Walking through the stacks at Alameda's Main Library, supervising children's librarian Eva Volin is happy, light on her feet -- proud to give a tour.

"We basically have our dream library," says Volin, 39, showing off the teen center that overlooks city hall, the silent reading room with a view of the hills, and the first floor room where the children's events are held. "It's wonderful -- and I'm not just sucking up. The employees are fantastic," she says. "I absolutely love coming to work."

Volin grew up in Alameda -- her parents moved from San Francisco when she was 5 -- and she attended the Kiddie Kampus Co-Op Nursery, Edison Elementary, St. Philip Neri and, for high school, Oakland's Bishop O'Dowd.

"Even now, even though we live in the middle of a megalopolis, it's still a pretty 'Leave it to Beaver' existence here in Alameda -- and I mean that in a positive way," says Volin, who works with staff who knew her as a child.

"I remember her coming in when she was little," said Mary Blackshere, from behind the reference desk in the children's library. "We're happy that she's here with us now. She fits in very well."

Blackshere has worked in Alameda libraries for 34 years.

Aida Merriweather, herself a 28-year veteran of the library, says she appreciates Volin's energy and managerial support. "She's very good at standing behind you, which is great," said Merriweather.

"I'm working with people who've been here almost as long as I've been alive," said Volin. "The continuity is gratifying."

Circuitous career path

She traces her love of books to her own childhood. "The book that turned me into a reader was 'My Father's Dragon,' by Ruth Stiles Gannett," she says. But "the book that stayed with me the longest was 'Anne of Green Gables.' In sixth grade, I wanted to BE Anne Shirley."

Though Volin loved books and reading, her path to becoming a librarian was not direct. After high school, she headed north to Oregon State University, but stopped school after two years.

"I decided I was throwing my money away at school," recalls Volin. "I was just taking random classes. I didn't have a goal."

She found herself working in book stores, and, after nearly a decade working for Walden stores throughout Northern California, she found that career goal: librarian. She went back to school, earning a bachelor's degree from San Francisco State and a master's in library science from San Jose State.

While in school, she worked in Alameda libraries as a technician, shelving books, working the check out desk and fielding questions in children's reference. After graduation, she took a job in Stockton, where she worked in their library system for four years. "When I left I was the buyer of all the teen materials for all 11 branches," says Volin.

When the head children's librarian position opened up in Alameda, she was very happy for the opportunity to return. "Alameda has always been my home," says Volin.

"It's really nice to have her back," says library director Jane Chisaki, who was the head children's librarian for more than 20 years before she stepped into the role of library director. "Eva does a great job and she's great with kids."

A day in her life

One of Volin's primary responsibilities is searching out the titles -- both classics and new books -- to fill the shelves of the children's section. Building the children's library is a far cry from her first foray into collection building. When she worked for Walden Books, she got calls from a state prison warden buying for the prison's library.

"They'd ask for 50 mysteries and 100 science fiction," says Volin, who worked carefully to assemble quality materials for the prison's library. "I'd try to put together stuff that was really worth reading."

Because of the volume of children's titles, Volin says there's no way she has time to read everything -- but she reads a lot. "And I'm looking at reviews all the time," she says, crediting Alameda Friends of the Library for generously funding library programs so she can use more of her budget for materials. "I can't thank them enough for always supporting this department."

Volin also has worked to develop the children's events the library offers -- a job she says, made infinitely easier in the new library. "We actually have a place to hold programs now," says Volin.

The library hosts weekly story times at the main library and both branches, with additional story times in Mandarin, Russian and Japanese. The library is also home to a twice-weekly community sing-along.

Starting March 7, the library will sponsor an all-city book club, the likes of which, says Volin, have been successful in other communities. Alameda's will include a book for children -- E.L. Konigsburg's "The View from Saturday" and, for adults, Myla Goldberg's "Bee Season." The library has 150 copies of each book available for check out and will host several events related to the book club.

Comics not just for kids

Volin also has developed a specialty in graphic novels. Like the comics of yore, graphic novels use pictures and words to tell a story, but, nowadays, there is a huge range of tales, many of which are written with girls as the intended audience. Graphic novels are a hot item, says Volin, for teens and, too, younger children.

"There's so much more out there then when we were kids," says Volin. "They go far beyond super heroes."

"You have wonderful stories written for all ages, all demographics, both sexes -- you finally have girls going crazy for manga, which is just the Japanese word for comics, because we finally have stories written for girls as the intended audience," says Volin.

Because of her expertise, Volin has been invited to serve on two national awards committees for the popular genre. She just wrapped up her duties on the American Library Association's Young Adult Library Services graphic novel award committee, working with a team of judges to put together a list of the best new titles.

She is also only the third librarian to serve on the award committee for a prestigious Will Eisner Awards. Eisner, known as the father of graphic novels, is the founder of the Will Eisner Comic Industry Award, and, in April, Volin will meet with the other judges to select the nominees for what is considered to be the Oscars of the comic book/graphic novel industry.

Heart and home

Volin's own tastes in reading runs the gamut. "I've enjoyed all kinds of authors, from Connie Willis to Margaret Maron, from Betty Smith to Naoki Urasawa," she says.

As for children's books, her current favorite authors include Cornelia Funke, Rick Riordon, and Mo Willems.

Volin is glad to serve the children of the community, including her nieces, third-grader, Elsie, and first-grader, Cecile. "I think they think it's cool I'm here. It's fun to say, 'Come see me,' and there's a magician or a puppet show. And they always get books for Christmas and birthdays."

"I'm proud of her," says 8-year-old Elsie. "She helps us find books -- and she suggests books we might like."

Of all the books that her aunt has given her, says 6-year-old Cecile, she liked "Holly Clause" best. "It was about a sparkly princess who had animals that came to life," said Cecile. "We learn all about books from Eva."

ABOUT THE LIBRARY

For more information about library programs and services:

http://www.ci.alameda.ca.us/library/