[Editor’s note: Pam Spencer Holley is the President of the VOYA Editorial Advisory Board, and occasional contributor, and a long time VOYA friend.]
Reading Dorothy and Mary K’s adventures with getting VOYA off the ground, reminded me of the notice I received about this new journal called VOYA and sending off my $10 for who knew what. However, I thought the first issue was four pages stapled together on plain white paper with black ink, but that must have been an intro issue and the first “official” VOYA was the 70-page one described by Mary K. Until I retired from Fairfax County (VA) Public Schools in 1998, I had every issue of VOYA, but then donated my collection to the system’s Education Library.
But how did I get to the point that I became a librarian when I started out teaching biology to 7th graders? Well, after seven years of teaching a subject that I dearly loved, being confined to the classroom was getting a little wearing. I liked working with the young people and looked around the school to see what other jobs seemed possible. Certainly not the principal’s slot, as discipline seemed to be all they did, and I didn’t want to counsel students and take their problems home with me. However, my classes had gone to the library for several research projects and I’d liked being able to work with students in a more open situation. So, after receiving a sabbatical from FCPS, I was off to grad school at University of Maryland to receive an MLS.
Returning to Fairfax County after my year away, I was assigned as one of the two librarians to open Lake Braddock Secondary School, a new, open-space school that would eventually house grades 7 to 12. I was in Subschools 1 and 2, which were located on two separate floors, and meant I stayed physically fit running up and down those flights of stairs. I was such a green librarian as I knew nothing about the day-to-day operations of running a library, though I knew lots of theory. When someone asked me about a shelf list, I had no clue what they were talking about. But liking teens, enjoying working with teachers, and ordering wonderful titles to entice young people to read made it all worthwhile. And little by little I learned to harness those video cassette recorders and their matching televisions, though it was never my favorite task.
From Lake Braddock I moved on to Mount Vernon High School for eleven years and then into administration as the library specialist in one of the county’s four area offices. That position didn’t last long as Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology finally opened and two librarians were being hired. I couldn’t resist the chance to combine my biology background with library work and was hired as co-head librarian with Nancy Bard. We were a great team as she liked televisions and I liked teaching.
This was also about the time I got to know Dorothy Broderick. As mentioned previously, I had always had a personal subscription to VOYA, but at Jefferson I ordered a school subscription, which didn’t arrive and didn’t arrive. Meanwhile, my personal subscription showed up faithfully. Finally I wrote to VOYA and in return received a knee-slapper letter from Dorothy complaining about the magazine subscription agency that Fairfax County was using and that their checks were bouncing higher than beach balls. From that point on, Dorothy became a friend and mentor.
At conference, she was always quick to introduce me to people she thought I should know, both “important” ones and others who, like me, were school librarians who were interested in library activities outside the walls of our own buildings. Through Dorothy I met Barb Lynn from Kansas, a wonderful librarian who went on to work for Econo-Clad Books and then Brodart before Lyme Disease forced her to retire. Through Barb, Mike Printz became a good friend, which led to Michael Cart, and so on. Dorothy was a master at mentoring and I’ve tried hard to follow her example.
Back to my library work—after six or seven years at Jefferson, I was hired as the Program Coordinator for Library Services for FCPS and then as the Coordinator for Library Services. Though I loved serving as Coordinator of Libraries, my first husband died and I learned that “life is short” and it’s important to restructure priorities. So I retired in 1998, though I have remained very active in the library field, enjoying a term as YALSA President, chairing Odyssey and Printz, and serving on VOYA’s Advisory Board since its inception.
I remarried in 2000 and currently live on the Eastern Shore of Virginia where I serve on the Eastern Shore Regional Library Board, try to get to exercise class at least twice a week, and spend a lot of the summer mowing the meadow. However, one thing I have learned is that once a librarian, always a librarian. I realize how my career allowed me to keep learning, interact with wonderful people and make some very special friends, and have the opportunity to chair committees, judge audiobooks and books, travel to cities I might have never visited, and give back to my profession. Life is good!
Some photos of retired life:
One thing that most people don’t know about me is that I’ve always wanted to drive a dump truck. Well, this is as close as I came when we were staying at a bed and breakfast in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and the owner had a MOG—a World War II Mercedes truck. It was not easy!
Pam Spencer Holley, May 17, 2010