Gretchen Pruett has a huge heart for both books and people.
Pruett, director of the city of New Braunfels Public Library, has worked at the facility for the past 10 years. She said the favorite part of her job is helping people who come to the library in need — whether that need be simply for a good book or for something more pressing.
“We want to help people who come in, whether it’s helping them just find a good book to read or whether it’s helping them fill out a name change form, fill out an application, even write a book, we’re here to help,” Pruett said.
Pruett was born in Indiana and grew up in a small town in Michigan, where she frequented her local library as a child.
“I lived in a tiny little town, and I would ride my bike to the library almost every day because I was a veracious reader growing up,” Pruett said. “I would win the summer reading contests every year. I could not stop reading. I would read two or three books a day.”
She went to college at the University of Toledo where she studied accounting before going on to be a certified public accountant. She and her then-husband moved to Saugerties, N.Y., where they had and raised two daughters.
“We moved to New York where he was working for IBM, and I was working as a CPA for a while,” Pruett said. “It was really beautiful there. Right about this time of the year it’s beautiful with the apple orchards, the fall color and river is gorgeous.”
After 17 years in New York, in 1994, Pruett and her family moved to Texas when her husband’s job was relocated. Her daughters were 10 and 8 at the time.
“IBM closed their plant (in Saugerties) and we had a choice of Rochester, Minn., or Austin, Texas, so that was pretty easy,” Pruett said with a laugh. “Did we want 20 degrees warmer or 20 degrees colder? Warmer of course.”
During this transition, Pruett realized she was not passionate about accounting, and after reading, “Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow” by Marsha Sinetar, her view of work and life changed.
“I tell people that’s sorta true. I probably would have made more money in the CPA field but it just was not where my heart laid,” Pruett said.
Pruett decided to follow her passion for books and got a master’s degree in library and information science from the University of Texas.
“During this time I was working at the Round Rock Public Library part time as the ‘Toddler Time’ lady, doing story time with the little bitty ones,” Pruett said.
She then got a full-time job at the Round Rock Library as a librarian, where she worked for nine years, moving up the ranks until she was at the level just below library director.
“Then I moved to the Georgetown Library, where I got the job as the assistant director, and I was there for five years, including the period when they build their new library, which was so much fun,” Pruett said. “Got to open that up with them.”
In 2008, Pruett saw an opening for the library director at the New Braunfels Public Library and met with then-Assistant City Manager Robert Camareno.
“Robert was the one who hired me, and so I reported to him,” Pruett said. “He had started at the city less than a year before I came, so we learned the ropes together. But we think the same way, we really are people focused and want to make sure people are having a good experience, and we have the same service philosophy.”
Pruett said her favorite part of her day to day is telling people about all the ways the library can help people in the modern day.
“What we’re trying to do here is basically be an advocate for everybody who walks in the door for whatever they need,” Pruett said.
Pruett’s heart isn’t just for people — she also has a love for animals and volunteers at the Humane Society of the New Braunfels Area (in which she serves on the board) and to the New Braunfels Community Cat Coalition (in which she also serves on the board), along with the New Braunfels Rotary Club.
“I have several cats of my own, including one I just rescued,” Pruett said. “One of my cats actually came from a feral cat colony that frequented the library. So we were trapping them to spay and neuter them. One I trapped, overnight she gave birth to kittens. So I got the kittens all adopted and kept the mama.”
Pruett said she also works with The Friends of the New Braunfels Public Library and the New Braunfels Public Library Foundation.
“They’re amazing, it’s all these community members who give up their time to support the library,” Pruett said. “That is what makes this library truly excellent. It’s not just the staff, it’s the people who could do anything who choose to spend their time here.”
Pruett said her time at the New Braunfels Public Library has flown by and that she can’t believe she celebrated her 10-year anniversary with it in October.
“I was shocked when I realized it was going to be 10 years because I haven’t stayed that long in a job before,” Pruett said. “I like novelty and new things, so I think that speaks to how much I’ve been able to grow within the community. I love working with the people here.”