A Life in Libraries

I have decided to enter the competition for “Best Job in the Library.” I started working at the library in 1990, which means I have worked at the Laramie County Library for more than half of my life.

When I first began working for LCLS, I had to take a pay cut. But I decided the loss of income was worth it, because for me, working in a library was a dream job. I have been obsessed with books my whole life. I recall badgering my older sisters to teach me to read long before I started school, as well as going to the local library with my father (an avid reader) and checking out stacks of picture books. I vividly recall one series about horses. LCLS carries some of these books and they still check out to young animal-loving readers today.

My passion for books continued all through school and college. Soon after we started dating, my husband nicknamed me “Read-O-Vac” because he’d never known anyone who read so much. Back then, I mostly read classics and literary fiction. Working at the library, I discovered popular genre fiction. These weren’t great novels full of deathless prose, but were simply stories. Stories!  I could write those. For the first time, my goal of writing a novel seemed within reach, and I started a manuscript. Since I had two young children, what little spare time I had was often during work, so I wrote in longhand on my breaks and during my lunch hour. After a little over a year, I finished the book, a historical romance set in 6th century Wales. Two and a half years later, it was published. Since then I’ve published sixteen more novels (and written several more as yet unpublished).

Over the years, my two “book-based” careers have complemented and enhanced each other.

Since the early 90’s, I’ve ordered books for the library’s adult fiction collection. In selecting titles, I read a lot of professional journals, and the insights I’ve gained from reading reviews and articles has helped me as an author and has also helped me weather the turbulent changes taking place in the publishing industry. From patrons, I’ve learned what makes a book enjoyable. I’ve also discovered that there are a very wide range of tastes and preferences among readers.

The synergy between my two careers goes both ways. Because I have regular contact with editors, authors and other industry professionals, I have up-to-date knowledge about the popular fiction market. My writing connections give me a complex perspective of the changing literary landscape and help me keep up with trends. It also gives me insights that enable me to acquire fiction that satisfies the tastes of patrons of every race, gender and life perspective.

In addition to ordering traditional printed books, I purchase e-books for the Cloud Library. I’ve discovered that what readers want to read in print versus what they enjoy digitally can be very different. And there are such vast numbers of e-books available, if I didn’t already have a good sense of what genres and sub-genres are popular, and understand reader expectations, I would be completely overwhelmed.

Sometimes things in life just magically fall into place, and my job at LCLS has been like that. As I put it in my author biography—what could be a more perfect job for a novelist than working in a library? I get to spend my days surrounded by books and the people who love them.

~Mary G.