When Jason Kuffler made the fateful decision to accompany his girlfriend on a trip to Asia in 2001, he had no idea that it would turn out to be the first chapter of his career as a librarian.
“I like to think that librarianship found me because, and I hate to say it, it was almost like an afterthought,” Kuffler said.
At the time, Kuffler was in retail management when he decided he needed to do something else with his life.
“I decided that I wanted to make a change,” Kuffler said. “I didn’t know exactly what, but I thought education was probably the way I wanted to go.”
So, when his relationship with his girlfriend, Paula, faced a potential end, Kuffler decided to quit his job and travel with her to South Korea for seven months.
“She was going to be going to South Korea to teach, so we decided we would either break up … or I would follow her,” Kuffler said.
After the trip, Kuffler, who eventually married Paula, enrolled in the University of British Columbia’s joint Masters of Library and Information studies and Masters of Archival studies program and rediscovered his love for the library.
“As a kid I was in the library all the time but in my 20s I was more apt to buy books. I am not sure why I lost the library, but of course in university I was there a lot and so I found it again.”
After graduating, Kuffler landed a variety of different archival and record-keeping positions with a handful of organizations, including the Vancouver Canucks and the RCMP.
Last April, he became a full-time librarian at the Vancouver Island Regional Library’s Gabriola branch.
He believes working in the public library system is the best fit for him.
“I love to create, I love to innovate and I love to come up with ideas,” Kuffler said.
Over the past year, he has focused his energy on making the library an attractive place for teens. He created a teen book club, where he has a handful of committed members and he also introduced Score With Reading, an event that features members of the Nanaimo Clippers hockey team reading at the library.
“Since I’ve been on Gabriola, teens have really been the focus.”
Kuffler is frequently coming up with creative ways to attract teens to the library. He recently formed a Teen Maker Club”as part of a larger initiative to create a “maker culture” at the library.
“Essentially, it’s a do-it-yourself culture, Kuffler explained. “It’s the idea of making the library not just a repository for information, but being a creative space. A place where you can create things, which I think is one of the best ways to meet the challenges of the digital age.”
Through the Teen Maker Club, teenagers on Gabriola Island now have the opportunity to build their very own drone.
“When I mentioned to the kids in my teen book club that they were going to be able to make drones … their eyes lit up,” Kuffler said.
Another major challenge that Kuffler and many other librarians are currently facing is attracting males of all ages to remain involved with reading.
“Boys are harder to bring up in a culture of reading, whereas girls, regardless of socio-economic status, I think that there is a better chance that they will read more,” Kuffler said.
According to a 2013 Pleasure Reading Survey commissioned by the Environics Research Group for the National Reading Campaign, 60 per cent of Canadians read for pleasure. It also noted that 53 per cent of women use the library compared to 44 per cent of men.
“My two brothers, who are educated guys, are not big recreational readers,” Kuffler said. “It says a lot when you have three boys from a middle class family, where the parents read a lot, and only one of them likes to read.”
Kuffler wants the library to become more than just a place for reading.
“We’re promoting literacy but not just the written work. It’s information literacy, it’s how to find good information. Even social media literacy is huge, ” Kuffler said.
After one year as a librarian on Gabriola Island, Kuffler said the best part about his job the impact it has on the people around him.
“The most rewarding thing is just seeing that you’re having an effect on the community,” Kuffler said.