Know your neighbor… Trend setting Fairfield Teen Librarian Nicole Scherer
Published 12:00 am, Friday, March 10, 2017
FAIRFIELD — Nicole Scherer has a penchant for firsts. She became the town public library’s first teen librarian 11 years ago and recently led the library to be among the first in the nation to host locked-room mysteries, creating a guide that’s spread across the globe.
“I was shocked that a town like Fairfield didn’t have (a teen librarian) already, and I kind of jumped at it and I got it which was super shocking,” said Fairfield resident Scherer, 38.
She was just a few months out of graduate school, working in her hometown library in Bayport, N.Y. But Scherer got the job, moved to Connecticut from Long Island and as she has built teen services at the Fairfield Public Library, teen librarian positions have spread through the area.
After studying history and theater at the State University of New York at Geneseo, Scherer left college unsure what she wanted to do. But after a stint working at Borders Bookstore, she realized her passion for connecting people with a good book and headed to graduate school and eventually specialized in youth services. Among the first in her “rock solid working class family” to attend college, she also deliberately chosen to enter the public sector.
“I’ve always known how very important it is to support young people,” Scherer said. “I wanted to bend my energy to the public good instead of to someone else’s profit line. I wouldn’t feel good about myself if I was only working for my bank account, and there’s something really special about the energy of a place where everyone is welcome.”
The work she is proudest of is advocating for LGBTQ teens in the community, an element she tagged as her focus. Scherer has done outreach with The Loft, a support group for LGBTQ teens, for years and recently helped the group find space to meet at the library.
‘Escape the Arctic’ locked-room mystery upcoming dates
March 18 at 10 a.m., families
March 18 at 12:30 p.m., families
March 18 at 3:15 p.m., teens in grades 6-12
March 19 at 3:15 p.m., teens in grades 6-12
“Libraries really are a place for everyone,” Scherer said. “There’s a thing in the library profession where we talk about libraries being neutral, and for some people, they take that to mean libraries don’t take sides. What it really means is libraries provide access to all information, but it doesn’t mean we don’t know that there is a right and there is a wrong and that there are people who are being underserved and we have to act to correct that.”
“Sometimes that act of correction seems like an over-extension or a being catered to when really it is just kind of righting the scale and making sure that when we say libraries are neutral we mean literally everyone.” Anyone can find community at Fairfield’s library, she emphasized.
Another facet of Scherer’s work is orchestrating teen-geared events, including a twice-yearly mystery night and Fandoms United, a weekly pop culture book club of sorts.
But two years ago, a simple emailed link got Scherer’s creative wheels turning. The article was on locked-room mysteries. A commercial hit, the games involve a series of small puzzles, codes and deciphered clues that eventually converge to solving the narrative’s final question to escape the room.
While people pay for the experience, the free library-held mystery events are a “very library thing,” Scherer said, because they bring groups together around a common interest, embrace various types of learning and are built around a story. “It’s a natural fit for us to dive into it.”
She is now in the midst of the third locked-room mystery she has engineered, “Escape the Arctic.” Rescheduled due to snow, the final sessions will be held March 18 and 19.
After her first creation, Scherer looked to give a staff member working on a capstone project guidance to create a locked-room mystery. She realized she couldn’t find another public library that had created the games before Fairfield, and soon she realized librarians were interested.
So she posted the manual she created on a new blog, https://libraryladynicole.com/programs/escape-room/. It has since been downloaded more than 860 times from locations throughout the world. Scherer has presented or taught on escape room games at the New England Library Association’s fall conference and Connecticut State Library. She is set to for more presentations.
“I realized librarianship is — we share,” Scherer explained. “We’re always sharing, and it’s a very positive profession and it’s not competitive. We really want to see each other succeed for the sake of our communities.”