Growing up was not an easy task for Paul Kagebein, who said he rose in many ways.
“I didn’t necessarily have a lot of family members, and those family members had addiction issues,” he said. “And so I was raised around what is not the ideal situation for a child.
“I had my grandmother, and she tried her best to protect me from those situations. But she struggled with her own issues, financially and she was in poor physical health. So in many ways, I had to raise and teach myself.”
The Hot Springs native graduated from Hot Springs High School and attended college several times before concluding that higher education was not for him, he said.
“A lot of kids in that situation, through no fault of their own, can fall into a generational cycle and pick up those habits, and sometimes you’ll hear stories of kids who persevere and keep going to Ivy League schools and I kind of fell somewhere in the middle of that spectrum.”
He started his first job in 2010 at the Garland County Library as a bookshelf page while still in high school. After “trying a few other things and realizing I missed this place”, he ended up at the library in 2013.
Eventually, the possibility of a full-time position as program coordinator arose.
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“It was perfect for me because I got to do a variety of things,” Kagebein said. “I mean, as Programs Coordinator, I can book a wide variety of entertainment and educational programs, from historical presentations and author talks to book clubs, chess clubs and craft clubs.
Kagebein organizes events that take place in the library building as well as outreach programs such as Spa-Con 6.0 which is scheduled to take place later this month.
He also implemented the establishment of the library as a Garland County Election Commission voting location, as well as voter registration opportunities. The library will also be an early voting location in November, he said.
Kagebein’s role exposes him to a diversity of people in library services. The first thing that comes to mind when you think of a library might be books, but it offers so much more than that, he said.
“Every day or any given moment there are people here for so many reasons, so many different types of people, of all ages, races, genders, etc. You will have people who come here to study or do research and they know exactly what they are looking for,” he said.
“Some people are here just to browse or look for movies to watch on the weekend. And you have people who use our internet to search for jobs or work on their resumes or just make copies of their important documents.
“You might go to reception and there’s someone checking in and they’re wearing a suit and tie and then right next to them there might be someone who might not know where they’re sleeping. that night, unfortunately, but the library is offering the same resources to both of them for the same price: virtually free,” he said.
Although Kagebein started working at the library at a young age, he stayed because he feels it’s a place where he can give back, he said.
“I feel, based on my own background, the struggles that I grew up with, that I want to give back to other people who may have had their own struggles,” he said. “And I feel like the library is the perfect platform and resource to do that.”
Kagebein is living proof of breaking the generational cycle and impacting the community in ways that matter to him. He said he wanted those who might be struggling right now to know they can overcome and still make a difference.
“Just be aware that it doesn’t say anything negative about you or your potential,” he said. “You are always yourself and you can overcome any hardship you are facing right now. Just hang in there and you can make a difference.”