I am excited to join the Friends board. I would like to tell you a little bit about who I am, and the role I think our library plays in our community. In my lifetime so far, it’s been a gateway to the outside world, an information desk when lost in a new city, and the place of academic discovery and professional success. At the TPM Library, I see patrons coming to meet their heroes on author nights; to find information about voting, renter’s rights, and immigration; to do their homework after school; to have a safe place to be or meet up with a friend. Even now, residents gather around the building to use free, secure wifi. A library is at the heart of any town, and it seems especially true in Takoma Park. Like its town, our library is independent (“I heard about this library in library school!” my neighbor said), small but full, quiet and noisy. I so look forward to seeing it grow.
I moved to Takoma Park in August of 2001, not fathoming the ways the world was about to change, or the wonderful community I was stumbling into. The library was the first place I went to get my bearings, check my email, figure out why I couldn’t get my phone service connected. In the years since, I’ve been lucky to become a parent, find my favorite TkPk neighborhood in Forest Park, and work for years on the boards of the TPES and PBES PTAs to help make our great schools even better. With my daughter growing up, I’ve been looking for a new volunteer opportunity that would tie my previous experiences together, and I think I found it here in our library, right where I started nearly twenty years ago.
It’s not just good timing though that brings me to the role of president today. Before I came to the east coast, I was a homeschooled kid in small town Texas. My parents, liberal free thinkers, were often asked what curriculum we followed. My mom would produce our library cards and say there, that’s our curriculum. It was an oasis for us, with an incredible children’s librarian named Wanda Wright, and a reference librarian who became so used to being asked for as “the man with a beard” that he finally just printed that very phrase on his name tag (I knew his name was Charlie Cope). A fledgling historian, I spent hours in the genealogy room, learning how to use microfiche and microfilm machines. I got my very first, if non-paying, job there when I was 10, working as a page re-shelving books.
I went on to study history, worked in museums, and then found a career in academic publishing. Today I am the managing editor of ProQuest’s History Vault, an ever-growing database of U.S. primary source documents spanning from the U.S. Revolution to the Gulf War. (Current holdings are about 20 million pages, and include government, business, and personal papers).
This article was originally published in the fall 2020 Friends of the Takoma Park Maryland Library newsletter.