier for a dress

34:17 And

34:19 To be helpful when everything you did and to save their time.

34:31 A lot now there's a lot of people that came in.

34:34 Not just to check out book take him being to the 17 set. What affects your life in a long time.

34:43 Such as applying for the job and then come back and tell you they got the job and you celebrate a little bit with them. That's right. And then

34:54 That's like when they can music and if they have regular income.

35:02 And this year so happy she came and they want to shake hands with us and sometime bring like a bag of Darkness.

35:11 See that's so different than when they first came to apply for that job. She sit in front of a computer and they don't know where to start.

35:24 And nowadays all jobs even in a to be a Walmart to Walmart.

35:31 Walmart, greeter greeter you have to apply it online.

35:36 And so they came and a lot of times you a lot of hurdles you have to to overcome you have to have an email account. So what helps helps him to create an email account.

35:52 She have to have a drive-thru May. Sometimes it's the same. I need a cover letter for that.

35:58 And we have them to do all this.

36:03 If we don't have time we teach them how to do this and

36:11 So that's very important to them. You know, it's a job.

36:29 One of the other things that has changed a lot in our library in the last few years if I use the volunteers, it used to be we just have a few volunteers helping out with a few story times or whatever and now we have volunteers that we look forward to end need on a daily basis whether they're helping to clean DVDs whether they are finding holes on the shelf and getting them ready for us to send on

37:01 When they it help staff the summer reading sign up desks.

37:06 We have some volunteers to help with some basic dad and tree. We have the volunteer concierge that helps direct people to the Wright Auditorium for their event. It's just

37:21 Change so much. We have the clean team on some of these are adults or young adults that are mentally or physically challenged and they come in and they make a visible difference in their library in their community and we appreciate them and they appreciate contributing.

37:47 And it's the volunteers stay help us to expand our program.

37:54 So we can do more with their help.

37:58 And also the one she has a a lot of them came because of that positive experience in the library.

38:07 Before they became volunteers

38:10 Some of them say

38:15 Say say came say I want to volunteer in the library because I like library because Library have helped me know. I want to help with the library to help people like me.

38:28 Who came to the library?

38:32 And with our training programs for the volunteers, they learn about parts of a library that would never have known about and then they tell their friends and neighbors and so it gets the word out to so volunteers are cool in and of themselves, but they helped spread the word and that's wonderful to

38:56 Lad is a branch library that offers a pretty full lineup of services. I am a reference librarian. I'm the only reference librarian there. We have children's story times. We have a lot of computers. It's called lad because a woman named Marilyn Ladd.

39:15 Passed away and left money to the library end that was used to furnish and get that Branch up and going we would not have had the funds to do that without her contribution and she was a quiet person that love libraries. She had a book group, but she was never actually on our radar. We didn't know about her until we got. We were in her will

39:43 Yeah, all of them have worked at the lad before we came to this beautiful building downtown after it was built.

39:52 And talking about lad.

39:57 It make me no think about downtown library and it was built about 3 years ago.

40:08 And everybody who walked into this downtown library for the first time.

40:14 Will say wow. What a beautiful building.

40:18 And we all agree and every time I came to to work every day, I came to work. I look at the building. I feel happy. It's just a happy place to be not only in terms of what's in their mm terms of the structure of the architect architecture itself.

40:41 So I encourage everybody for listen to this tape to come one day to look at it.

40:48 Anti the my sis Library

40:52 And I might not be here anymore. But I think the building will be here for a long time.

41:04 Closer

41:07 I remember when they had the interviews for you because that was back when all the different libraries got a chance to meet the candidates and I'm so pleased that you join the Cedar Rapids Library. You've been an integral part of wonderful Champion for the library in the patrons. I really appreciate working with you. Yeah. That was not have my guy II don't remember those interviews anymore, but I do remember driving to Cedar Rapids.

41:43 From Indianola Simpson College where I was at. You had that time. That's a college over there.

41:52 And

41:55 It was snow snow here.

41:58 When I left Simpson College

42:03 On my little pickup

42:06 It was

42:09 A whiteout

42:11 I skipped left and right in my truck.

42:16 And Stanwood halfway on Interstate 80.

42:23 When I was close to Grinnell, which is halfway point between Cedar Rapids and Indianola.

42:32 The weather turned the clear to snow stopped the same even people out there.

42:38 I took that as a good omen.

42:43 I think Cedar Rapids. Yes. Where can we meet even before I became an employee of this Library?

42:51 And it's only my 20 at 22 years here.

42:55 You are always here with me and so

43:01 Many other colleague has stood I have some of them have retired but all of you guys have you know, how we are on the way to get familiar with the community to to get familiar with Public Library ship which which I was not

43:21 The midways I was at tamuk academic library at a time.

43:31 But thank you again. That's it for for those wonderful 22 years as my colleague even though we're in different branches.

43:43 But we work together toward the same girl that he has to help his community.