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Boreal Community Media

Meet your Cook County neighbor: Ryan Leng

Nov 13, 2023 05:08AM ● By Editor
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A Boreal Community Media Exclusive - November 11, 2023

Come learn more about your Cook County neighbor, Ryan Leng, who works as the Librarian for the Grand Marais Public Library.

First of all, congratulations on your new position as Librarian at the Grand Marais Public Library.  How did your journey lead you to Cook County?

In early 2022, I was teaching high school at an alternative school in my hometown of Midland, Michigan, and I reached a vocational cul-de-sac, so to speak. After ten years of teaching English, I was dreading every day--I felt so used up, unsupported, and tired that I wasn't satisfied with my own work. I needed a break--maybe even a permanent career change. One of my best friends from high school, Brian Broomall, lives in Grand Marais with his wife Dorothy (also a very good friend of mine), and offered me a spare room for the summer to try to reset my life and career. So I bet on myself: After that school year, I moved in with my friends here. Since then, I've been a barista at Fika, a warming house attendant and ice maker at the Cook County Community Center, a carpenter and laborer with Snow Bunting Builders, and now, a Grand Marais librarian. 

We all have had some interesting jobs that we have worked at.  Some fun, some not so fun.  Do you have any in particular that stand out in your mind?

I was apprenticed to a master gardener for three years while attending school to be a teacher. It helped me discover my love for creative gardening. One highlight of that job was helping build a pump-driven waterfall that poured into a koi fish pond with aquatic plants. Right now, one of my side-hustles is reading aloud to a group of knitters at Dappled Fern Fibers on Monday nights. I'm in the middle of the fourth book of the Tiffany Aching series--a riotously funny set of novels by Terry Pratchett--and I give each character their own accents, including Glaswegian Scottish and cockney. 

Favorite go-to spot in Cook County on a day off when you want to relax and unwind?

My favorite place to be is on a good trail run on the Superior Hiking Trail, especially on the stretch just west of Pincushion, when the run is done, the euphoria takes over, and I can take in the splendor of the forested hills. I also like chilling with my good friends and finding my angle of repose by Pike Lake on summer Sundays. 

Do you have any programs or changes that you would like to implement at the Grand Marais Public Library?

I am organizing adult programming at the library, so here's what I have in the works: So far, I've focused on creative writing workshops, including an upcoming one for poetry. I'm also organizing a Dungeons and Dragons group, the Winter Film Series, and a music demonstration by members of the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra. I would also like to put some programming together to celebrate horticulture and to take care of the environment, as well as take advantage of our dark skies for astronomy education. As far as changes at the library, I want to put a few potted plants on the shelves, so healthy donations of low-light and low-maintenance plants are welcome.

Do you have any hobbies that you enjoy doing when you are not busy at work?

I love bonsai trees. I don't have any particularly old ones, for they can be ruinously expensive, but I have several young ones that are in a pre-bonsai state, including a native white cedar and a trio of larch pines for a bonsai forest. I also like to play in the dirt in the vegetable garden that my girlfriend and I planted this past year. And then I play hockey at the rink and serve on the Cook County Hockey Association board. And I like to play guitar and sing to my girlfriend, and also write a bit of poetry.

Finally, you know we want to ask you this question since you are a librarian.  What are some of your favorite books that you have read? 

As far as my favorite book, I usually respond with "the book I'm reading right now," which is called The Portable Poetry Workshop, by Jack Myers; but for this article, I'll choose three favorites that have changed my life. 

Favorite fiction: Mason & Dixon, by Thomas Pynchon
Favorite non-fiction: Debt: The First 5,000 Years, by David Graeber
Favorite book to teach: Desert Solitaire, by Edward Abbey


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