By Adria Carpenter
Kristen Mastel has always nurtured a love of plants, from digging in her mother’s and grandmother’s gardens to guiding forest therapy sessions. As the new librarian for the Andersen Horticultural Library, she’s taking the collection outdoors.
“I really strive in outreach and instruction, so really trying to push the library beyond the walls. Bring more people in, bring the library out,” she said.
Librarianship runs in Mastel’s family, with her aunt serving as a children’s librarian at Hennepin County Library for 42 years, retiring just as Mastel graduated college.
Inspired by her undergraduate art history advisor, Julia Dabbs, at the University of Minnesota Morris, Mastel studied library and information sciences at Indiana University Bloomington, specializing in fine arts librarianship. In her 18-year career since, she’s still learning and growing.
“Every day I get different questions. I get to research different things. I get to learn about different things from the visitors that come in, from the books and objects that I’m interacting with,” she said. “So just always being curious is kind of the best part of my job.”
Before joining the University of Minnesota Libraries, Mastel was a solo librarian at Brown College and as an on-call librarian for Carver County Libraries.
“I do highly recommend folks to not to be scared of being a solo librarian, as you learn very quickly what your strengths and interests are. After a year I wanted to be part of a team and focus my skill set from a generalist to being a reference librarian,” she said.
In 2006, Mastel joined the Minitex staff, where she traveled across the state to educate media specialists, librarians, and teachers about E-Library MN and its databases. This experience prepared her to become the outreach and instruction librarian at Magrath Library.
During her time at Magrath, she felt a strong connection to the Andersen Horticultural Library (AHL), located within the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, and would volunteer during short-staffing periods and on weekends.
“This place is more than just books, seed catalogs, and botanical art. It is a place to inspire and find quiet reflection all at once. That’s what resonated with me” she said.
Kathy Allen, the former lead librarian, served as a mentor for Mastel over the past decade. The two co-presented at the Council of Botanical and Horticultural Library and worked on several projects together. After her retirement, Mastel was “ready for a new challenge” and hopes to continue the legacy of Allen and the previous librarians.
Along with her library sciences expertise, Mastel is bringing her fine art background to the library’s Flora and Fauna Illustrata program (FFI). This joint program between AHL and the Arboretum invites artists to document plant and animal species found at the Arboretum in scientifically accurate fine art.
Outside of the library’s walls, Mastel has trained as a forest therapy guide and leads sessions across the metro area, including at the Arboretum and University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus. These forest bathing sessions guide participants through mindful walks in the woods, engaging their senses in the forests’ features.
“It’s an incredible opportunity to connect with nature and de-stress in the bustling world we live in,” Mastel said. “I’ve just really seen, especially in my own family, how if you don’t take care of your health, really how detrimental that can be to your longevity. And that’s one I’m working on myself.”
As the Andersen Horticultural Library approaches its 50th anniversary next year, Mastel plans to lead the library into a new era of growth and community engagement.
“I hope to push the boundaries and bring the library to even more people, making it a hub for nature enthusiasts, researchers, and curious minds alike,” Mastel said.