And now, some updates on librarians I admire who are marking the end of “Love Your Library” month by making big transitions.
- Karen Keninger. Karen is my fellow Seeing Eye graduate who is leaving her position as director of the Iowa Department for the Blind to become Director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Karen is moving away from her familiar farm home in Iowa to take the new job. She is deciding between settling in a quiet place on the Metro line far enough away to escape busy DC, or embracing the urban environment and renting an apartment near her office. I have moved many times since losing my sight, but always under the guiding eyes of my husband Mike Knezovich. Karen is moving alone. Well, not completely alone – she’ll have her new Seeing Eye dog Jimi at her side. She wrote to say she’d be staying with friends in a Virginia suburb for a few weeks. “That way I can get my feet under me and figure out where I want to rent at first.” New job. New home. New town. New dog. New environment. New responsibilities. I admire Karen’s courage, and her dedication to the library service she loves.
- Mary Dempsey. With the city of Chicago’s entire public library system in transition, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is replacing longtime Library Commissioner Mary Dempsey with a technology-focused administrator from the San Francisco library system. Mary Dempsey holds a Master’s degree in library and Information Science from my alma mater, the University of Illinois, and it was a boost to my journalism confidence when editors at the Illinois alumni magazine asked me to interview her for a profile in 2001. Mary Dempsey oversaw the construction of dozens of new libraries during her tenure, but the Chicago Sun times reports that the 37-year-old technology guru who is replaicing her says it’s time to “re-envision what libraries look like, both in the physical space as well as in the digital space.”
- Stephanie Burke Bellucci. My young New Jersey friend Steph left her job as Library Director at the North Arlington Free Public Library this month to accept a position as Library Director at the Cliffside Park Free Public Library. Stephanie went to high school in Cliffside Park and is delighted to have the opportunity to
Work for a library that has the familiarity of home.
When I told Stephanie I planned on publishing a post about Mary Dempsey being replaced by a technology guru, she told me that friends used to ask her if being a library director meant she got to read all day long. “Now they’re asking something even sillier,” she said. “They want to know if we still really need libraries.” Stephanie is not even 30 years old yet, and a lot of her personal philosophy about her vocation has to do with staying up to date with the most current technologies. She feels even more strongly about the importance of libraries as the cultural and social centers of their communities. “Just think about it,” she said. “Libraries offer help to job seekers, free internet access, story times, book clubs, discussion groups, author visits, free lectures and on and on. Libraries are much, much more than the books on their shelves.”
The American Library Association reports that library usage is up in the United States. “So how do I answer that silly question about whether or not we still need libraries?” Stephanie says. “With a resounding YES!”