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National Award for Alumna Librarian

The American Library Association honors Southern graduate Marie Jarry for supporting children and families at the Hartford Public Library.

There’s a lot happening at Hartford Public Library (HPL). More than 110,600 patrons visited in the 2020-21 fiscal year alone, with 27,750 attending the 2,640 programs offered to the community. As HPL’s director of public services, Marie Jarry, M.L.S. ’11, helps drive the action. 

“I oversee customer service operations at all of our locations, and I also have oversight of the Youth and Family Services Department,” says Jarry, who was a second grade teacher before pursuing a master’s degree in library and information science.

The American Library Association (ALA) honored Jarry during its annual conference this summer, presenting her with the “Sullivan Award for Public Library Administrators Supporting Services to Children.” The ALA, which represents more than 55,000 professionals, presents the award annually.

In terms of accomplishments, Jarry is clearly in a league of her own. Her contributions include co-leading “Boundless,” a partnership between HPL and the Hartford school community to increase literacy; launching the “1,000 Books Before Kindergarten” and “STEM Lab on the Go” programs; authoring proposals bringing in more than $200,000 in grants for STEM programming and early childhood initiatives; and streamlining access to the library’s collections for Hartford students and teachers.

Last spring, Southern Alumni Magazine caught up with Jarry to learn more about her work.

You wear a lot of hats at HPL. Describe a typical day.

I don’t think any day can be considered typical! But it might find me meeting with our partners from Hartford Public Schools to work on our Boundless partnership, then working on a grant for our STEM programming, followed by checking in with the front desk to see how the day is going, ordering supplies for an upcoming program at one of the branches, and then a quick walk around Bushnell Park to reset my head.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love that my job touches so many areas of the library and that every day is something new.

When you look back at your time at Southern, does any person or experience stand out as particularly influential?

ILS 565 — Library Management — taught by James Kusack, [professor emeritus of information and library science], stands out in my mind to this day. I remember not wanting to take the class beforehand; at the time, I had no intention of ever becoming a manager. But, the way Professor Kusack approached the material and the real-world case studies he shared really drew me in.

When I started in my first supervisory role at the New Haven Free Public Library as manager of the Young Minds Department, I dug out the folder with all of my class notes and brought it to work, so I could refer to them as needed. That folder is still in my work file cabinet. I often share some of the material with my new managers.

Speaking of sharing, what’s one tip for a parent/caregiver who wants to make the most of a child’s library visit?

Allow kids to read whatever interests them. They spend so much time in school being told what to learn and what to read. The library should be a place where they can feel ownership. Whether drawn to graphic novels, science books, magazines, or even audio books, kids are more likely to read if they feel a vested interest in what they are reading.

Any advice to students thinking of majoring in library science?

If anyone is considering a career in public libraries, I want to emphasize that it is first and foremost a job about working with and for people — not books and information. I am still amazed by how many people will learn what I do and then say, “Oh, it must be great to read all day and work somewhere so quiet.” It’s clear they have not entered a public library in the last 20 years! The most valuable thing the library holds is the relationships it builds with its community members. That is the heart of the library.

Southern’s fully online Master of Library and Information Science program is accredited by the American Library Association.


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