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For Anita Ditz, 'books and kids' proved a perfect combination

by on August 31, 2017 12:08 PM

Anita Ditz will be hanging up her hat as the head of children’s services at Schlow Centre Region Library this month, leaving a 34-year legacy of building up programs aimed at young learners.

Her service with Schlow began in 1983, back when there were 87 children in the summer reading program and no visits to local classrooms. It’s a different picture now that Ditz has been one of the guiding hands of Schlow’s mission to educate the public.

Now tally about 1,800 kids in the reading program, visits to every local elementary classroom, programs for the youngest children to promote early literacy, a focus on best practices for early learners, and stronger ties throughout the community.

Ditz says her career path became obvious when she took a part-time job at a library after working at Three-Mile Island.

“Books and kids,” Ditz says. “I can’t think of a better combination.”

Ditz was director of the Pennsylvania Library Association from 2004 to 2006, chaired and sat on a number of committees. She also helped Schlow win six best practice awards for its children’s services, among many other honors.

Her labors as a librarian dedicated to children produced the first Family Place in the state, which features toys, creative play areas, and parent resources. The nationally-recognized Parent/Child Workshop Ditz created helps families with toddlers with special needs.

Ditz says the Family Place is driven by a philosophy that lays the groundwork for education later in life. The children are able to socialize while the parents can network. She says this has been especially popular with international families, where their children can learn English naturally.

Ditz says she is a firm believer in public libraries, and says libraries are one of the country’s great unsung resources.

“Free access to information is the basis of freedom in a democracy,” she says.

Catherine Alloway, director of Schlow, says Ditz is a community treasure and will leave a legacy with multiple generations in Centre County.

“She has just given so much of herself to the community in so many ways,” Alloway says.

In 2013, Ditz earned the PaLA’s distinguished service award, the highest honor the association can bestow. The annual award requires the nominee have an influence beyond her local library.

When Alloway nominated Ditz for the award, she noted that the children’s department Ditz helped build is now a model for other libraries.

“Anita’s compassion for children and families gives her the extraordinary ability to connect with her colleagues, community and customers,” Alloway wrote.

Ditz says she expects big things from the entire library staff after she’s gone and praised them for their dedication.

“Every year I say ‘This is the best staff I’ve ever had,’” Ditz says.

Friends have started the Anita Ditz Fund for Schlow Library Children’s Department. The fund will help to support the collections and activities of the department. To donate, visit centre-foundation.org.

The community is invited to a send-off for Ditz on September 23 from 1 to 3:30 p.m. at the Schlow Library Downsbrough Community Room, with a short program to begin at 2:30 p.m.

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