By Jud Snyder
Put all the background facts together and you could easily say Samantha “Sami” Lange must’ve been born in a library. It’s not far from the truth. Her mother, Karen, read her lots of kiddie books and Sami’s baby rattle could’ve been library cards on a string.
Right now, she’s on the Rohnert Park-Cotati Public Library Advisory Board (just finished a term as chairwoman), and works full-time as director of the Santa Rosa Junior College Academic Library. Needless to say, she’s an avid reader.Sami’s additional big project now is Room to Read, a global organization dedicated to building libraries and reading rooms in book-deprived elementary and high schools around the world.
Transformation through literacy
Their purpose is “seeking to transform the lives of millions of children in the developing world by focusing on literacy and gender equality in education … on the belief that world change starts with the educated child.”
“I signed up with Room to Read back in November last year,” she said at a conversation in Marvin’s restaurant in Cotati. “I was assigned to set up a library in a school in Laos. This means working with Laotian government officials and education groups and shipping the needed books to get them started.
“What we’re doing is all voluntary, for the schools in Laos do not have a lot of funds. My goal is to raise $5,000,” Sami said in between spoonfuls of a bowl of oatmeal. “They have offices in cities all over the country, including San Francisco. They have started school libraries in 14 countries in the last few years. I don’t have to travel to Laos myself, but I wish I could just to help them set up their own library.”
Helping with her art
Sami also pitches in by selling her artwork, an eclectic combination of acrylics, drawings, woodcarving and prints. They’re priced anywhere from $5 to $125, and 100 percent of each sale goes to the Room to Read organization.
Born Samantha Kiel 30 years ago in Mountain View, she and her husband Zach, a child counselor, moved to Sonoma County nine years ago. Sami earned bachelor degrees at Sonoma State University and Master’s degrees, one in library science at San Jose State, and a second in education at Cal State East Bay in Hayward.
Her father, Allan Kiel, a retired postal inspector, had to travel a lot and often brought wife and daughter along so her high school education was varied, to say the least. He already had college degrees in his background.
When he retired at 53, he enrolled at SSU and earned his teaching credentials. He’s now a teacher at Montgomery High in Santa Rosa.
Loving the libraries
It’s obvious her affinity with libraries is part of her DNA. “I remember at one high school, I applied for a part time job in the school library but I was turned down. I was only 15 and I was crushed.”
To judge by her credentials these days, rejections like this don’t happen anymore. “To get the job at SRJC’s library, it took months of interviews and personal meetings.”
In this digital age when book-stocked libraries share space with computers, Sami Lange knows real books in the hands of children will always deserve Room to Read’s accomplishments around the world.
Just ask her.