I've felt nostalgic the last couple of weeks when I haven't been preoccupied with the basement and preparing for the AAUW convention and investigating sites for the 2016 quilt guild show.
Forty years ago this month I moved to Texas to begin my professional career as a public librarian.
That school year I was a leadership consultant for Alpha Gamma Delta, a wonderful job that let me travel to more than 40 college campuses. In February I was sent to Texas A&M to start an Alpha Gam chapter. I had begun my library job search and called on Mrs. Hazel Adams Richardson, the head librarian at the Bryan (TX) Public Library. She did not have any openings, but she took my resume. When the board of the Nancy Carol Roberts Memorial Library in Brenham needed a new librarian they called Mrs. Richardson who told them about me. I rented a car, drove the 40 miles from Bryan to Brenham to be interviewed, and they hired me! I gave notice to Alpha Gam and flew home to Northbrook in mid-April.
I rented a studio apartment in Brenham sight unseen. I knew nothing about negotiating salary or benefits. (My mother said I could not not have health insurance, and called the library board president on my behalf. Health insurance had not occurred to the library board, either, but the board president was able to get me on the city’s plan.) I had to buy a car. My dad was on a business trip so he couldn’t help. My mother didn’t know much about buying cars, but together we found a year-old Ford Maverick that had only 600 miles and still had the new car warranty. I emptied my savings account and got a $1000 loan to pay for it. I packed the car and set out for Texas! I got as far as Romeoville, Illinois, 65 miles from home, on I-55 when the car broke down. Fortunately I had Amoco Motor Club (like AAA—free towing) and fortunately there was a Ford dealer less than 5 miles away. The service manager, Roy Hoover (I remember!) was so nice. When my mother came to retrieve me (imagine her state of mind) he told her he had three daughters and he hoped that if they were stranded someone would be sure they were okay. The car’s engine block cracked. Mr. Hoover located a replacement, the warranty paid for it, and Mother took me back to Romeoville two days later. [In those days Romeoville was out in the country. Now it is suburbia. The Ford dealer is still there. Every time I take I-55 downstate and pass the dealership I think of my experience.]
I think it took three and half days to get to Brenham. I stopped in Normal, Illinois, to visit a colleague who was the Normal PL children’s librarian. She gave me a crash course in setting up a summer reading program and giving story hours. (My plans were to be an academic reference librarian so I did not take any public library courses.) I visited college friends in St. Louis and in Dallas. Since the apartment lease did not start until May 1, one of the library board members, Mrs. Stinnett, let me stay at her house. On my second day on the job she said she’d been at the beauty parlor and heard about another furnished apartment owned by the mayor’s mother-in-law. It was closer to the library and it was less expensive than the studio. I cancelled the studio lease and moved into 208 Baber. At first I was in an apartment adjacent to Mrs. Durden’s house. Two months later I moved to a garage apartment in back of her house. I lived there until December, 1979, when I moved to Kansas to be director of the Pittsburg Public Library.
It was a great first job. My ignorance was tremendous – library school taught theory but there’s a lot more than theory in running a small-town public library. I learned on the job, sometimes the hard way. I am grateful (and in retrospect, I'm amazed) that the Fortnightly Club (NCRML’s library board) was willing to take a chance on a not-quite-23-year-old. I had a wonderful time!