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Richard Henerlau: A longtime library assistant

Richard Henerlau participates in a walk for hydrocephalus in San Francisco earlier this year to help raise funds and awareness for the condition.

Although Bessie Chin Library Assistant Richard Henerlau was born with hydrocephalus, a condition that can cause brain damage, Henerlau never let this stop him from helping others, as he has been a familiar figure in the Redwood library for the last six years.

His library experience began much earlier, however, when he was a student at Redwood.

“I began working at the Larkspur library during the summer between my sophomore and junior year,” said Henerlau, who graduated Redwood in 2002. “My dad got laid off in the dot-com bust, April 2000. That was what really prompted me to get the job at the public library.”

Henerlau worked at the library once a week for the rest of his time at Redwood, and then attended College of Marin for four years. He then began to work at the Bessie Chin Library, where he organizes library materials, collects returned items, and returns things to their places.

Henerlau, who works at Redwood and at the Larkspur Library because of their proximity to his home, has lived in the same house all his life.

“I live with my parents because I have hydrocephalus, and it’s better not to take a risk and live on my own in case something happens,” Henerlau said.

Hydrocephalus is a condition caused when the brain’s natural cerebral fluid is either produced too quickly or flushed out too slowly. This leads to a buildup of fluid that can cause brain damage if left untreated.

Although Henerlau was diagnosed with hydrocephalus at birth, his condition doesn’t stop Henerlau from giving to the community.

“I’ve been active in the Friendship Club here are Redwood because I feel a connection with those who have disabilities,” Henerlau said, adding that he also attends bi-annual conferences for those with hydrocephalus.

It was at one of these conferences that he heard Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ husband give a keynote presentation after Giffords was shot in the head last January.

“It was really cool to listen to him speak and know that we shared this connection,” Henerlau said.

The community built through these conferences is a big part of Henerlau’s life, and he’s grateful for the opportunity that his condition has given him to be a part of that community.

“I belong to a network of people who have hydrocephalus, and I’ve made many good friends I never otherwise would have met,” he said. “I know I’m not alone — I have friends I can turn to every time things get rough.”

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