Nathalie Wilms turned 38 during COVID-19 quarantine and said her husband still owes her dinner and a present. But despite the pandemic, she’s been doing a lot for area children at the Hardin County Public Library.

She grew up in Belgium and graduated in 2004 to become a kindergarten teacher. The next year she lived in Great Neck, New York and worked as an au pair.

“I spent a lot of time in the local library with the 2-year-old that I took care of for story times and such,” she said. “When I got back in Belgium I started evening classes to become a librarian.”

In 2010 she earned a graduate degree in library science.

She worked in two libraries in Belgium as an assistant librarian, head of adult nonfiction and organied adult programing. Ultimately, she became a media coach.

“That is not a term they use here in the states,” she said. “A media coach is the contact in a school or organization for info about media literacy and the pedagogical use of digital media.”

In that role, she also was charged with inspiring and supporting colleagues.

“When I was a little girl I wanted to become a teacher or a librarian and now I am both,” she said.

She and her husband, Olivier Smedts, decided they wanted to move to the United States.

“We are thankful his work, Soudal, allowed him to transfer to the Elizabethtown branch of the Soudal Group,” she said.

She worked there for a few months but when the head of youth services position at her public library opened up Wilms didn’t hesitate to apply. Library director Rene Hutcheson called her just before Christmas to tell her she was hired.

“Best Christmas present ever,” Wilms said.

She likes that her job has a lot of variety. It has range; From helping people locate books, doing crafts, reading books to kids and organizing sumer reading challenges.

And, she said, her role sometimes allows her to go to work dressed in a costume.

“I wore a dragon onesie when I did a story time about dragons,” she said. “The children’s librarians also dressed up as wizards last month.”

She said she has a lot of support from Hutcheson, her director, who gives her freedom when organizing activities for area youth. And, she said, has a great team to work with.

Hutcheson said the library is fortunate to have Wilms in charge of the youth services department.

“When she first started working here, she recognized how important our children’s department has been to our families and she has stepped right in to continue that tradition of making our children and parents feel welcome,” Hutcheson said. “Now that our programming is all digital she has given us some creative activities and a new approach to our storytelling methods that help keep our children engaged in reading.”

She said Wilms has a great sense of humor and a compassionate heart.

“She brings experience, enthusiasm and a sense of whimsy to our library,” Hutcheson said.

During COVID-19, most of the programs Wilms oversees have moved to an online format.

“It is good that I am still able to reach kids, but I know that there are people without internet access who I can’t connect to,” she said.

The library’s summer reading is important to prevent a summer slide, she said.

“Summer slide is the tendency for students to lose some of the achievement gains they made during the previous school year,” she said. “Studies show that children’s enjoyment of reading, reading skills and reading by choice often increased after participating in summer reading.”

Wilms said she has big plans for the library’s youth department.

But those plans will have to wait, she said. Like most people, she said, COVID-19 has messed up her timeline.

Becca Owsley can be reached at 270-505-1740 or bowsley@thenewsenterprise.com.