The Biography Section


Welcome to another installment of our monthly series, “The Biography Section,” where Youth Services Librarian Ms. Elissa sits down with one member of the Ferndale Library Staff and asks them a set of questions. There’s a few new questions every month, but there are a recurring set of queries that serve as a way for you to get to know everyone who works here.

This month, we’re talking to Gabrielle “Gabby” Bray
Gabby has worked at FADL as a Library Page for five years. She is a talented musician who plays the violin, viola, a little bit of piano, and she is a member of the Detroit Medical Orchestra. She has a passion for tea and squirrels and is known for being a helping hand around the library in many things beyond shelving books.

What do you love about working at FADL? \
Everything! In particular, I love how active the library is in the community and how it reflects Ferndale. I love how dedicated the librarians are to making sure that the library continues to offer services to everyone and interesting programming. I’m just glad I can help out with that, in whatever ways are needed.

Best or favorite part of your job?
As a Page, I get to know the collection almost on a personal basis. I get to see everything that’s circulating and discover things that aren’t. It’s a good way to explore and find new reading material.

What is the most misunderstood aspect of your job?/What do people get wrong about your job?
I don’t get to read a lot when I’m at work. When I tell people that I work in a library, that’s what they assume I do. I do read a lot outside of work though!

Favorite collection or thing we circ at FADL?
I have a weak spot for the classical music CD collection. I think we have a good collection. We have a big CD collection, that’s just one particular section I enjoy shelving.

What do you love about Ferndale as a community/city?
I love the downtown here, how walkable it is. There’s a unique collection of businesses. I love that it’s open-minded and progressive. You can’t walk down the street without seeing a rainbow flag, at least one. I like that it’s a city that values its public institutions, like its parks and the library.

How do you spend your days off?
I drink a lot of tea! I enjoying sleeping in. I read a lot, I like walking around for exercise and for recreation, around Ferndale or Royal Oak. I hang out at the library even if I’m not working because it’s a good place to spend time as a patron. And we have cozy chairs!

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
This reminds me I should email a connection I made recently! When I was a music student at age 12, my teacher said I should pick up a second instrument, which is how I came to play viola. I played violin first.

When did you start playing an instrument?
I was 7 and my grandparents got me a violin for my birthday. They figured I should probably learn so the gift wasn’t a waste. (Elissa: I guess it wasn’t!)

If you were stuck on an island, what would you take with you?
Electronics are out because there’s no electricity. As much as I can carry? I’m way overthinking this…is there food on the island or do I have to bring that? Tea, books, if I could fit a cat in a bag–that might be cruel, but if I could bring a cat somehow I would.

If I gave you $100, what would you spend it on?
I would put it into savings.

Top three composers?
1.) Steve Reich (Find him in the FADL collection!)   2.) Caroline Shaw  3.) Toru Takemitsu

Best book-to-movie adaptation?
My favorite right now is a movie called Carol which is based on a book called The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith. (Both the book and movie are available through the library.)

Chocolate or vanilla?
Vanilla. It’s the subtlety. It goes better with tea to me.

Beach or woods?

Favorite season?


You can find Gabby cruising up and down the aisles at FADL or helping out at a program (like our recent Adulting 101 series). She is also frequently out and about in Ferndale, sipping some tea and watching the squirrels. And also talking to them….sometimes.

As part of the Biography Section, we invite other staff members to give their kudos to Gabby. Here is what they had to say:

Kathleen: One day a patron asked me if I knew the shorter page who worked in the afternoon and evening.  He told me that page [referring to Gabrielle] was an Angel because she was so wonderful, so helpful, so kind and considerate.  

Kerrie: In addition to being super smart and talented, Gabby is also one of the kindest people I know. She’s also always willing to go the extra mile at work, be it helping out in the schools, or volunteering to help with programming and random things. It’s also fun to have someone at work to share cat memes with.

Michelle: Gabby has been an incredible help to me this year. She provides invaluable assistance with the Adulting program, be it serving punch, putting refreshments together, or helping with set-up. She has also been an asset in the elementary library this year: shelving books, catching mis-labeled items, and helping to process new books. Gabby is so pleasant to be around and genuinely one of the most team-oriented people I’ve ever worked with.

Jasmine: Gabby is a great listener, extremely compassionate, and very supportive. Her kindness and sincerity is consistent, and appreciated. She takes the time to bring staff birthday cards directly, even if she’s not on schedule to work. Her thoughtfulness, and friendly disposition go a long way…I couldn’t imagine what the library would be like without her presence.

Susan: Gabby is extremely kind and thoughtful!  I especially appreciate it when she waits with me while I am waiting to be picked up.  She always has good things to say and brings a calm spirit to the library while doing a thorough job putting away books, setting up for programs, and helping to clear the building at closing.

Darlene: Gabby has been so helpful at our Adulting programs! We literally couldn’t have pulled them off without her!

Jeff: I don’t know anyone else who loves and supports the library, who loves and supports the community of Ferndale, who loves such an array of fine arts, classical arts, contemporary art and local art…as much as Gabby! She’s always reliable and hardworking here at the library, but she also contributes help to events like First Stop Friday.

Kelly: Gabby is always there to lend a hand!


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Listening to Matt Gabriel’s ‘Earth Tones’


Grand Rapids-based singer/songwriter Matt Gabriel came to the Ferndale Library this month to perform for our First Stop Friday local music showcase. Just when we had thought that songsmiths were a bygone class of musical artist, those with a purposefully expansive inclination toward not just folk, not just rock, not just bluegrass, or not just Americana, and instead setting themselves to be able to inhabit any quadrant that a song demands, any mood that calls them…, here comes Gabriel, a musician, songwriter (and music teacher) who appreciates the importance of forging a connection, weaving relatability, with a melody and soft rhythm.

Gabriel’s gifts are that of a quiet captivation… While his songs can be sutured into higher-octane rock n roll energies and compatibly affix drums, bass and other kicked-up components, you can also strip things away to the sweet and subtle soul and the forthright, poetic sentiments. When Gabriel came to our library, the audience was transfixed in the same kind of calming way one would encounter in the clearing of the woods with campers around a crackling, warm fire. Between songs that spanned stories from ten years ago, to maybe ten weeks ago, he interwove banter that could erupt a small chuckle from any age group.

His richly melodic songs find his versatile mid-tone vocals gliding with a bit of a warble over deceptively intricate guitar work, with fingerpicking strums and measured rhythmic taps providing ample tonal accompaniment to crest us into the next chorus. Like modern alt-country or neo-folk auteurs like Wilco or Lucinda Williams, Matt Gabriel’s latest release, Earth Tones, is of a piece with an aesthetic that accentuates the plaintive beauty and pure empathic abundance naturally occurring in the raconteurish/contemplative sing-a-story style of James Taylor, Cat Stevens, or Joni Mitchell. Crowd-pleasing doesn’t quite fit it… It’s more that what he lays down already feels like a place you’ve stayed before…, at home, in a way.

Take a listen

The Ferndale Library has added Gabriel’s new album to our ever-growing Local Music Collection. You can search our online catalog here.

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Ferndale Library’s Live Music Showcase Features Grand Rapids Singer Matt Gabriel NOVEMBER 2


The Ferndale Library restarted its First Stop Friday live music event last month after a string of special outdoor performances during its Summer Concert Series. Singer/songwriter Matt Gabriel travels from the west side of the state to perform in Ferndale on Nov 2–a free concert sponsored by The Friends of the Ferndale Library.

Gabriel is an acclaimed musical artist who has spent the last 10 years writing and performing not just across Michigan but all across the country. The main library closes at 6pm on Fri., Nov 2, but the doors reopen at 7:30pm, giving music lovers access to the Community Room, where Gabriel will share his rich blend of roots/country and Americana. 

Gabriel has drawn praise for his graceful threaded patchwork of different folk flavors, from Laurel Canyon in the west to the indie-edge of Austin, to the rustic twang of Appalachia, and the poignant ballads of Greenwich Village. There’s also a distinctly Great Lakes vibe to his music, conjuring the quality of folk and blues you’d expect from a Grand Rapids singer finding himself halfway between Chicago and Detroit.

Matt, what do you consider  your most formative moment…something that securely set you on the path to being a lifelong musician?
Matt Gabriel:  “I’d have to say it was the first few songs I wrote in high school. The process of writing and the mindset you get in (pure creativity) is a very magical and personal place. I’ve been in love with setting time aside to create that atmosphere in my life ever since…”

What, overall, draws you to the aesthetic of roots/country/Americana? We’re not too far from “folk,” but I think when we think of “folk” we just think of “traditional” music -or music that feels reverent & tied to “traditions,” or is contemplative about the past, present and future all at once…
Matt Gabriel:  “I think I fell into the folky style mainly because it itself encapsulates what being a full time musician (or any lifelong trade) really requires of you. Being observant of everyday life’s challenges, maybe long stretches of travel, the daily grinding at a craft. Its really the father of all genres in my book and I’ve really enjoyed learning as much as I can about it. A clearer answer is I love to tell stories. I grew up listening to many of the old storytellers and will always call that home base at least lyrically. The creativity of a good metaphor and the lessons behind them really move me. Also, I don’t come from a family of artists and bringing music into the home that they would like to listen to made me feel like I’m contributing to the household in my own way. My parents were, like many musicians, my first audience.!”

As the versatile songsmith once put it in an interview, music is a unifying language, but genres just apply different accents. With experience not just as a touring artist but also as a music teacher, Gabriel has an instantly approachable and engaging persona on stage and off.

First Stop Friday effectively threads the library into the local music scene as a venue onto itself. The idea is to invite the crowds typically heading out for rock concerts starting around 9pm to consider making the library their “first stop.” This free, all ages event is made possible by the Friends of the Ferndale Library. For more info on Matt Gabriel, click here.

First Stop Friday
Featuring Matt Gabriel
Fri., Nov 2
Ferndale Library
222 E. Nine Mile Rd
More info:

November 2018 FSF Landscape

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Clean Water Campaign Event at Ferndale Library / Author Anna Clark Visits Wixom Library

clean water campaign (1)The Clean Water Campaign for Michigan will be here this Thursday, Oct 25. 

Lake City-based singer/songwriter and activist Seth Bernard presides over an evening of discussion, storytelling and music at the Ferndale Library with a focus on clean water issues. The Clean Water Campaign for Michigan is a grassroots movement co-organized by Bernard and several others who were passionate about amplifying public support for protecting Michigan’s most vital resource and expanding safe/clean access to water.

Bernard will be joined by two Michigan musical artists, spoken-word artist/lyricist Will See, and singer/songwriter Audra Kubat. Both artists will share impassioned performance pieces with humanitarian themes. The main goal of the Clean Water Campaign got started at the beginning of this year by collecting filmed interviews of citizens across Michigan sharing their experiences and interactions with water. The goal is to bring personal stories to the forefront as a means of building a more informed constituency around issues of clean water.

There will be Q&A following the screenings and musical performances. No registration is required.

More info:


the-poisoned-cityIn other news related to water issues… You won’t want to miss Anna Clark, author of The Poisoned City, at an upcoming meet-and-greet with a discussion about the journey taken by the citizens of Flint over the last five years. The event will be held on Friday, November 9 at 7:00 p.m. at Wixom Public Library, 49015 Pontiac Trail, Wixom, Michigan.

Anna Clark’s The Poisoned City is a full account of the Flint, Michigan, water scandal, an American tragedy, from an award-winning Michigan journalist. Her book recounts the gripping story of Flint’s poisoned water through the people who caused it, suffered from it, and exposed it. It is a chronicle of one town, but could also be about any American city, all made precarious by the neglect of infrastructure and the erosion of democratic decision-making.

As we knew the Clean Water Campaign would be coming to our own library, we reached out to Anna Clark to ask about…

…the experience of writing the book. 
“The very abbreviated version  is that it was, first, a natural extension of the kind of writing and reporting I’d done for years. As a freelancer, I’ve written a lot of different kinds of stories, but a common theme among most of them is how cities are made and unmade; how the unreconciled legacy of the past shapes the choices we have today; and how questions of accountability and human well-being sync with both built and natural environments.”

…one of the primary motivations for writing the book…
“I’m interested in the pragmatic stories: given how things are now, what can you actually do? Whether public officials, private organizations, or citizens, I’m curious about how people are creating alternative, on-the-ground visions of what cities can be. Of course, many of my stories have been rooted in Detroit, especially over its newsy years of bankruptcy, emergency management, and so on, but I’ve also had the chance to report stories from places like Chicago, Houston, Cleveland and so on. That’s helped me develop perspective, and enhanced my curiosity about why things are the way they are. And in Flint, with the water story, all these things that I’d been passionate about and learning about, seemed to come together (for better and worse), and I was really grateful for the chance to give it a long look.”

…and about a personal connection…
“…in my own life, living in places that range from St. Joe/Benton Harbor (where Lake Michigan and the St. Joseph River shaped our lives in so many ways), Ann Arbor, Boston, Nairobi, and Detroit — has made me interested in the varieties of place and story, and made me feel the urgency that comes from being a stakeholder in it. And I grew up in a family that had little money, and struggled in many ways, while also having the racial privilege of access to a decent small-town public school system (compared to Benton Harbor, across the river). I’ve spent most of my adult doing arts workshops in prisons and detention centers, which are disproportionately full of people who come from a handful of Michigan cities, and are disproportionately people of color. Those experiences, too, have sharpened my senses.”

And finally, what was crucial to her writing/research/work to see the book through to completion…
“…to a certain extent, I just had to trust my own curiosities. I followed the path of what I thought was interesting and revelatory, and while that way has some risks — not everybody is as interested in this historic stuff, of course! — it got at what seemed to be the core question of Flint’s story: how does a city come to be so vulnerable in the first place?”

Click here for more info.
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The Biography Section

IMG_3203Kathleen Hellenberg: Library Page

Kathleen is a Page who has been working at FADL since 2011. She has an eye for detail and is often seen wearing fun, bright colors and is often up for a conversation about how energy flows and affects people. Kathleen decorates the library and the planter at the west entrance seasonally. She waters the plants in the break area and in the atrium, which brings much-appreciated greenery to the staff and public areas.


What do you love about working at FADL?
A lot of things! I like that I live really close by so I don’t have to spend lots of time traveling. I like to work in the morning (Kathleen has worked the morning shift for her entire time at FADL). I like that I don’t sit for most of my shift and that I get exercise. I like having some contact with the public. I like that I get to see my daughter, since she works here. I like the supportive staff.

Best or favorite part of your job?
I like the independence, variety and mobility.  And there are some patrons who always visit a bit with me, and we’ve had some wonderful conversations.

What is most misunderstood aspect of your job?/What do people get wrong about your job?
Being a Page means I’m pretty mobile throughout the building, and sometimes I’m the closest person when someone has a computer question, but I usually refer them to the reference desk.

Favorite collection or thing we circ at FADL?
I like the Adult Non-Fiction. What I like about NF is that there’s usually some information that’s helpful to me and that I can use to help other people, too.

Best book you’ve ever read? Also, what is your favorite non-fiction area?
My favorite book is The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, so stuff in that same vein. Anything by Anthony William (he wrote The Medical Medium). These are authors who go really in depth and outside the norm to help people with their health and emotional wellbeing. You’ll find these books in 616.

What do you love about Ferndale as a community/city?
The international and diverse population, and the artistic mindset.

How long have you lived here?
I moved to Ferndale with my husband, daughter and son about 30 years ago.

How do you spend your days off?
I am a Peace Minister of the Beloved Community. I don’t have my own congregation, but I serve at The Center of Enlightenment Church in Ferndale as their Choir Director. I spend my time practicing keyboard for this and also playing music with my friend who plays the flute. The church invites me to be the guest speaker several times a year. My husband and I like to watch bull riding and figure skating competitions on TV!

If you were stuck on an island, what would you take with you?
Something to play music on. I do play organ and keyboard and percussion instruments. I’d bring…a knife! (Laughs.) And a container that will hold liquid.

If I gave you $100, what would you spend it on?
I guess it would depend on how I was feeling when I got it!

How about right now, if I gave it to you right this moment?
I think I would put some of it into savings, I would donate some of it to the American Indian College Fund, and I’d keep the rest for fun.

Top three movies?
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (Comedy)
The Fifth Element (Sci-Fi)
The Red Cliff (Foreign)

Favorite song to sing at karaoke?
I’ve never done it publicly, just with family at my sister’s house, and I sang Shake, Shake, Shake, Senora by Harry Belafonte.

Chocolate or vanilla?
Chocolate, are you kidding me?

Beach or woods?
Woods. I like colder temperatures.

Favorite season?

You can find Kathleen working her morning shift during the business week. Read below for compliments and kudos for Kathleen’s work at FADL.


Jordan: Kathleen always does a great job with her festive holiday decorations!

Kelly: Kathleen always catches the weirdest mis-shelvings! Also she keeps our plants alive.

Jeff: Every couple months, you’ll spot new seasonal charms subtly adorning areas of the library – and that’s Kathleen–keeping things visually cheerful around here ❤

Susan: Kathleen always keeps on top of what sections need weeding and shifting (even dusting) and is a good storyteller who likes to share stories and have a good laugh 🙂  Her bright colors liven up the library too.

Darlene: Kathleen’s meticulous eye for detail is a huge asset to us at the library. If something is out of place, she’ll spot it.  

Gabby: Knowing that Kathleen is tackling the morning returns and vigilantly ensuring that the shelves stay organized, I’m able to walk into work confident that things will be where they should be. And this is not to mention all of the other tasks that she handles to keep the library running every day!


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National Novel Writing Month: Interview with Ophelia Crane

National Novel Writing Month is an annual creative writing challenge to aspiring authors that takes place during the month of November. Participants attempt to write a 50,000 word manuscript between November 1 and November 30. The Ferndale Library has hosted several write-ins in our Community Room, where local writers hunker down for 6-8 hours (or longer) during the late stages of their creation process–sort of a home-stretch marathon of writing.


We wanted this post to inspire any and all aspiring writers here in Ferndale to consider taking the challenge THIS month! “NaNoWriMo” starts on November 1st! Are you ready? Do you need a bit of a pep-talk? Well…, we’ve got a published novelist ON STAFF here at the library. Her pen-name is Ophelia Crane, and we asked her for some insights on the process of writing and building a book’s worth of material.

More about Ophelia Crane: the Detroit native is known for her work 2005 horror novel, “The Affair” and her short stories on various websites and anthologies such as and 2007’s “Raw Meat”. Her two most recent works are a collection of short stories in the horror/surrealism realm called “3:00 a.m.” and a dystopic/geopolitical suspense novel called “Moral Compass.”

Ophelia started writing in fifth grade when a teacher noticed that she liked to draw pictures that told stories in her spare time. Her love of writing is only surpassed by her love of reading. From an early age, she discovered her love for the works of horror and science fiction authors, such as H.G. Wells, Stephen King, Clive Barker, and Phillip K. Dick. Through writing in horror, she discovered that there is no limit to the imagination and she found a way to grow through the genre. Her goals are to successfully write novels that shock and fascinate the public

#NovelWriting with Ophelia Crane

34568533What’s the most challenging thing about writing? What’s the most rewarding thing…?
Probably just getting to the good parts! When I start writing, the story is charted out across points in my mind. Kind of like sticking pins on a map. The spots in between are the challenge. It’s a little like traveling across country. You tend to see lots of interesting things along the way, maybe have an adventure or two as you go, and when you reach one of those major points on the map and understand that everything that’s happened on that journey so far has led up to that moment…, that’s the absolute best feeling.

But the most rewarding thing is seeing other people reading my work. I’m my own groupie when it comes down to my writing. I get so excited when someone checks out one my novels (from the Ferndale Library) or comes up to me and tells me that that they love my work. A few times people have quoted things from one of my books and I always have the same feeling of  Oh, yeah! I did write that! It is pretty awesome!


product_thumbnailWhat is some of the best advice you’ve ever received–about the craft of writing? Or, is there any advice you would share to anyone out there who wants to take the National Novel Writing Month challenge?
That would probably be from, Stephen King. I think it was in his book “In Writing” when he said that everyone’s first draft is crummy. Even his! That blew my mind.

I think we are all lulled into this idea that super successful writers just wake up in the morning and produce greatness…, when, of course, that’s not the case.

Everyone, that means, everyone, begins their creative process at pretty much the same point on the starting line. Greatness tends to come in the editing process.

As far as advice for Nanowrimo?  Make a schedule. Stick to it. Stay the course. Know that your story will suck while you’re writing it, guaranteed. Don’t let it get you down and by all means, do not let it stop you.

Just keep going until you get to the end. Remember, everything can be fixed in the edits.


What’s the key to creating and then completing a story and a cast of characters that can roll along for 200+ pages? What fueled the creation process for Moral Compass…(…besides coffee-maybe)?

Oh, I couldn’t stop it if I tried, if we’re being honest. Characters and stories come to me all the time. I’m always writing even if it’s just in my head. Both Stephen King and J.K. Rowling spoke on it, but I think I prefer Rowling’s explanation: …she said that her characters were like guests that come to her house and tell their stories. The only problem is that they don’t leave until the story is out! Writing for me is kind of like that. The story will tell itself from beginning to end in my mind. The least I can do is write it out.

With Moral Compass, the story changed a bunch of times while I was writing it, just because the world we live in is changing so rapidly. I wanted the story to be in the future, but not so far that it was completely out of reach to believe it might be where we are headed as a country. With writing Moral Compass, the fuel was all around me. I started to see people in my own life change in some frightening ways, so a lot of what I was writing had to do with my own growing fear of whatever this world is evolving into. It’s strange because so much of my past work dealt specifically in horror, and while Moral Compass isn’t horror at all, it’s probably the only story I’ve ever written that really scares me.

Click here for more info on Ophelia Crane
And if YOU want to take the NaNoWriMo challenge, click here.
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Gimme Some Truth Programs Continues to Counter Misinformation


WDET partnered with the Ferndale Area District Library in January of this year to host the very first Gimme Some Truth event! Inspired to strengthen the community’s resourcefulness (and cautiousness) when accessing and analyzing the vast amounts of information that we all independently take in through social media and surfing the internet, Ferndale Library’s Jeff Milo and journalist Sandra Svoboda brought together educators, librarians, journalists, social media specialists, law enforcement and even high school students to present a broad range of perspectives. Attendees of Gimme Some Truth events were able to engage with information and media specialists through Q&A, as well as take a fun (enlightening, and sometimes alarming) quiz on how to spot fake news! After the first two events, WDET-FM provided this resource page. 

Ferndale Library is proud to be a co-founder of this ongoing series: over the last several months, libraries in Plymouth, Livonia and Southfield have hosted similar events with unique panels. These illuminating discussions and informative presentations help us separate fact from fiction in an era of what seems like rampant misinformation. Gimme Some Truth helps communities become better at evaluating the news and figuring out what’s trustworthy and authentic, and what’s downright suspicious.

Ferndale Library’s Jeff Milo moderated the most recent event at Southfield. (Stay tuned for video). The next event will be Wed., Oct 10 at Grosse Pointe High School~followed by an event on Oct 10 at Wayne State University. Click here for more info.

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