Teacher, social worker, detective: Anne Arundel's librarians have many roles

Capital Gazette

Jackson, Kelley

What’s your mental picture of a librarian? Perhaps it includes gray hair, glasses and being told to be quiet. 

Today’s library staff breaks this outdated stereotype. They are detectives, musicians, social workers and tech gurus of all ages.

Anne Arundel County Public Library has 415 full and part-time employees. The people who work here come from varied backgrounds. We have military veterans, health care workers, actors, paralegals and teachers just to name a few. The common thread among our staff is a strong dedication to helping our communities.

Some staff such as Programming and Outreach Librarian Kathleen Zawodny, have always been drawn to library work.

“I have wanted to be a librarian since I was a little kid - in fact, my first public outing after I was born was to the Severna Park Library,” Zawodny said. “I like to say that I imprinted on the library and didn’t really have a choice about becoming a librarian! I find so much joy in working at a place where I can help people find their home.”

Finding support, information, comfort or refuge … we love to help people find their home. Public libraries have become so much more than places to get books.

Don’t get us wrong, our staff still loves to provide book recommendations, help with research, host an author visit or dance around during a preschool storytime, but those tasks are far from the only ones we perform. A more accurate description is that libraries today are like community centers and the skills, passions and roles of our staff reflects this change.

Aurelia Larrimore, library associate at Discoveries: The Library at the Mall, relies on her background in social work every day as she finds new ways to work with community partners and provide services to meet the diverse needs of our customers. She regularly helps people find jobs, navigate social services and bridge the digital divide.

“Equitable access to resources is something that both public libraries and social work professionals value,” she said. “When communities are in need of support, librarians often step in to help.”

Martha Sykora, library associate at the Crofton Library, knows this all too well and wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Last year I completed the training to become a Master Watershed Steward and now I help promote environmental literacy at the library.” Sykora said. “Most recently I have been making calls for the Anne Arundel County Covid Care Warmline. It has been sobering but also rewarding to help those without computer access pre-register or in some cases make appointments for the vaccine.”

This past year provided innumerable opportunities for our staff to do what they love: step up and help our customers. Some relied on their backgrounds as musicians and actors to bring virtual events to life. As so many things moved online, others capitalized on their technical skills to guide customers in using computers to connect with loved ones, apply for unemployment or transition to online learning. 

Still others used experience in social work to build partnerships with community organizations that provide food, legal advice, financial assistance and more.

When asked what they want for their customers, most librarians shared Larrimore’s sentiments.

“I hope more people will explore libraries and gain access to the many resources that they did not know existed! Essentially, I want people to fall in love with these welcoming spaces as much I have.”

To learn more about all the exciting things happening at the library, visit one of our branches for limited walk-in service beginning on April 12 or check us out online at www.aacpl.net.