Klinging to adventure
After 30 years of working in the district, library media specialist is retiring
March 28, 2016
Under the yellow light of the library, media specialist Gloria Klinger slips past stacks of books. After gently placing tattered novels back in their homes, she meanders through the room and pauses at each table.
“Good morning,” she says in a gentle voice.
With a soft smile, she strolls to the front of the library.
For Klinger, each book on the shelves is a different adventure- and she’s no stranger to adventure.
She’s walked through the land of the Greek Gods.
She’s interviewed Holocaust survivors.
She’s bounced along on bumpy bus rides in Israel, and wandered the chilling Alaskan wilderness.
Her life, a series of adventures, somehow led her to Grand Haven High School.
Klinger’s been with the district for 30 years. Though she’s worked at every elementary school, the high school has been her favorite.
“I love the students, I love recommending books to them, finding the right book for the right person,” Klinger said, her blue eyes growing brighter. “I just love the staff and my job is the best job in the world.”
But Klinger’s decided she’s ready for her next adventure- she’s retiring.
“Even though I love my job, it’s time to take off and do some traveling and I will miss a lot,” Klinger said. Her voice is soft, yet firm. “I’d also like to publish a book of my own poetry.”
Covered by a maroon cardigan, Klinger’s black and white plaid dress sways as she bustles through the library chatting with students and sorting books. Her black glasses are pushed on top of her head.
It’s hard for technology specialist Mandy Miller to imagine the media center without her.
Until this year, Miller spent the past several years in the media center as Klinger’s assistant. She can’t remember the exact amount of time she’s known Klinger. She guesses about seven years, but it feels like she’s known her forever.
“It’s been a big adjustment for me this year to be away from the library, so I’ve already adjusted to that a little bit of not seeing her everyday in the morning and having coffee with her,” Miller said. “But I still go see her, and I’ll still be in contact with her because she’s my friend. She’s like family to me.”
Miller’s eyes begin to water.
“I’ll probably cry,” she warns. With a hesitant smile, she continues talking.
“I’ll miss her,” Miller said. “I’ll miss seeing her here, you know what I mean? It’s nice to know that if I want to go down and see her at my lunch, I can just go down and see her. She’s always happy to see me, and she always wants to offer me something, she bakes me treats all the time. Like I have a daughter who’s vegan, so she’s like, ‘Oh I found these great recipes,’ so she’s literally always thinking about people. She just is a kind person. I will miss having her here at the building. It’ll be different not to walk down there and see her.”
Miller believes that students will miss Klinger, too.
“She’s so easy to talk to,” Miller said. “She always has great book recommendations, she’s always so helpful, I feel like anyone can just go talk to her, and she’s always looking for ways to help the school or to help her fellow employees and she’s always advocating for the students. She’s that person you can go talk to and you know that she’s gonna support you. She’s just a kind, open person- this is why I told you I’ll probably cry when you interview me. I love her, and I think the kids do, too. I think they’ll miss that.”
Because of Klinger, junior Noah McGee and his friends have found a safe place in the library.
Everyday before school, McGee and his friends sit on the plush blue couches in the back of the library. His gaze snaps away from the dark morning sky outside the window, and he smiles at Klinger as she walks past.
“Ms. Klinger helps make the school more welcoming,” McGee said. “She’s really easy to approach, and she says good morning to my friends and I every day. And whenever we leave, she makes sure to say goodbye and tells us to have a nice day. It may be small, but I feel like it makes everyone’s day better. I’ll miss the simple things that she does for everyone. It’s hard to come by someone who seems to always be in a good mood and makes sure to greet everyone. I don’t think I can think of anyone else in the staff that’s been able to do that. It’ll be difficult to replace her.”
For many, Klinger makes the library feel like home. Something about her makes students and staff feel as though they can trust her. Sitting in the room behind the front desk of the media center, Klinger crosses her legs and she leans in as she speaks, unafraid to open up. Her silver rings glisten in the light as she gestures with her hands.
National Geographic papers are scattered across the table. A black “Good neighbors come in many colors” bumper sticker hangs haphazardly out of a coal-colored paper holder. The book “Code Name Verity” by Elizabeth Wein sits proudly displayed on her desk.
She can’t remember when her love for books began.
“I was a voracious reader when I was young,” Klinger said. “I’ve always loved reading.”
When she was a teenager, “The Diary of Anne Frank” sparked her interest in the Holocaust. Despite her knowledge of the genocide, Klinger’s carried her gentle demeanor with her throughout her life.
Although she’s aware of the dark side of human nature, she manages to remain positive.
“How can I see the good knowing there’s all that bad?,” Klinger said. “I think because there’s such resilience in human beings and I think that’s what is so appealing to me about reading about the Holocaust; the resilience in people and how they can go through the worst possible thing that you can ever imagine and still come out on the other side with hope.”
Klinger helped start the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) and was an advisor of the club, and it was there that she discovered the true resilience of students in the district. Books, she believes, can always be a way out of the darkness.
“There is a book for everyone, at every point in your life, no matter what you’re going through,” Klinger said. “There’s a book that can help you through, and I try to help students find those books.”
Her love of books, her love of people and her love for this school will always linger. But Klinger’s ready for her next adventure.
“I love my job and I’m so fortunate to be at a job that I love,” Klinger said, her gentle voice sincere. A soft smile breaks out on her face. “It has made me a very happy person.”