When Anne Hankins became the first director of the Kuna Public Library in 1993, she received three things: a key to Kuna High School, instructions to create a library at the school that students and the public could share, and two designated “library” spaces in the school parking lot.
Hankins retired on Dec. 30 after more than two decades at her post. She leaves behind a 12,500-square-foot library. Voters approved a $1.2 million bond in 1998 after the library outgrew its single room at the high school. She leaves a full slate of 44 public programs, shelves that hold around 66,000 books, and legions of fans.
Library board chair Roberta Sailer called Hankins the “lifeline” of the library. She recalled how, in the early days, Hankins packed up large print books in laundry baskets and hauled them to the senior center so older readers wouldn’t have to make the trek to the high school.
“You know how most people go to their jobs, then go home? Anne doesn’t punch a clock. She lives her whole life around that library. She’s there, opening the back door at 7:30 in the morning. When they close at 8, she’s there making final rounds.”
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Hankins has received recognition for her good works. The Idaho Library Association named her Librarian of the Year in 2007. She’s also a good sport. Hankins is of small stature, so much so that people don’t always realize she’s standing when she gets up to speak at meetings, said Sailer. But her height is perfect, Sailer added, for dressing up as a small Christmas tree, as she does for library holiday festivities.
Sailer noted Hankins’ love for the famous monkey Curious George, her impressive collection of dictionaries and her creativity when it comes to getting people through the library doors.
She’s recruited local Scouts to help with the annual book sales — her own son built a puppet stage at the library as his Eagle Scout project. She started a mitten tree at the library for local families in need. She’s helped develop programs like Tales for Tails, where kids read aloud to a standing fleet of six local dogs to practice their reading. She’s celebrated Dr. Seuss’ birthday by serving hundreds of people green eggs and ham at the library. Through the Mayor’s Book Club, Mayor Joe Stear partners with a local business that donates 30 copies of a chosen book. Kids get the books to read and keep, then everyone — employees at the participating businesses, the mayor and the young readers — meet to talk about the story. The most recent offering: “The Secret Zoo,” sponsored by local yogurt shop Hippie Swirl.
Glenna Rasmussen, outreach specialist at the library, has worked with Hankins for 15 years. Hankins, she said, has always believed in service. The words posted behind the library front desk, that patrons “aren’t the interruption, but the reason for the library,” says everything about Hankins’ job philosophy, said Rasmussen.
Hankins grew up in Boise’s North End, daughter of English teacher Bill Hochstrasser, who taught at Boise High School from the 1950s into the 1990s. The family were avid readers, reading the paper at dinner, then discussing the news of the day. After raising her family, Hankins became a school librarian in the Nampa district, where she still lives. She’s seen rapid growth and expansion in Kuna, formerly a tiny farm community. The disappearance of corn and lavender fields and the appearance of subdivisions has meant some good things for the library, she said: more support in the form of property taxes, more patrons and more volunteers, though voters did reject a new $3.9 million Kuna Library bond in 2016.
“We still have room to expand,” said Hankins.
She says she’s “still working” on what she’ll do as a retired person, though she’s looking forward to finding a copy of Anthony Doerr’s celebrated “All the Light We Cannot See” and finally getting a chance to read it. All of the library’s copies of the Pulitzer Prize winner are constantly checked out, she said.
Even if she’s not at the library every day, books will remain central in her life, and that of her family. When crews were breaking ground for the then-new library in 1998, her oldest grandchild, Kameron Nay, was a toddler. He’s now in college.
Hankins recalled him looking at the soon-to-be new library and exclaiming, “Look at grandma’s book house!”
The library board has not yet hired a new director. Tam Svedin and Jana Cutforth, currently both administrative assistants, will share interim director duties.
The library will hold a celebration of Anne Hankins’ library career from 4 to 7 p.m. on Thursday Jan. 12, at the library, 457 N. Locust Ave. in Kuna. The public is invited.