Pathfinder Edith Sutterlin: Librarian Extraordinaire!

Submitted by Ila Langner on Wed, 12/09/2020 - 10:00 PM
Edith Sutterlin’s Birthday Storytime!

Pathfinder is a series of blogs about intrepid library staff who are leading interesting programs that you may not yet know about.

Edith Sutterlin knows the breadth and depth of librarianship.  She has spent over 25 years at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. as a Bibliographer, then an Information Resources Specialist for the Congressional Research Service (CRS.)  She provided reference help to both analysts and congressional staff.

Edith shifted her focus from government work to public library work at the Northland Public Library’s Technical Services Department in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she spent 10 years supervising staff on acquisitions, cataloging, and processing of new materials.

Continuing her lifelong volunteer interests in storytelling and sharing the love of reading with children, she became a children's librarian when she worked at New Jersey’s  City of Orange Public Library  for 2 years.  Edith says that her “key passions within library service are: storytimes; early education; program planning; reference (and readers’ advisory) and continuing education or training.”

Edith’s love for reading is contagious.  Her five grandchildren all love stories!

Helping people is one of Edith’s core values.  COVID-19 has hampered one of her most beloved hobbies:  volunteering.  She is a volunteer with Furry Friends, an organization that provides pet-assisted therapy to seniors.

One of the ways that San Jose Public Library reaches its communities is through library programming.  Edith is an outstanding, innovative programmer, who I have observed as a percolator of ideas!

Virtual Book Clubs for Children and Tweens

Edith, like many great librarians, recognized needs in the community and produced programs that would fulfill those needs during these trying times.

She recognized that there weren’t enough programs for grade school children during the summer of 2020 and that children needed assistance finding new and exciting books (through her work as a reader’s advisor in 5forU.)

Therefore, she created the following programs for those two needs:

  • Virtual Mini-Mysteries Online Book Club for 5-9 year olds
  • Virtual Tweens Book Club for 9-12 year olds (focusing on a different genre at each meeting.)

Besides promoting the joy of reading, Edith says "the purpose for the book clubs is to improve reading comprehension, to build vocabulary, and to learn more about different genres.”  Essentially, she wants to kick curiosity into high gear and to encourage kids to read outside of their comfort zones, in a fun way.

She creates a fun-filled atmosphere by providing kid-friendly games like BINGO or Jeopardy-like competitions (using  By making these book clubs fun, it is her great hope that children will seek out additional information beyond the pages of the books that they are reading. She wants them to independently search for context as follows:

  • While reading Paper Wishes, children learned about Fred Korematsu Day and about Japanese-American internment during World War II.  How and why could American citizens be treated like “enemies of the United States?”
  • Banned Books is an annual program that provides context about library policies and civil liberties.  Children learned all about how San Jose Public Library and other libraries protect our freedom to read, although it is still being challenged throughout the United States.
  • Children learned about art in Edith’s Fantasy Graphic Novels Book Club.

Virtual Thanksgiving Parade

Edith is often at the forefront of proposing innovative ideas.  This year, Thanksgiving just did not feel the same.  Thus, she proposed the idea of a Virtual Thanksgiving Day Parade.  She felt that the Parade “could address feelings of loss, mourning, and discouragement related to the pandemic and our inability to have traditional Thanksgiving gatherings.”

She was inspired by Facebook's Programming Librarian Interest Group combining ideas from two librarians who had held previous mock Thanksgiving Parades:  a Balloon Parade and a Shoebox Parade.  Edith realized that combining the two ideas into a virtual event would definitely resemble Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade!

Despite a short turnaround, the program was a success!  To see Library Director Jill Bourne speak as Grand Marshal, go to the 2 minute 58 mark!

Edith says, “I see it as one more way that the terrible situation of COVID-19 has actually led us to finding pathways that have the ability of building many more flexible opportunities for connections across the City that definitely expand our services. It was a fun way to inform San Jose viewers about library programs and services so vital to our community.”

Thank you to all those who provided floats and balloons for this inaugural event!


Customers really enjoy Edith’s programs.

She says, “Parents and children have been overwhelmingly super enthusiastic for the online small group virtual book clubs – and appreciate the attention to including a lot of additional visual aids and interaction into the experience.”

Here are some comments from participants:

  • “Everything was well planned. Thank you so much for such valuable lessons.  Continue having this class!”
  • “Event is wonderful and my child even volunteered to speak, which she does not do that often.”
  • “I really liked your map emphasis, because when I was a child I loved reading mysteries and looking at the map provided in the book, and figuring out where the children in the book were going. I remember that to this day.”

Are you interested in one of Edith’s book clubs?  Here are some of her ideas for Virtual Tween Book Club topics to look forward to in the future:

Please send me any questions in the comments section below!


Blog Category
Adult Nonfiction

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