Many students utilize the libraries in their schools and communities every day, but they do not consult the greatest sources of information in libraries the people who work there.
Typically students ask librarians, librarian assistants and pages about the location of books, ignoring the fact that these people have had interesting experiences working in libraries that could provide them with unique knowledge.
A few weeks ago, I asked my school librarian at Immaculata Academy, Sharon Moore, if I could borrow a copy of USA Today for my senior research paper. After finding a copy of the paper for me, she said, "I used to be a personal research librarian for Al Neuharth, the founder of USA Today, the Freedom Forum and the Newseum in Washington, D.C."
Awestruck by Moore's connection to a man who has made significant contributions to journalism, I realized that there was probably a lot of fascinating information about Moore that my classmates and I did not know about. Inspired by my brief conversation with Moore that day, I decided to expose the secret life of the high school librarian.
With a master's degree in library science and more than 20 years working in public, corporate and academic libraries, Moore believes there are many negative stereotypes associated with librarians.
"Students often assume we are crabby old women in sensible shoes determined to protect our precious domain of books; quite the opposite is true," Moore said. "The library does not belong to me. It belongs to all of us."
Admitting that she was the kid who read encyclopedias in school, Moore became a librarian due to her love of books and the opportunity to learn something new every day by consulting books, co-workers and students.
When she started checking books in and out for a small public library in 1989 in Michigan, Moore never could have imagined all the places her career has taken her. In 2002, she moved to Buffalo to work as a corporate librarian for the defense contractor General Dynamics. At this position, she had the opportunity to work with rocket scientists conducting extensive research concerning radar techniques and aerospace engineering. Moore said the crash test dummies used in vehicle safety tests were invented in Buffalo and before crash test dummies were created, cadavers were often used.
According to Moore, working for Freedom Forum, an organization dedicated to free press and speech rights, was one of her most exciting jobs. Sometimes Neuharth would call Moore to ask her random questions for his weekly column "Plain Talk," such as the number of first-graders registered as home-school students for a particular year.
From 2006 to 2008, Moore worked for the Newseum in Washington. She researched historical information for exhibits because "every single word, date and fact must be checked from two reliable sources and neither could be from the Internet."
At the Newseum, Moore is most proud of the 80-foot-long timeline of Pennsylvania Avenue on the Hank Greenspun Terrace that she researched extensively and helped create. This exhibit ranks on the top nine list of exhibits at the Newseum, according to the tourist website, the Now Pass.
When asked what advice she wants students to know about libraries, she said, "There is an entire world of information that is not available on the Internet."
Moore also encourages aspiring librarians to "follow your dreams, but always have a back-up plan. Never pass up an opportunity to expand your horizons."
If you are looking for a nice, peaceful place to work that is not stressful, working in a library may be the job for you.
Jessica Weiss, a senior at Immaculata, also works in a library. For the past seven months, Jessica has worked as a page, a person who sorts through books and puts them away, at the Hamburg Public Library.
She says her favorite part of the job is seeing all of the different people who use the library.
Jessica believes the biggest misconception about libraries is that they are outdated and strictly for adults. She explains that libraries have activities for people of all ages and are constantly updated with new books, magazines and movies. There is even a new system for people who forget to return their library books on time. Using a PIN number provided by your local library, some library users can renew their books online and check to see when their books are due.
After talking with Moore and Jessica, it appears there is more to libraries than just the books. Next time you are in a library, take the time to talk to your librarian or page because you never know what you might learn from the people who know your library the best.
Katlyn Grasso is a senior at Immaculata Academy.