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    New librarian says she looks to draw teens to facility

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published March 30, 2003

    Raised in Detroit, Dede Fellrath had lived in New York, Boston, the Virginia mountains, Winston-Salem, N.C., Maryland, Argentina and Florida before a homing instinct kicked in.

    She left Florida and headed for Detroit.

    "I went back thinking it was home and it wasn't," she said. "Once you get sand in your toes, it's hard to wear shoes all the time."

    So, two years later, in October, she returned to Florida and settled on Tampa's Davis Islands.

    This week, she started a job as librarian at the East Lake Community Library, filling the position Michelle Lott left recently when she was promoted to library director.

    Lott said she knew what she was looking for as she interviewed librarians and Fellrath was a good fit.

    "I just thought, 'This is somebody I'd like to work with,"' Lott said. "And I was impressed with her background and skills."

    Fellrath's background includes a bachelor's degree in political science from Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Mich., and a master's degree in library science from Simmons College in Boston.

    While raising four sons, she directed a library in Virginia and was a librarian in North Carolina, Maryland, Tampa and Argentina.

    In Argentina, she was the librarian at the American school in Buenos Aires, where students had open access to shelved books. In contrast, Argentina's public librarians retrieved the expensive books for patrons. Fellrath said paperback books could cost three times what they do in the United States.

    "It made me appreciate our libraries and our bountiful book supply," she said.

    As librarian at the Hillel School of Tampa, she set up a Holocaust collection.

    Fellrath also reviews yoga books, teaches yoga, sails, canoes and swims.

    Another of her pleasures is working with middle and high school students and the teen group will be one of her projects at the East Lake library.

    "My experience with them is that they are so open and can be taught the riches of a library that will stay with them throughout their lives," she said.

    At the library last week, Lott was telling Fellrath that other staff had reacted with incredulity to her idea that staff line-dance together to entertain volunteers at an appreciation party.

    Lott said the staff said, "I didn't say we wouldn't do it, we just said 'you are crazy."'

    "That sounds fun," Fellrath said immediately.

    "Well, you're staying," Lott said.

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