Everyone has his or her own story about entering the world of professional librarians. Mine is simple. I started teaching high school Social Studies the week I turned 22. I loved the energy and excitement of working with teenagers, but when I corrected papers and planned lessons I really wanted to be reading books. The proverbial light bulb went off. If I became a school librarian, I could read and apply my reading directly to work. (I later learned it was not quite this easy but have never regretted this career change for a moment.)
Before going to work at the State Library, I served on the state-wide Continuing Education Committee for Librarians, served as President of the state’s school librarians’ professional organization, was appointed to the Maine Library Commission (serving as vice chair for several years), and made several trips to D.C. for National Library Legislative Day. After working for the Department of Education for 7 years, I had an opportunity to come to the State Library as Director of Library Development and later Deputy State Librarian. I have been State Librarian since October 2009. I am living proof that a middle aged woman can change careers several times and hopefully am a model for lifelong learning.
Surprises? Paperwork! Although I had a wonderful mentor in Gary Nichols, former State Librarian, I was still astonished at the amount of paperwork required by the state and federal government. Fortunately, meetings energize me as I attend many. Like every library director, budget is a constant concern. Helping and encouraging staff to learn new skills as public expectations change is a common issue for us all. Fortunately, the Maine State Library staff is terrific! One of my biggest satisfactions aside from working with a talented, committed staff is that all Maine libraries support one another and work together. This is unique in the country to the best of my knowledge. I sit at many meetings with school, academic, public and special libraries.
I am often asked. “Are libraries becoming obsolete?” It is easy to explain that libraries are busier than ever because of programming, technology, classes, and other services needed by their communities. The idea that libraries are becoming spaces where citizens can create digital information about their communities and share it with the world is a very appealing one. I am convinced that those libraries that assess community needs and meet those needs will survive forever! The challenges of e-books and digital literacy are huge, but they will be met.
I am a fifth generation Mainer who still lives in the small town where I was born. This may explain my serious travel bug and how I relax from my job. I have been able to visit Morocco, Egypt, China, Ecuador, Turkey, Jordan, Jerusalem and Russia as well as most of Europe. The biggest lessons learned from my travel is how terribly poor so much of the world is and that clean water, something we take for granted in Maine, is in very short supply in much of the world. I have learned that most people like Americans even if they don’t like our government. I loved all of these trips, but the memories of Jerusalem and the sun coming up, highlighting the Dome of the Rock stands out, as does Turkey. I had few expectations of Turkey but the trip was a bargain and friends were going so I signed up. It is an amazing beautiful country and the people were very kind. I have never seen a place like Cappadocia – I’d go back in a minute.
Another frequent question; Do I get to read books? Not as much as I’d like, but I adore mysteries – they are the perfect escape for me. I am reading Mr. Penumbra’s Book Store, and have a stack of “things to read when I have time”. My favorite author of all time is E.B. White and I adore biographies. Robert Caro’s books on Lyndon Johnson’s career are amazing. (Perhaps because I majored in political science, I love visiting presidential libraries and only have three left to visit.)
I agree with Rita Dove that: “The library is an arena of possibilities – both a window into the soul and a door into the world.” I am proud to be a librarian; I am even more proud to work with an incredible staff and outstanding public library directors in Maine.