Eau Claire volunteer emphasizes importance of libraries

By Elizabeth Gosling

With lightning speed, Brenda Brant’s fingers type on the keyboard.

She has the power to type as fast as people speak.

“I’m usually the official recorder of just about anything,” Brant said.

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Brenda Brant is a library trustee and part of the Friends of the LE Phillips Memorial Public Library in Eau Claire. She is an avid reader of science fiction short stories. © 2015 Elizabeth Gosling

These days, Brant uses her typing abilities to her advantage in her role as secretary for the Friends of The Library, the volunteer branch of Eau Claire’s L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library.  Her passion for the library shows through the many ways she serves its patrons.

Brant is a library volunteer, a book club leader and a member of its board of trustees. The Friends of the Library board raises funds for the library and helps with different programs. The trustees deal with long-term funding.

A phone call from her friend was the portal for Brant’s involvement with the Friends. The library director, John Stoneberg, also asked her to be a trustee.  These are unpaid positions, but Brant puts in many hours attending meetings, helping with fundraisers and proposing new programs. She held the secretary position for five years. Currently, she is the vice president of the Friends. Brant said she enjoys this position because she is able to use her fast typing skills. Her passion for the library started with her love to read.

She has been reading for much of her life and her favorites are science fiction short stories, especially from the ‘60s and ‘70s.

“You can read one before bed and get your imagination all sparked up,” she said, “They are so creative in their thoughts about the world and earth’s place in the universe.”

Brant’s passion carries far beyond merely reading. Although she enjoys choosing books from the library, libraries, says Brant, are not just for books anymore. Brant believes that libraries help people learn about different technologies, because they offer many programs that teach the public technological skills that can help them find a job.

“I don’t think people understand how much the library does to help people become technologically literate,” she said. “There are always trainings for different software and the librarians here are always good at helping people get up to speed with their devices.”

There is also, she said a social justice aspect to libraries. If people do not know how to use the internet, and utilize its’ resources, they can be in a difficult situation. That makes libraries even more important than they were in the past, Brant said.

During the time that Brant is not participating in library activities, she works at Optum Advanced Analytics Lab for United Health. She studies healthcare research and healthcare fraud, makes representations and measures different patterns that she finds with the research. She said she really enjoys finding the different patterns with the numbers.

At Optum, they stress social engagement and having an active role in your community, she said. During meetings, the question, “what are you passionate about?” is asked as an icebreaker. Brant responds by touting the library, and she hears responses of “Oh, people still use the library?”

Mark Troendle, assistant director of the library, said he has seen firsthand Brant’s passion for the library.

“She is an enthusiastic supporter of the library,” Troendle said. “She has a willingness to serve on two different boards, and she gives of her time with pride and passion.”

Troendle says Brant is kind, down to earth, helpful, truthful, supportive and eloquent because she gives a rationale for why she stands for what she believes.

“What some people might find very dry, Brenda loves that stuff,” Troendle says. “She loves sifting through information and trying to find patterns and trends to understand what that can tell you about the bigger picture, I just think that is really cool.”

Overall, Troendle said that Brant’s contributions to the library and the community are generous.

“You’re doing a good job when things look easy to the outside world, but things are rarely easy, there are a lot of little detailed steps that go into everything,” Troendle said. “There is a lot of things that go on behind the scenes that hopefully, the public isn’t aware of because it all seems so seamless, and things just get done.”

Due to Brant’s dual involvement in the Friends and the Trustees, she is a very significant part of the library, he said.

“I am thankful for the chance to have input into something I love and I am passionate about,” Brant said.

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