About Us - Staff

Madeleine Hess (she/her/hers) Assistant Store Manager & Lead Bookseller 

Jamie Sommers (she/her/hers) Floor Supervisor & Lead Bookseller 

Kayla Gonzalez (she/her/hers) Bookseller

Katerina (Kat) Starry (she/her/hers) Bookseller

Olive Whitney (she/her/hers) Jr. Bookseller 

Lucy McLeod (she/her/hers) Bookseller & Storytime & Event Host

Kirsten Hess (she/her/hers) Owner & Front List Buyer, and Founder & Executive Director, Lehigh Valley Book Festival

Kirsten is a businesswoman with over twenty years’ experience putting people, places, and things together to equal more than the sum of their parts. After a professional career in leadership, organizational development, and event management (Lockheed Martin Corp., Thayer Lodging Group, and the George Washington University), she left the corporate world in 2007 to care for her daughter Madeleine, who was diagnosed with life-threatening food allergies at age two.  

During the next several years, Kirsten did extensive volunteer work. She served as a board member of the Grinnell, Iowa Public Library, and as the volunteer coordinator at the Poweshiek County, Iowa Animal Shelter (100% volunteer-run).  She also led food allergy awareness education in the Grinnell-Newberg (Iowa) school district, including writing draft legislation for food allergy awareness. It was through this legislative effort that she learned the power of books – to comfort, to educate, to connect, and to persuade.

Kirsten re-entered the workforce p/t at R.J. Julia Booksellers in Connecticut, where she witnessed the firsthand magic of a bookstore. After relocating to Eastern Pennsylvania in 2013, she founded Let’s Play Books! – a children’s bookstore. In 2016, she grew and relocated the bookstore to its current location and updated the name to Let’s Play Books Bookstore - three floors, two cats, and books for everyone. In 2019, she founded the Lehigh Valley Book Festival, a 3-day book festival held annually the last weekend of March with partner organization, the Bethlehem Area Public Library. 

Kirsten is passionate about learning how to be a better citizen, one day at a time. She learned hard work, discipline, and the value of teamwork as an All-American & full-scholarship NCAA Division I swimmer. Graduated from The George Washington University majoring in Theatre & Communications, and studied Film & Event Management in graduate school at UCLA & G.W.U. Kirsten lives with her family in unceded Lenape land in Emmaus, Pennsylvania.