Sarah Guzman gives directions on how to make herbal bath pouches to participants during the “Hands on Herbalism” workshop at the Hanover branch of the Jefferson County Public Library. Guzman explained how the herbs could help different ailments during the program Monday afternoon. (Staff photo by Renee Bruck   rbruck@madisoncourier.com)
Sarah Guzman gives directions on how to make herbal bath pouches to participants during the “Hands on Herbalism” workshop at the Hanover branch of the Jefferson County Public Library. Guzman explained how the herbs could help different ailments during the program Monday afternoon. (Staff photo by Renee Bruck rbruck@madisoncourier.com)
Sarah Guzman has been manager of the Hanover branch of the Jefferson County Public Library for a few months, and she already is working to bring new ideas and programs to the community.

And, she has the energy to do just that.

Guzman thinks of the library as a community center, not just a place for books to sit on shelves.

"This is a wonderful library. It's beautiful. The building feels good in here," Guzman said. "My goal is to really make this a vibrant center of the community. For us to offer things that appeal to a whole range of people and to get people in. Just to make this library what it was intended to be."

Part of that goal includes creating new programs. Earlier this month she hosted the library's inaugural Minecraft night. She has also developed a program about herbalism.

"People hear that and they think it sounds a little bit voodoo-y. But a lot of this is stuff our grandmas used."

Guzman comes from a long line of herbalists and gardeners. Her great-grandmother was an herbalist, her grandmothers were both avid gardeners, and she and her mother are master gardeners.

During the class, Guzman introduces participants to a variety of herbs. She brings samples so people can get a feeling for the way the plants look and smell. She also talk about what different herbs can be used for.

The point of the class is to demystify herbs, Guzman said.

"A lot of herbalism is finding out what plant works for you, because we're all so different. So you might find that there's a plant that you have a real affinity for. Like, I love rosemary. The way it tastes, the way it smells. I even have one growing outside my front door."

In addition to growing her own herbs, Guzman also participates in wildcrafting. She finds herbs that grow naturally in the area and uses them. Wildcrafting, Guzman said, can help people get in touch with growing seasons and what grows locally.

Mullein is something that grows locally that can help people recover from a nagging cough or bronchitis.

"I just gather some on a hillside which I know is completely organic and pesticide free."

Guzman said she prefers to work with plants that can be grown locally."It just feels more authentic to me to work with herbs that I can grow and know the source and I can process them myself."

In addition to her herbology program, Guzman is also working on a class for veterans. As with her Minecraft and herbology programs, Guzman wants to reach out to groups in the community and give them a place to congregate.

For some people there is a stigma connected to libraries that Guzman is working to erase.

"I feel like as soon as people walk in the door I wave and I say 'hi.' I kind of joke that I'm the loud librarian. Because I am happy that people are here and I want every single person to know that," Guzman said. "Sometimes people come up to the desk and say 'I'm sorry to bother you.' and I say 'No, no you're not bothering me. I'm happy you're here'"

Guzman got her start working at the main branch of the Jefferson County Public Library in Madison. She was working in the children's area when she saw an ad for the job opening in Hanover. She applied and knew right away that it would be a good fit.

"I feel really lucky," she said. And being a branch manager lets her work in a variety of different areas.

"It's great. I come up with hair-brained ideas and I get to do them," she said.

While coming up with ideas to make the library a community hot spot takes up much of Guzman's time, that doesn't mean she shirks her responsibility as a librarian.

Helping someone find the right book can be critical, she said.

"You're not just advising them on books, you're helping parents find books for a child who's struggling to read. People will come in and have reference questions for you. They'll have just gotten a cancer diagnosis and they'll come in and say I need books on cancer," she said. "You realize there is nothing you are going to do that day that is more important than giving this person your total focus and your absolute best. Helping people find information is an honor."

Assisting people, she said, is one of the most important parts of her job.

"To me, that's kind of the sacred duty of librarianship. That people come in, and our job is to help them. To arm them with the best information possible so they can make better educated decisions."