What did you get your bachelor’s degree in?
I have a BA in English/Communications. (It was an honors degree. Long story.)
What made you go to library school?
Once I decided that I did not want to be a teacher, I considered applying for library school right after getting my BA. I enjoyed reading and doing research. It definitely appealed to me. However, my parents were not keen on it and pushed me to join the general workforce. Personally, I think my mom was concerned that I’d never get married, so she figured since I didn’t meet anyone in college, I could meet someone in the big wide work world. Fast forward about two decades. I had a job working for the Queens Library System at the administrative end. My interest in becoming a librarian was rekindled. I applied to Queens College GSLIS and QPBL paid for my tuition and DC37 paid for my books. I would’ve had my degree totally covered, but I had to change jobs to make more money. My husband was out of work and we had a toddler and a mortgage.
You’ve worked as a librarian and as administration. What were the challenges of either? |
I loved being a reference librarian, and I was fortunate to have worked for a director who pretty much let me do my own thing. I had worked as a librarian in only one other library and after talking with my peers, I learned there is little uniformity in how each library works. Each place had its own way of weeding, of acquisition, of scheduling, etc. I had to learn a different way of doing things when I moved from one to another. Not necessarily better or worse. Just different. One of the hardest things to deal with was co-workers with issues. Some did not like having someone who was totally into what she was doing around making them look bad. Others were so rigid in their ways, you couldn’t introduce a new way of doing things. They were often moaning for the “good ol’ days.” (Labor agreements vary from place to place and one can get screwed when one changes jobs. You can lose vacation time, sick time, raises, etc. This is a problem for both labor and management, except with management, you can sometimes negotiate your own deal.)
Working with the public has its own challenges – both as a front-line librarian and an administrator – because you rarely know who is going to come through that door, and which person is going to be the “patron from Hell.” I’ve had some pretty scary experiences, even in the so-called “good” neighborhoods, including coming face-to-face with a convicted rapist who was unhappy with the courts and expected the library help “tell his story.”
Being a director has different challenges. If you are fortunate enough to have a good board, good funding and a good staff, you have few problems. Personnel issues provide particular challenges. Civil service and unions add a layer of difficulty. Union rules do not always mesh with Civil Service rules and often complicate how you deal with employees. When you have a terrible employee (or employees) it’s extremely difficult to “coach” them and the termination process is long. That lowers morale for your good employees, but the same rules and laws protect them as well. It’s also not easy coming in as a new administrator. Not everyone is happy with having a “new sheriff.”
If you have a terrible or inept board, you either have to develop a thick skin or be willing to do whatever they want you to do (as long as it’s legal), even if you disagree with it, just to keep them happy. (You have to pick your battles carefully.). What creates bad boards is lack of trustee education. Many have no idea what it means to be a trustee and think the library is their own little playground or kingdom. Trustee education should be mandatory, and I understand it will be to some degree in the near future to meet the standards of the State report.
Did you plan to work in reference while in library school?
Initially, I was interested in Children’s Services. But my “detective genes” kicked in and I found the “thrill of the hunt” for obscure facts, etc. a lot of fun and satisfying.
Did you always know you wanted to be in Administration or is that something that occurred later?
I thought of being an administrator after several years working as a librarian. I thought it was a natural progression since there were few opportunities to move up in most libraries. You can get stuck as a librarian II forever because librarian III positions are few and far between. What also attracted me to administration was the idea that I can could a difference in a community and be creative doing it. That’s not always the reality. But if you’re fortunate, you’ll have a board that shares your vision and staff motivated to make things happen. I was lucky in that respect at one of my director gigs.
You were involved with library associations. What made you decide to join?
I decided initially to get involved for networking purposes and to get to know my peers. Membership also enabled me to continue my library education cost effectively. Membership made me feel I was part of something bigger and could affect change. I learned leadership skills and found being involved with a variety of divisions gave me creative outlets.
You recently retired, what is that like? What do you do day to day?
Considering what’s going on right now, I picked a very good time to retire. Two weeks after I did, everything closed down because of the pandemic. However, my plans to volunteer, find part-time work, travel, etc., went out the window. I do hope one day things will return to normal (or more normal) so I can do that. In the meantime, I do work around the house, read, “attend” online lectures and theater, participate in virtual fitness classes, etc., and cater to my dog.
Do you miss anything about the library world?
I miss the camaraderie. Once I retired, I felt cut off. I think it’s mostly because of these strange times. You can’t get together with other people. If it weren’t for social media, especially Facebook, I wouldn’t know what’s going on with other people. I’ve been in touch with a few retired peers recently, which has been a good thing.
When you were still working, how did you network besides the associations?
I attended conferences mostly. I met a lot of different people with a wide range of ideas that I could use on the job. Conferences also helped me to bond with my colleagues who attended as well in a non-work environment.
What was the last thing you read?
The last book I finished was “The Last Beauty Queen” by Amy Sue Nathan. I was looking for light reading. Now, I ‘m reading “A Rich Brew: How Cafes Created Modern Jewish Culture” by Shachar M. Pinsker, whom I heard speak during an online lecture series.
I know you have a dog, tell me about her.
She’s a senior rescue. Her name is Rosie. We and we got her when she was about seven years old. She’s now 11, and living her best life. She’s a beagle, but an odd one – she doesn’t bark or bay. She may give a “wurf” once in a while when the mailman comes, but that’s it. She’s very good natured, but can be very “salty” and judgy some days.
Do you have any hobbies?
Crocheting, knitting, reading. I’m planning on learning the ukelele and maybe learn how to read tarot cards. I recently took a four-session cooking class online which was intense.
Favorite curse word?
The “F-bomb,” as it has so many uses. “Shit” is #2, which is apt.
Have you ever collected anything?
Other than dust? Many years ago, I collected music boxes, but they took up a lot of room…and collected dust. I do have a collection of “floaty” pens from places I’ve visited. (The ones with a little scene in the upper chamber with an element that floats or moves when you move the pen.)
If you had a time machine, what time period would you visit?
Not so much a time period as a particular event. I would’ve liked to have attended the 1939 World’s Fair. We weren’t at war yet, there was more of a “Wow” factor with the exhibits, and I think it made people feel hopeful. I also like the industrial art of the 1930s.
What bores you?
Having nothing to do or doing the same thing day after day. Also, listening to long, droning lectures that don’t match the description in the promotional materials.
What’s one thing on your bucket list?
Traveling in general. I’d especially like to go to Costa Rica and Europe