I conducted an email interview with her -- and here it is:
Q. What was your first reaction when you read you were nominated to be interviewed for LibraryStories?
A. My reaction was…”Wow! Wait! She must have me confused with someone else – someone who actually knows what they’re doing”.
Q. What's your background (library, personal, whatever) ?
A. “I was born naked” (couldn’t resist…that was the opening line of a very important high school speech given by my closest friend 34 years ago and one that I still find hilarious today) Seriously, I am not a native Oklahoman but a southerner who hails from Bayou La Batre, Alabama (fictional home of Forrest Gump). My husband and I relocated to rural LeFlore County 18 years ago and that’s when what I refer to as my ‘second life’ really began. We traded suburbia for life on the ranch and it’s a decision that we’ve never come to regret.
I am a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi and a former Special Education teacher. I worked in telecommunications for an International firm for years before moving to Oklahoma. Being a life-long reader, I have always been drawn to libraries of all kinds (my mother was an archivist at a University library for many years) and when Buckley Public Library in Poteau had an open position for Children’s Librarian in 1990 I almost broke my neck applying for the job. I worked at Buckley for 10 years and then transferred closer to my home to Wister Public Library and became Branch Manager here in 2000. Both Buckley and Wister Library are a part of the Southeastern Public Library System of Oklahoma. I love my work and can’t imagine doing anything else. I was talking with a young adult just the other day about how fortunate I am to wake up every morning and think “Hmmmm……what’s going on at the library today?” rather than dreading going to work.
Q. What is the first reaction people have towards you when you say you work in a library?
A. Folks say, “No. What do you really do? You don’t look like a librarian.” The non-library using public still thinks of public librarians as the stereotypical old-maid spinster with sensible shoes, no tolerance for noise and one who will do anything to keep the books on the shelves. Or people think I must be pretty darn smart to work in a library. Boy, do I ever have them fooled with that one. Perhaps it’s true for most, but not for me. I always reply that I might not know the answer they are seeking but I bet I can find it given a little time.
Q. Do you have a favorite program or project that you've done? If so what was it -- would you recommend others try it?
A. That’s an easy one. Any program that brings people and the library together and has the hint of a possibility of instigating a keen interest in the library for someone is my favorite. Like most public librarians we offer programming for everyone and I must confess that after almost every successful program I think – “Wow! That’s gotta be my favorite one ever!”
One of the most important things I did when I transferred to Wister was to create a Program Needs Assessment. I’ve updated it several times as trends in this area change and it has helped me pinpoint what will work here and what won’t.
One of the more unusual programs we’ve held that was very well attended was one entitled Grasshopper Control in Your Pastures. This program took place during a dry summer when LeFlore County pastures were plagued by this pest. My neighbor called and asked if I could do a little research about grasshopper control and the idea for the program took hold. I contacted our county extension agent and planned the program then called local landowners about it. Then I advertised at local cattle auctions, feed co-ops and any place else that attracted ranchers dealing with this problem. The program was standing room only and a real eye opener as to what information people in my library service area want and need.
We always kick-off Teen Read Week with an over-night library lock-in for teens and if you asked me how I feel about it at 8 am the morning after I might tell you a different story BUT this is also a favorite program. Because this library building is so small we have to limit the number of teens who attend and it’s quite the frenzy at sign-up time. We always have a blast and begin planning for the next year immediately.
Q. What words of wisdom do you have for people entering librarianship for the first time?
A. That’s easy…..be flexible and stay curious! Librarianship is constantly changing and there will always be exciting things to learn.
Q. What is one book every library should have and why?
A. Donna O’Neeshuck was Chased by Some Cows by Bill Grossman. This is a terrific children’s book about how thanking one person trickles down (or up) in a big way. We need to value people more -customers, co-workers, family, friends – and let them know we care. This little book exemplifies that for me.
Thanks Leslie for the interview -- as the nomination from Stillwater shows, you've left an impression across the state and we are lucky to have you!
And to the rest of you -- If anyone of you know of an innovative, amazing, fabulous, etc Oklahoma librarian everyone should know about drop me a line and I'll do an interview with them!