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Jody’s Fresh Picks and Wednesdays @ 1:00

Posted on 14 January 2015 by robwas66


Jody Huber, creator of Jody’s Fresh Picks at the Merriam Park Library. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)


Walk in the doors of the Merriam Park Library (1831 Marshall Ave.) and, opposite the service desk, you’ll usually see a patron or two perusing a small shelf. This shelf is the only one of its kind in the library, a building which, of course, is full of shelves.
The shelf has a catchy name, and it has a curator. The curator is Jody Huber, a local resident and longtime library volunteer who says, “I’m very opinionated about books and movies.”

The shelf, called Jody’s Fresh Picks, contains an assortment of choices from the library’s permanent collection and Huber stocks it with different materials every week. She likes to stroll through the stacks grabbing books and films that catch her eye.

Huber keeps a low-profile for someone in such a position of influence. Many regulars at the library, including those who never miss what’s on her shelf, wouldn’t recognize Huber by sight. But her choices are recognizable and consistently engaging. She steers away from obvious book titles and block buster movies, figuring people can find their way to those easily enough. By her own admission, she prefers materials that are “quirky, odd and open-ended.”


Jody’s Fresh Picks at Merriam Park Library. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Merriam Park is one of 12 branch libraries in the St. Paul Public Library System. Huber’s official volunteer day is Wednesday, and she visits the library at least twice a week on other days. Huber has loved being in libraries since she was a child growing up in Duluth, smitten by the Betsy Tacy books.

“Reading was my first love,” Huber said, “but in addition to the books, I just loved the physical space of my neighborhood library, the peace and the quiet.”

Huber is a free-lance advertising writer by day and an avid short story reader by night. Her current favorite authors are:
—William Trevor, an Irishman sometimes referred to as “the hibernating bookworm’s best friend.” His recently published volume of selected short stories is one of Huber’s favorites;
—Yoko Ogawa, a short story writer and novelist from Japan, is the author of “The Housekeeper and the Professor,” and “The Diving Pool;” and
—Chloe Aridjis, a Mexican-American poet/author well-steeped in international culture and language. “Book of Clouds,” and “Asunder” both brought her acclaim.

In addition to these three writers, Huber has a penchant for authors named Alice: Alice Munro, Alice Adams, Alice Elliot Dark and Alice McDermott to name a few.

Where does an influential viewer of movies such as Huber go to see the latest films? “I don’t go to theaters anymore,” Huber laments. “I never thought I would give up on the dark room and the big screen but as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate my own small screen with pause and playback features.”

From the comfort of her living room, Huber recommends the following documentaries:

— Afghan Star is Afghanistan’s answer to American Idol and an honest appraisal of the political situation there (as of a few years ago);
— Inheritance is a heart-wrenching look at two women survivors of opposite WW II experiences, one the daughter of a concentration camp commandant and one a Jew; and
—The Hobart Shakespeareans, an inspiring documentary about theater, language and an inner-city Los Angeles grade school.
Janet Van Tassel, library specialist at the Merriam Park Library noted that “Jody has been a volunteer with us for 5+ years, contributing 240 hours in 2014 alone. Her recommendation shelf is so popular, that many people pass by the 2,500 or so films on our shelves and make their selections only from her ‘picks.’ We are so fortunate to have Jody with us. She is an invaluable help to both the library staff and patrons.”


Mark Kile, branch manager of the Hamline Midway Library, and co-creator of the Wednesdays @ 1:00 series. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

What motivates Huber to do what she does? “I just love knowing that there are kindred spirits out there,” she said. “We’re a little group of like-minded souls, even if we don’t know each other.”

In this world of myriad and sometimes overwhelming choices, Merriam Park Library patrons are lucky to have Jody’s Fresh Picks up on the shelf. If you’d like to hear Jody Huber in action, she’ll be showing films and leading discussions in the Wednesdays @ 1:00 series at the Hamline Midway Library on Jan. 28, Feb. 25, Mar. 25, and Apr. 29.

Located at 1558 Minnehaha Ave., Hamline Midway Library is another gem in the public library system. Branch manager Mark Kile will continue hosting the weekly Wednesdays @ 1:00 series there this winter that is free and open to the public.

Kicking off the series on Jan. 14 will be William Kent Krueger, local author-extraordinaire talking about the importance of books in his life and in the lives of us all. The series will continue through the end of April, with varied speakers and presentations to spark the imagination of all ages. The program was co-created with Hamline Midway Elders’ director Tom Fitzpatrick as an informal learning opportunity. It runs from 1-3pm each week with a break for tea—in real china cups—and cookies. No reservations are required.

According to Kile, Wednesdays @ 1:00 serves as an important outreach to the community. Since self-checkout of library materials was instituted in 2006, it has become harder for library staff and patrons to engage. There simply are fewer conversations. But Kile says, “Almost everyone has an ‘itch’ about something, a question they want answered. If they know what their ‘itch’ is, my job is to help them scratch it. If they don’t know, then my job is to make them curious about what it might be.”

Stop in and talk with Kile if you have a skill or interest you might like to share as a presenter. The winter series is already scheduled, but it’s not too early to start thinking about the fall. Past Wednesdays @ 1:00 have included talks on crime prevention, wildflower identification, tai chi and the history of chocolate.

Kile concluded, “This is Hamline Midway Library’s response to the interests and the talents that exist in our neighborhood. This is about being in relationship with one another – and welcoming everybody in.”

2019 Midway Chamber Directory