It’s easy to make an immediate connection with Jace Turner. Readily available and open to engaging with anyone, he comes across as the most likable member at a family gathering. He’s excited to meet you and glad to be in your presence, ever respectful, caring, and attentive. He reminds me — and I mean this with the utmost admiration — of a young Mister Rogers. And that’s what makes Jace a natural fit for his job as the community relations librarian at the Santa Barbara Public Library.
Born in Santa Barbara, Jace was raised in a home near Peabody School that was first owned by his great grandmother. “When you’re from Santa Barbara, you grow up with the mountains and the ocean as your friends,” says the Santa Barbara High grad.
Instead of heading to college right away, Jace got a job at the library in 1994 as a page, the person responsible for shelving the books and keeping the building in order. “The pages are the backbone of the library,” says Jace. “I took a lot of pride being a page.” He did that job for one and a half years, during which time he met his future wife, Nadine, who was also working as a page and had been raised in Santa Barbara. He describes their courtship as “romance in the stacks.”
A fortunate meeting with writer/professor Max Schott led to Jace studying literature at UCSB’s College of Creative Arts in 1998. By then, he and Nadine had a daughter named Eden, and he fondly recalls living in student family housing. He also started working at UCSB’s Special Collections Library, handling rare books and manuscripts. “I loved libraries and I loved sharing my enthusiasm with people,” he explains. “I understood I could make more of a difference that way.”
Jace got a Master’s degree in library sciences from Indiana University-Bloomington. “I thought I could end up anywhere as a rare book librarian,” he says. But his hometown came calling with an offer for a full-time position. “When Santa Barbara is in your bones, it is hard to leave,” he admits with a smile. He was hired at the Santa Barbara Public Library in 2005.
“There’s a renaissance happening in Santa Barbara,” he excitedly tells me, “and I’m always thinking how we can make the library an important part.” Last February, he started a monthly book club at the Ridley Tree Cancer Center that involves patients, survivors, and caregivers. He’s particularly happy with this group, for within a two-and-a-half year period, Jace, his mom, and his dad were all diagnosed with cancer.
He also runs an Adult Reading Program, where participants are rewarded with prizes from nearby businesses, and SBPL Works, which teaches computer skills, resume writing, and interview techniques for people seeking employment. “It’s unifying ourselves with the community,” he says about these projects.
I wonder how the library is dealing with the increasingly digital 21st century. “You can access our e-book collection with our library card,” he explains, noting that can be done anywhere in the world. “You can also access audiobooks and newspaper and magazine subscriptions.”
And the library is progressive in technology, teaching coding and introducing virtual reality equipment to young people. “They can geek out at the library,” says Jace, who credits these modernizations to library director Jessica Cadiente. “She’s brought innovation.”
But the original library offering of free books on loan still resonates. “I’m attached to my book collection, but most people are not,” says Jace. “Why clutter your life when you can borrow them for free? We have so much to offer.”
If you follow Jace Turner on Instagram, you know he’s a poet who posts his work for everyone to read. He’s been writing poetry since he was in high school, currently laying them down on his Hermes 3000 typewriter.
I urge you to go visit Jace at the Santa Barbara Public Library. You’ll feel like you’ve known him your whole life!
Jace Turner answers the Proust Questionnaire.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Lying on the grass on Sunday afternoons, watching clouds pass.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
That’s constantly changing, too. But most often and recently it’s the poet Frank O’Hara. His poems were autobiographical — as in, a record of his daily life — inspired by the music, art, people, sights, and sounds that encompassed him. O’Hara’s passion for celebrating life drives the fierce pull within me to write.
What is your motto?
Live passionately and a little bit obsessively, too.
What is your most marked characteristic?
People who know me might say my positivity and enthusiasm, but privately, it’s my way of attaching meaning and nostalgia to objects and things important to me.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Honestly, my stutter; but at the same time my stutter keeps me fairly humble — though some might think otherwise!
What do you like most about your job?
First and foremost, I love taking library programs and services out into the community. Currently, the library runs book clubs at the Ridley-Tree Cancer Center and Garden Court, enabling us to bring library programs to patrons who might not be able to come to the library. I also love working with our local poets. As “Home of Santa Barbara’s Poet Laureate,” the library is passionate about partnering with our poets to provide free readings by Santa Barbara’s community of unique and talented writers.
What is your greatest fear?
Dying with regrets.
Who do you most admire?
That’s really hard for me to answer. I admire my wife’s creativity, and my daughter’s courage. I also admire so many of the Public Library staff. All of these people inspire me to strive to be my very best self.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Books, vintage typewriters, traveling, and anything indigo or linen (not necessarily in that order).
What is your current state of mind?
Inspired, hopeful, positive, and a little bit afraid.
What is the quality you most like in people?
Empathy and passion are a toss-up.
What is the quality you most dislike in people?
What do you most value in friends?
A willingness to share their enthusiasms and passions with me.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
This is the “best” _ ever! (Insert: book, LP, film, poem, apple, shirt, etc.)
Which talent would you most like to have?
I’d love to be a painter. I wish I could express what I see and how I feel in color, impression, and texture.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Raising my daughter. She’s so bright, understanding, positive, and constantly seeking adventure. She’s a darn good writer, too!
Where would you most like to live?
My home in Santa Barbara. Otherwise almost anywhere in Italy or France.
What is your most treasured possession?
It’s constantly changing. Right now it’s my Hermes 3000 vintage typewriter. Before that it was a landscape painting by Ellen Yeamons that I purchased at the library. And before that a piece of raw gold my father gave me.
Who makes you laugh the most?
That’s an easy one. My wife, Nadine.
On what occasion do you lie?
I’m not sure I understand the question.