Mitchell Chautautqua’s 2019 Woman of Achievement
When asked how she felt about being nominated and chosen as the 2019 Woman of Achievement, this local librarian had only one thing to say:
“I feel like I’m just doing my job,” says Heidi Schutt, library director at Muir Library in Winnebago. “I am very honored and humbled to be nominated.”
Heidi (Kittleson) Schutt grew up in Blue Earth. Her parents, David and Lisa Kittleson, were both teachers in the Blue Earth Area School District. She has a younger sister, Emily, and a younger brother, Hans.
In 2005, Schutt graduated and went to Concordia University in Moorhead, Minnesota, where she obtained her bachelor’s degree. It was here that Schutt’s passion for all things libraries came into play.
“I had such incredible mentors at the Concordia library,” she says with a chuckle. “They brainwashed me into librarian studies. I was employed there during my summers on campus and they had me doing many different projects at the academic library.”
In 2009, Schutt decided to fulfill a lifelong dream. She had always wanted to go to Seattle, Washington. She had applied to the University of Washington?Information School while there, and eventually received her Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree.
“I always imagined Seattle as a cool place to live so I thought why not apply to school, so I did, and I got in,” says Schutt. “In less than two years, I knew I wanted to come back to the midwest. Seattle just wasn’t for me.”
She says she always wanted to work with rural libraries, but it was by sheer luck that she landed a job so close to home at Winnebago’s Muir Library.
“I contacted Judy Tupper, and interviewed her for a research methods class in order to finish my degree,” says Schutt. “It was that next winter she sent me an email saying she was interested in retiring.”
After the library board and the Winnebago City Council’s approval, Schutt was hired for the position.
“I remember doing a full interview via Skype, as I?was in Seattle at the time, and I also remember I was on my way back to Seattle from Minnesota when I?got the call about the job,” says Schutt.
She says it was around this time that she and her husband, Jeremiah Scutt, solidified their foundation of starting a family by getting married.
“I always knew that Jeremiah was the guy that?I wanted to be with, and I knew that I wanted to come back to the midwest, I just didn’t know where we would be in the midwest,” she says. “I like where we chose.”
It was one local resident’s nomination of Schutt that earned her the title of Woman of Achievement.
“Heidi Schutt’s presence at the Muir Library has not only rejuvenated the attendance at Muir Library, but has brought the entire county’s libraries back to life,” says the nomination letter.
At the Muir Library, there is never a dull moment for Schutt. She takes care of building maintenance, maintains the book collections which includes purchasing new books and weeding out uncirculated books or books in poor condition, she also tends to the library’s programming.
Her programming, which is funded in part by the Traverse des Sioux Library Cooperative and grants from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, covers all of the bases: children’s programming, family programming, teenage programming, book clubs, story times, and many other wonders that come to the city of Winnebago thanks to the efforts of this local librarian.
“I just steer people in the right direction as to what they are looking for,” she says. “I like being accessible for our patrons at the library, and I don’t think I would be able to do anything without the help of Kathy Johnson, Diann Selvig, and Rachel Petersen, Muir Library’s three library assistants.”
Because if being a librarian does not keep her busy enough, Schutt is the mother of two young boys, Gus, 5, and Joshua, 4.
“I really enjoy working with students,” she says. “It’s a great place to start planting that seed that libraries are important. I think a lot of our little preschool readers believe that I live at the library. They call it Heidi’s library, but I remind them that it’s our library, and I think Winnebago considers this as their library. It’s a good feeling.”
She says she even gets to see the Muir’s great-grandchildren come and frequent the Muir Library, which was built by Mr. and Mrs. Harry S. Muir in 1966.
One of Schutt’s more successful and notable programs she has assisted with is the BEA Reads program, which began a little over five years ago. She said it was Sarah Fering who asked about how community education could have a book club, and Schutt recalled her times in Seattle, where there was a Seattle Reads.
“I did research on other towns and counties, in small and big cities, and had conversations with different libraries, and eventually we decided to try it,” she says. “I really enjoy working with the Elmore and Blue Earth libraries to bring this program to our area libraries. We start choosing in August and by spring we have a book and programs ready to roll. It’s a lot of work, but it’s entirely worth it. I love the idea of someone running into someone else reading a BEA?Reads book and saying ‘what part are you at?’ It just shows how much a book can bring a community together.”
And bringing community together, she has.
The Mitchell Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle will present Schutt as the Woman of Achievement during a luncheon on May 7, at Trinity Lutheran Church over the noon lunch hour.
Tickets for the luncheon can be purchased for $17 by mailing a check written out to Mitchell Chautauqua and sent to Rita Frundt, 304 S. Holland Street, Blue Earth. These tickets are available until May 1.