‘Cool’ Librarian Promoted To Handle Kaneohe Branch, Budget

Cindy Chow

Kaneohe Library branch manager Cindy Chow. Photo from the Hawaii State Library System.

When Cynthia Puanani Chow was promoted to Kaneohe Library branch manager in December, she set right to work on freeing up new program space and finding more bodies to staff the busy regional hub – both of them daunting tasks.

“My goals are to hire a full staff and to change the unused bookmobile bay downstairs into a wired-in program space for movie nights,” said Chow, a Kaneohe resident who has worked at the branch for nearly a decade, most recently as young adult librarian and acting manager. She’s a Kainalu Elementary and Punahou graduate with a library science degree from UH Manoa with a special interest in murder mysteries and motorcycles.

With all of the budget cuts in recent years, however, her full-time employees consist of only herself and children’s librarian Curt Fukumoto – an engaging entertainer who draws in the preschool crowd every Thursday morning. (Chow proudly admitted that she stole, er, recruited him from the Salt Lake Library.)

“We should have five full-time staff, six part-time library assistants and two technicians,” she explained, pointing out the demands of a regional hub and the largest branch on the Windward side.

Going electronic has helped, and Kaneohe was at the forefront of offering Wifi service and Internet hours and classes. “Now job seekers find that online resumes are required,” she explained, “so many patrons are learning to use computers when they never needed to before.”

Chow does have a Kindle app on her phone, but she makes it a priority to read “real” books. “It’s a stress reliever,” she said, “plus my e-reader screen is teeny tiny.” She also devours and reviews murder mysteries when she has time, and plans to attend the Left Coast Crime mystery convention March 29-April 1 in Sacramento.

Though there’s a long wait to borrow Sue Grafton’s latest detective novel (V is for Vengeance), Chow has already read it: “It’s a really good book,” she said, but in typical crime fan style, she added: “She’d better finish the (alphabet) series before she drops dead!”

Chow’s library career may have been launched as a kid, when she attended “Storytime with Mrs. Gray” at the Kailua Library.

Yet she defies the perceived image of librarians as straight-laced and scolding. When she landed her first library job, for example, Chow went out and got a tattoo and a motorcycle, which she still rides.

“It was one idiot moment,” she confessed, “but to me it meant ‘cool librarian.'”