One of Bob Rodenz’s favorite places to be is at the library surrounded by books and people. The challenges he faces with being diabetic haven’t kept him down; he keeps thriving and offering his friendly smile to patrons young and old at the library.  MARLENE DESCHLER/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPERS
One of Bob Rodenz’s favorite places to be is at the library surrounded by books and people. The challenges he faces with being diabetic haven’t kept him down; he keeps thriving and offering his friendly smile to patrons young and old at the library. MARLENE DESCHLER/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPERS

Surrounded by pages and pages of information and stories just waiting to be read and discovered is where Bob Rodenz loves to be. This makes his job as a library clerk at Spring Grove Public Library the perfect place for him.

Rodenz began as a volunteer at the library. He loves to read and enjoys being around people, so it was a perfect fit. Over the years he has probably read thousands of books. He said he averages three to four books a week. Multiply that by more than 60 years and that adds up to a lot of pages turned and read!

“I grew up reading a lot,” Rodenz explained. “I was fortunate enough to not have television as a kid. My dad also read a lot. In my apartment now I have nine bookcases full of books; a variety including mysteries, books related to American Indians, religion, and many others.”

Overcoming adversity has also been a part of Rodenz’s journey to working at the library. He is diabetic, so health insurance coverage has been very important and necessary for him. He takes insulin before every meal and also has an insulin pump that delivers a small dosage constantly.

He previously worked as a cook, a security guard, and a little over five years ago, at Northern Engraving. When he was laid off from Northern Engraving he lost his health insurance, but Rodenz didn’t let that bump in the road deter him, “Knowing I needed coverage because of the diabetes was somewhat threatening, but it didn’t take me long to find some sort of coverage.”

His diabetes has also challenged him in that he no longer has a driver’s license due to diabetes complications.

“The state of Minnesota is really tough on diabetic driving,” he said. But he doesn’t let that stop him from being mobile; Rodenz has a three-wheeled bicycle that he rides as long as possible throughout the seasons. When it gets snowy and icy, he puts the bike away and then walks to the library, grocery store and other places in town.

He has had a couple “close calls” from his diabetes with the most recent one just a couple weeks ago. “I have been taking insulin for 37 years and I don’t feel it when my blood sugar goes down. A couple weeks ago a patron had to call 911 for the ambulance and the crew didn’t know if I’d make it. I’d had an insulin reaction. It had happened more severely several years ago; I lost consciousness then and was hospitalized and don’t remember a couple of days even though I was told I was awake and talking during that time in the hospital. That may have been the scariest incident resulting from my diabetes.”

Rodenz added that usually it doesn’t take long to recover and most recently he was feeling fine and back to normal by mid-afternoon. He has orange juice stocked at the library, which is the fastest way to raise blood sugar. He doesn’t let these incidences keep him down or take his smile away. He continues to triumph over them and is a warm and welcoming person at the library.

There are a group of very young patrons that look forward to seeing Rodenz at the library almost as much as checking out books. Students at the Little Lions Preschool in Spring Grove visit the library every Wednesday morning.

“Bob has always been someone the kids look up to,” remarked Sara Corpstein, teacher at Little Lions Preschool. “He greets them when they enter with a huge smile and a ‘Good morning, kids!’ He is always ready to listen to whatever stories the kids want to tell him. The girls love to show off their new dresses and how they can twirl; the boys think of him as a famous cowboy wearing his cool belt-buckles, western shirts and cowboy boots. No matter what the kids are ready to share, he is always ready to listen and enjoy their stories. He also loves any art projects that the kids bring him and I am sure he has cherished and kept every one of them.”

Rodenz not only knows adult literature, but also books for children. He enjoys helping the children find books. “The best part of seeing Bob at the library every week is the wonderful hugs he gives the children,” added Corpstein. “Before we leave, he comes around the desk, gets down on his knees so he is at their height, and gives every single one of the children a special hug. Bob is the highlight of visiting the library each and every week and has become a ‘household’ name here at Little Lions.”

“It makes my whole week when these little children come in to the library,” Rodenz added with a smile.

When Rodenz first began at the library he was a regularly scheduled volunteer. He then entered the Experience Works program as a paid employee of theirs who worked for the library. Later, the library clerk position became available, he applied and was hired and is now a city employee for the library.

“Bob is an asset to our library for many reasons,” said Dawn Johnson, director of the library. “First of all, as an avid reader, he serves the role as a reading advisor for those in search of a great read. He is also detail oriented and a good organizer, both important traits for someone who works at a library.”

Rodenz contributes to the library’s newsletter, writing a book review and a column in each publication. His favorite type of books to read are mysteries, but he also reads other genres. The column topics vary on current issues from the weather to GMO plants, to living close to family to just about anything!

Currently, Rodenz is reading one of Dean Koontz’s “Frankenstein” books (there are five in the series). Recently he also read a James Patterson novel – he said he read it in two nights, he just couldn’t put it down!

Thinking about his job in the library, Rodenz said with a smile, “It’s a great job! I’m surrounded by books that I love plus I get to see all the new books that come in. The people that come into the library are the best people in the area. I really enjoy seeing and meeting them all.”