A Hat For Every Skill

As a library technician, Harry wears many hats, including the one he dons each March to read “The Cat in the Hat” during the library’s annual Dr. Seuss birthday bash.

As a library technician, Harry wears many hats, including the one he dons each March to read “The Cat in the Hat” during the library’s annual Dr. Seuss birthday bash. Photo by Andy Towle. |

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Some people wear many different faces, or to phrase it in another way, they wear many different hats, according to the task at hand.

Harry Kuperberg is like that. Oh, you don’t know Harry? Don’t feel disappointed, he isn’t exactly a person who tries to garner attention; he sees a task that needs to be done and does it.

Harry is a library technician at the Payson Public Library. I had a misconception about his role at the library before we actually sat down and had a long chat.

Wearing one of his library hats means being Dr. Seuss during the annual March Dr. Seuss birthday bash at the library. Ah, if you have children, now you know who I mean.

Wearing a different hat Harry works behind the scenes at the library and takes care of the many technical aspects of books and data and funding for various programs and projects the library supports.

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Fixing a video tape is a task Harry Kuperberg takes on less and less as VHS tapes are being phased out at just about every library in the country. Most movies are now on DVD and this type of activity is seldom seen anymore.

One program Harry spoke of was funded by a company called Universal Services Administrative Company (USAC). They are regulated by the FCC. They help libraries pay for books and services. For example, every year funding is applied for and if granted USAC helps pay the library’s phone bill, supports children’s programs, such as the Little Princess Tea Party, video game competitions, Spanish language programs, and now German language programs, and an outreach program.

It is eye-opening to know the library is not only a collection of books, computer services, movie and tape rentals, and a place to pick up your tax forms. Harry, through his diligence and technical skill, helps make many of these activities come to life.

Did you know the library has 3,000 DVDs? Most of them movies. Other items available for checkout are books, VHS tapes, music CDs, audiobooks on CD or cassette tape, puzzles, magazines, and Spanish and German language books.

You can find and learn just about anything at the library and most of these activities are free.

Need to know how to repair your car — well there is an auto repair reference center including step-by-step how-to with illustrations including wiring diagrams. For home repair questions you can check out the home improvement reference center, which can help you with the how-to’s of putting in a bathtub, complete with step-by-step photo illustrations.

There are similar reference items for those with hobbies and crafts like knitting or woodwork; Medline will give you health information, as well as scholarly journals and reference centers broken down by subjects and grade levels.

Harry, like most of us, had a pinball journey on his way to Payson. He majored in and has a degree in political science and a minor in liberal arts from Michigan State University.

After graduating he moved to California, managed a theater, became a partner in a surety bonds company for nine years in Oakland, Calif. and eventually built up the business with offices in California, Nevada and Arizona.

But a desire to wander pulled him in another direction.

He traveled to Europe and lived in Germany, met his wife, Ines and eventually moved to South America for a year. He held various jobs along the way, learned to speak German and Spanish and worked for three years at a vocational training school as an English instructor helping disadvantaged teens.

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Harry Kuperberg fills the rack at the Payson Public Library with forms in preparation for the upcoming deadline to file taxes.

Deciding to move back to the U.S., he and Ines wanted to be near family. Having relatives in Tucson, they moved there, but the heat was a little too much. Scanning the map of Arizona, Payson looked inviting, so they took a chance and after visiting decided it was much like Goldilocks’ luck at finding the bears’ cottage — it was “just right.”

That was six years ago. Harry first took a position with the school district as a substitute teacher, and then with the library. His job has evolved over the years and he has become more than a keeper of data and a book maintenance specialist.

Harry’s main focus is on collaboration with fellow workers, schools, and businesses to bring people together and help teens discover the library and the many activities they can participate in and explore.

The Food Fear workshop was a collaborative effort to help teens discover the many different kinds of foods in the world. During Dr. Seuss event this year, two different groups of teens from the high school helped the children by face painting, making hats with cat ears and when Kuperberg was reading as Dr. Seuss, drama students acted out parts of the book.

He says that was one of the best parts of this year’s Dr. Seuss birthday party.

There have been 15 collaborations so far — one included a successful online chat with teen author Gary Paulson.

Part of Harry’s success comes from the experience he gained in his surety bonds position. It’s called customer service.

By treating people with respect, understanding their needs, providing a service in a friendly and helpful manner and referring them to someone who can help them if you can’t, ensures success, he said.

So, the next time you put a hat on, remember Harry Kuperberg and the many different activities he is involved with at the library. He will probably be helping you, even when you don’t know it’s him.

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