Oldenkamp prepares for new civic responsibility

Thursday, January 10, 2019
Longtime library patron Jay Oldenkamp will actively begin his duties as the newest addition to the Spencer Public Library Board at the February meeting. Oldenkamp has been utilizing the library since childhood and wants to encourage more programming options aimed at young adults.
Photo by Colin Van Westen

Longtime Spencer Public Library patron Jay Oldenkamp will join the library board as its newest voice when he begins his active duties as a board member at February's meeting. He decided to inquire about joining the board last fall after receiving encouragement from a longtime friend. Oldenkamp will be the youngest member on the board at age 24.

"We were talking one day at Hy-Vee and my friend was like, 'You should join the library board because you are already on the Spencer Community Theatre board which is good experience and you were one of the library kids, so you have been here since a young age.' I wrote a note to the mayor saying, 'Hi, I'm Jay Oldenkamp. I am currently on SCT's board. I have been to the library many years as a kid. I really appreciate the library.'"

Months passed before Oldenkamp received a voicemail from Spencer Mayor Kevin Robinson notifying him of a vacancy. Library director Mandie Muehlhausen explained one of the factors contributing to his selection was a desire to maintain a gender balance on the library board.

"Jay has grown up in this library system, so he knows what the value of the library is and can really bring that perspective," Muehlhausen said. "Rather than paying attention to the numbers and the bottom line, he will be able to bring a perspective anecdotally to why programming and the library is so important. He is a really valuable member to have to tell that side of the Spencer Public Library story."

Oldenkamp, who will replace library board member Heath Ritcher, served on the teen library board in his youth. His primary literary interests are works of fantasy and science fiction.

"When I was a kid, I would check out a bunch of books I wanted to read, or if there was a gaming event I wanted to do like Mario Kart tournaments (I would attend,)" Oldenkamp said. "They were fun. During the summer, the reading program was neat because you tracked your progress. The prizes were really fun stuff. At the end of the reading program, there was a summer lock-in which was really fun to do."

Muehlhausen and Oldenkamp agreed there is an opportunity for the library to expand programming to young adults. Muehlhausen acknowledged the library struggles to attract patrons in the 20-35 age range outside of DVD rentals.

"All those public boards, the citizens' opinions are really valuable," Muehlhausen said. "It gives the citizen voice in how city entities are run. The library board is a governing board which means they are in charge of making the major decisions for the library. The people on the library board make decisions which make a lasting impact on the library in the present and the future."

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