Christmas in the Library: BCL's Ilene Gavenman is Parade Grand Marshal!
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula News
Published: November 06, 2013
When the 64th Annual Optimist Club Christmas Parade steps out onto Main Street November 30 it will be saluting not only the season but one of the city's favorite venues as its theme.
And it wouldn't be "Christmas in the Library" without Grand Marshal Ilene Gavenman, a fixture of Blanchard Community Library.
The parade, the oldest of its kind in Ventura County, will start at 10 a.m. and this year be followed by a gala Open House at the library, located at 119 N. 8th St.
"Ilene has been the Children's and Young Adult Librarian for many years and we wanted to recognize her contributions to the youth of our community," said longtime Optimist Parade Coordinator Ron Merson.
The club's motto is "Friend of Youth" and "Over the years the Optimist Club has donated money to purchase books for the children's section of the library and this last year we also donated to the Teen Center.... Ilene worked very hard to determine which books to purchase so that our donation would be used most effectively."
Optimists "Have been working very hard this past year to promote the library and to increase community awareness of the library," which includes staging club sponsored community events such as the recent Sunflower Seed planting project and the upcoming November 16 kids' Christmas Poster Contest.
"In addition," Merson said, "we based the Christmas Parade theme around the library as another way to promote the library. And, of course the library grand re-opening," will follow the procession.
Overall, "We wanted to recognize Ilene for her partnership with the Optimist Club as we supported the youth in our community."
Gavenman said, "I was very shocked" to learn she was selected as Grand Marshal, "Such an amazing honor for me! I am truly overcome with gratitude, excitement, and joy to be able to represent the library in this wonderful event."
She is also "delighted" that the theme pays homage to the library, which to Gavenman is a natural choice.
"I truly believe that 'Every Day is Christmas in the Library' because we offer the gifts of reading and access to books of every kind every day. I feel passionate about the joys of reading," so much that her license plate is RDABOOK.
She came by her love of reading at an early age: "My mom used to take me and my brothers to the library in Santa Ana when we were children," and in high school Gavenman volunteered at the library where she was soon hired part-time.
Even when attending UCLA Gavenman worked at the library during winter breaks and summer vacations: "I'd always enjoy children's books and at that library I found the most fantastic job in the whole wide world!"
In 1976 Gavenman married and moved to Ventura County where her late mother-in-law Peggy Gavenman introduced her to then BCL Library Director Elizabeth Blake, who hired the 21-year-old Ilene.
"I learned a lot on the job," including how to overcome her innate shyness.
Gavenman has worked at BCL for more than 36 years and her duties include reference, public services, circulation, and children's and young adult services.
"I am very proud of our Teen Scene program," founded by Gavenman in May 1999 that garnered national recognition by the American Library Association for excellence in after-school programs for young adults.
In 2001 she was honored as a Soroptimist International of Santa Paula Woman of Distinction.
Said Gavenman, "My favorite part of the week is Wednesday Story Time," a natural as she worked former Children's Librarian Maureen Spencer for 22 years.
"Maureen was my mentor," who wanted to ensure, "Our library had a welcoming environment for patrons.... of course when we hire staff we want them to be 'tech savvy' but also a friendliness," that is the hallmark of BCL.
Gavenman is looking forward to the parade and the BCL open house.
"You can find a gift at the library every single day of the year to pursue reading joy," for every member of the family.
And there is so much between those covers for all seasons and persuasions: "We have how-to books of holiday and Christmas crafts, gifts to make, recipes for holiday dinners, a fantastic assortment of Christmas books," poems and stories to be enjoyed by all.
There are books about decorating and setting a festive table, "Books on everything from making a child's playhouse to storage areas for your spouse," with reference materials, books and magazines galore on a variety of subjects.
"You can check out a book on calligraphy and a book on how to make your own holiday cards," and Gavenman noted, "The Friends of the Library have a kiosk where you might find that long out-of-print book or DVD that someone would love as a gift."
Gavenman believes her BCL career was also a gift: "When I began at the library in February 1977, I was a young bride with a six-month-old baby. Today I am the mother of three wonderful adult children, I have a great son-in-law, a terrific daughter-in-law, and I am 'Grammy' to three darling granddaughters!"
Overall, "I have lovely co-workers, love working with Santa Paula residents and receive tremendous joy from the many friendships I have made with our patrons over the past three decades. I have so enjoyed watching the children grow up and have children of their own!"