By Felicia A. Petro/Senior Reporter
GROVE CITY —
Heather Baker likes books, cupcakes and semi-automatic weapons.
"Not a lot of people know this about me, but I just got started shooting guns with my husband and son," said the children's director at Grove City Community Library, who is celebrating her silver anniversary as "Miss Heather" this year.
Not a pistol, but an AR-15 assault rifle, she noted. "I kind of enjoy it. I posted pictures on Facebook and people said to remind them to give me their books back."
The bubbly Baker is best known for her work with children and teens at the library, and the many innovative programs she's started. "One little boy asked me 'Do you live in that room right there (in her office)?'" she said, laughing.
However, her most important interest is her family.
She and her husband, Jim - a nurse at Polk Center - were in the same class at Grove City Area High School, and began dating a year after graduation. They have been married 19 years.
"He's kind of introverted and I'm way off the scale being extroverted. He says that's what make us so compatible and together so long," she said. Their 13-year-old son, Graham, "is in the middle," she added.
"I love being with my son and my husband," said Baker, who also cares for her mother, who is fighting her fourth bout with cancer.
She has won the pie competition at Fall Fest in Grove City Community Park for seven straight years, Baker said, and many competitions at justapinch.com.
She enjoys reading, with favorites including Jane Austen novels and the Harry Potter series. Her two guys enjoy reading as well, Baker noted.
Her crafty and creative personality is put to use at the library. "I'm always thinking, even when I'm not at work, and if it's on television or out somewhere, I think, 'I could do that. We can do that,'" she said.
Her new obsession is Pinterest, an online DIY social media site. "It's the new upcoming tool for children's librarians," Baker stated.
Baker - who turns 44 on Dec. 20 - is a member of the Early Education Council in Grove City, to promote early reading, literacy and education for kids. She enjoys vintage clothing and jewelry, and the "Victorian and Jane Austen-eras," she added. One of her co-workers who has the bug will be hosting the library's second Jane Austen ball in February.
Baker works to bring in kids with interesting themes who may not like to read. She has influenced some kids to study library science.
Baker credits her family to her strong work ethic. Her mother was a homemaker; her dad, an employee of the former Cooper Bessemer. She and her brother "always had some sort of a job," she said, including baby-sitting and delivering papers for the Allied News.
Pennsylvania Humanities Council asked Baker to mentor two young adult librarians in Western Pennsylvania for its mentoring program.
Her energy seems boundless. "I'm always on the go. I always have something going on," Baker said. "I like being around people, talking to people, chatting with people."
The length of her tenure is sinking in a little now that she's beginning to see some of her library kids having their own kids - and grandchildren coming with grandparents, who once brought their own children to the library as young parents.
Technology has also been a big change at the library since Baker was hired and she and her co-workers are always working to improve the library's programs. "It's very rewarding. It's like a family taking care of one another," Baker said. "It's more than a job. The library has become my second home."
Her hopes for the next 25 years is to make a trip to the motherland.
"I love everything British," Baker said. "My family is from England and Ireland. I'd love to spend time there and see everything. Other than that, I want to keep enjoying my family, and spend time with everyone the best I can."
She also believes it's important for people to enjoy what they do.
"If you don't love your job, get out of it," she said. "You're never too old to change a career. My husband changed his at 40."
Baker won't change her occupation, though. "I don't see retirement in my future for a long time," she said.
Nor will she leave her beloved, small-town Grove City.
"We're a pretty safe community and everyone helps one another," Baker said. "With Mom sick, people say they are praying for me; the outpouring, I feel so loved. I wouldn't move from here if you paid me to."
Published Dec. 12, 2012, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.