Saluda native returns to roots at public library

Published 5:07 pm Monday, July 8, 2013

Polk County Library new children’s librarian, Jen Pace, grew up in this county, and her father’s

Jen Pace

Jen Pace

family stretches back for many generations.

“My mother’s from Miami,” she says. “My father’s family has been in Saluda for more than a hundred years, so my parents raised their family here.”

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Having that security gave Pace the freedom to explore the world, only to learn that she belonged back home again.

“My favorite quotation comes from JRR Tolkien,” she says. “All who wander are not lost.”

Her wanderings took her first to Prague, in the Czech Republic, in the coldest part of winter. Then she hurried to Charleston to live in warmth by the beach, and to Denton, Texas, another warm land.

Pace kept adventuring. She went on the Mongolian express from Beijing to Moscow, and she bicycled in Ireland. She found herself in Korea for two years, teaching English. In Korea, she felt the pull of her roots, bringing her back to Polk County again. Her degree in sociology didn’t lend itself well to local employment, so she found an online program in library science from the University of Southern Mississippi. Soon she had a master’s of library and information science, and she felt ready to find work back home.

“Being a children’s librarian feels like the best of everything,” Pace declares. “It’s awesome. I love it.”

Through all her journeys, she’s kept good care of her pet tarantula, her friend for 12 years. She gave the spider the name of Malachi, but when the spider laid an egg sac, she discovered Malachi’s female gender. The tarantula might visit the library when she discusses one of her favorite books by Eric Carle, or perhaps at Halloween, but no one will be allowed to hold the spider.

“As a defense, she shoots hairs out of her abdomen, and those hairs itch for days. They don’t wash off,” she said. “You can’t hold her, but you can pet her.”