Omar Rashad / LA Times
West Torrance High School

Unsung Heroes: Matthew Moses the librarian

It was one day when a 5-year-old kid named Jacob asked Matthew Moses to do story time for him because the librarian was out sick. Moses, simply a shelver at the time, told Jacob, “Only librarians do story times.” Little did Moses know in the future, he would soon be captivating children with trademark childhood stories and become a big part of the Henderson Library in West Torrance.

Experienced in corralling barrages of elementary school kids with their often-repetitive questions, Moses oversees countless programs, coordinates class visits to help elementary school kids learn about all the facets of the Henderson Library, and get people in touch with their inner reader. Although in the beginning, Moses wanted to work at a library “to avoid talking and to be solitary,” he instead built on his public speaking skills because of all the story times, class visits, and other activities he went into, head first.

Amidst all the work, talking to little kids about books, giving parents suggestions on reading material, and finding ways to appeal to teens, Moses says one of his most favorite parts of his job is, “ordering books and seeing those books get checked out. Or when someone says they loved a book that I recommended.”

Matthew Moses with his favorite story time book. Omar Rashad / LA Times

Furthermore, Henderson Library is right next to Emerald Park. Frequented, after 3:00 p.m., by fidget-spinning, whipping, dabbing, and screaming school children from Victor Elementary School, kids expend their energy at the playground. Although they come for the park, they stay for the library, as their craze for playground time diminishes, they end up stopping by the library next door to get some literature to go along with the fun.

Unlike the children, Moses doesn’t love the park next door for the playground.

He said, “I love that my library is right next to a park. It creates a good vibe.” Whether it’s just taking a breath during break time or just feeling one with the nature, the park offers a one of a kind alternative for some relaxation.

Being a librarian, however, comes with a few challenging tasks. Yes, libraries are still supposed to be quiet, so when a group of loud teens start peppering the sanctum with laughter because of another viral meme, Moses gets into action.

He said, “I don’t want to be a shusher. But I also want people to be mindful and respectful of one another. So, I end up trying to teach manners to people who aren’t in the mood to learn manners.”

Tapping into the teen group, however, is a challenge. With an obviously advancing society where ebooks are replacing good old printed books, it’s hard to get high school students to grab a book filled with pages and words, and for it not to be a school textbook. Even more, in a school system that stresses the importance of being involved and active in the community in order for college acceptance, many students may not even have the time for leisure reading.

One thing that high school students are in fact doing at the library, albeit not reading, is giving back. Moses recounted how, “many teens have fond memories of the library and want to give back. Those teens make terrific volunteers. And teen volunteers connect with younger kids in a unique way that I don’t.”

In the end, Moses has a goal. Even though he’s an integral and irreplaceable part of the community, he still said, “I want to be an expert. I’ve seen some terrific librarians in action who can keep a rowdy room in order, while connecting kids to just the right book for their homework, or for their insanely specific requests like, ‘I want a science fiction book that is a funny mystery and has nothing to do with reality.’ Knowing those librarians are out there keeps me going because I’m not at that level yet.”

This summer, feel free to stop by Henderson Library in West Torrance and meet Moses yourself, maybe even check out the countless books that glitter the library. Also, bring children so that they can participate in Torrance Public Library’s annual Summer Reading Program that gets kids an incentive to spend the summer reading.