Small town public library life and library school topics of interest

A Little About Me


I guess you could say that I lead a full life.

I have been working in libraries for most of my life — as a student library aide in junior high, as a student assistant in the General Library at U.C. Irvine, as a substitute librarian in several school libraries back when I was a substitute teacher, and for the past twenty-eight years at the Paso Robles City Library (in Paso Robles, California). I have pretty much done it all as far as library service goes — circulation, reference, young adult services, technical services, periodicals, acquisitions, reserve books, library programming for all ages, and now my current position as Library Manager. I have also worked in bookstores, both academic and retail, so I have spent most of my life around books and other media. In my current position as Library Manager, I wear many hats, mainly due to the economic downturn of the past few years. Currently, I am the Adult Services Librarian (the job I was originally hired by the city to do), Reference Services Librarian (she retired), Tech Services Librarian (we almost hired one once), and Library Manager. I am fortunate to have a great staff and an amazing crew of 125 (or so) volunteers who work with me. Together we serve our community of 30,000 with three service desks, twelve public internet computers, a collection of about 60,000 items, and fifty-seven open hours per week. We have an offsite homework center that we staff that is open 10 hours per week as well. I am hoping to one day be the City Librarian for Paso Robles.

On the personal side, I have an almost-twenty-year-old son who is a student at U.C. Santa Cruz. He is an Eagle Scout, and we are both pretty involved with the Boy Scouts; he works at summer camps during the summers, and I am a Merit Badge Counselor. I would eventually like to be an Advancement Chair which is a perfect volunteer job for a librarian — putting scouts together with the resources to achieve their scouting goals. I have two dogs, a Beagle/Boxer (at least that is what we think he is) named Woody (after the station wagon) and a basset hound named Hoover (after the vacuum cleaner because of the way he eats). In my spare time, I enjoy crafting — jewelry making, sewing, needlepoint and embroidery, and paper crafts such as altered books and collage. Oh yeah, and reading of course. I am also active in my church choir.

I am pretty social and have a lot of friends and family spread all over the United States. Many of my friends I have known for most of my life, including one friend who I have known since fourth grade who is also a librarian. I love Facebook for allowing me to keep in touch with everyone, especially my cousins who are spread across the country. As an only child, my long-term friends and my cousins are like my siblings.

I absolutely love the arts. I have degrees in English Literature and Art History, and many of my friends and acquaintances are artists, musicians, and authors. I am interested in looking at our local art community and figuring out ways to better serve them at the library.


Here’s Woody at our local dog park.


Hoover — gotta love that face!

Me Collage

Me getting crafty at a local collage studio.


12 thoughts on “A Little About Me

  1. Nice to meet you Karen! I also love crafting, was an English Major at a UC (Berkeley) and have kids (though mine are pre-teen and earning that name). I love UC Santa Cruz, what a wonderful school to have a child at aka visiting mom heaven 🙂 Hope to see you around classes!


    • Hi Bronwyn:
      Yes, I noticed in your introduction that we had a few things in common.

      It sounds like your two girls are pretty typical based on stories I hear from my mom-friends-with-daughters. My son and I have been on our own since he was a year old, so we usually fight with each other.

      I had to laugh at your Santa Cruz comment — the last thing my son wants is for me to visit him! I do send him care packages every month or so, and any time I do go there, I always take goodies for his roommates, so they love me, but I pretty much leave him alone so he can learn how he wants to lead his life without me.

      Thanks for commenting!


  2. Hello Karen, it sounds like you have a really full life! I love that you posted pictures of yourself and your dogs. My two little bubbas (father and son Brussels Griffons) are two of the brightest lights in my life.

    A funny connection, I got my undergraduate degree from UCSC in the later 1980s. I loved going to college there although it was a little bit of a culture shock coming from a small logging town in Washington.

    How are you working to manage adding graduate school to everything else that is in your life? I think I am going to have to shift my work situation to be able to take more than one course a term.

    Have a lovely day!


    • Hi Leanne:
      Aww, Brussels Griffons are so cute!

      Yes, Santa Cruz is a bit of a culture shock even here in California, but in my experience, is actually closer to the stereotype of Californians (we’re all a bunch of hippies) than any other U.C. (except maybe for Berkeley). My son is a bit of a free spirit, and is an avid backpacker and hiker, and also enjoys sailing and diving, so Santa Cruz is a little slice of heaven for him.

      Well, there are a few things I am doing so I can work and go to school:
      1. Only work 8-hour days. This will probably be my biggest challenge. My job is so huge, and I hate to leave things undone at the end of the day, so I am in the habit of working 10 hour days (I am salaried, so I can get away with it). I talked to my department head, and she totally gets it since she did the same thing a few years ago.
      2. Cut back on outside activities. So, I don’t really go to scout meetings anymore, even the parent meetings. I do keep up on my membership dues, and I do still want to keep being a merit badge counselor, so we will see. I pretty much have all my craft stuff stored, although I will probably take a class now and then just so I can keep my hand in. Choir isn’t really an issue time-wise. It is only one night a week, and I don’t really have to go every week to keep up. My church gave me a pretty nice scholarship to attend school, so I want to keep participating there as much as I can.
      3. Only take one class at a time. Although I may take me the full seven years to complete the degree, I think this is the only way I can maintain my sanity. Plus I feel that if I am paying for these classes, I want to get as much out of them as I can, so having one class lets me focus on that topic for the term, then move on to something else. As long as I get the degree before I retire!

      Thank for contacting me!


      • That sounds so well thought out Karen. I am only taking one class this term since I am still working my pretty intense job, but I have the luxury of being able to shift my work situation to part-time (at least, that’s the plan).

        It’s great that you have such dedication to be able to keep your eyes on the prize for the long term.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Whew! You do indeed lead a full life!

    That’s quite an array of “hats to wear” – reference, technical services, AND management. How do you get everything done (or rather, prioritize everything)?

    Just curious, what does a Merit Badge Counselor do?

    Thanks for sharing your photos of your craft project and dogs – Hoover’s look is irresistible.


    • Hi Ellen:

      I know, my job is never boring. My philosophy and mode of action is “What needs to be done TODAY?” and that is what gets done first (although not always “today”). The most challenging part is that what I set out to do and what actually gets done vary depending on staff needs and patron needs. The best part is that I have an excellent supervisor. She is totally supportive, and gets it that I can’t always do everything that needs to be done right away. She knows I will get to it when I can, and trusts me to take care of things. That makes all the difference!

      In scouting, the boys/young men have two different activities. One is rank advancement where they achieve certain goals over time (learn skills), meet with the scoutmaster for a conference (kind of like a sit-down with your boss when you think a project is complete), then sit before a board of review (this is kind of like a panel for a job interview). Eagle is the most famous scout rank. The other activity scouts do is earn merit badges. They have to complete both “required” and “elective” merit badges to become an Eagle. As a Merit Badge Counselor, I am an adult who a) teaches various skills needed for a particular merit badge and/or b) signs off that the scout has met the requirements for the badge. So, for example, if a scout wants to earn the Reading Merit Badge (yes, there really is one!), he either takes a class from me or otherwise lets me know that he plans to earn the badge, then we either work through the requirements together (talking about genres, for example), or he works through them on his own (doing the actual reading, for example). As he progresses through the requirements, he fills out a workbook. When he is finished with the requirements, we meet and go over everything. If I am satisfied that the requirements have been met, then I fill out a form and he gets the badge. I am a Counselor for about 10 badges, so it can be a pretty big job, but I love it. Wow. That was probably more than you ever wanted to know about scouting.

      Yeah, Hoover. He’s cute, but we should have named him Trouble (note the capital “T”).


  4. Hello Karen,
    How do you get anything done? lol. You seem to have a tight schedule and pursuing your master’s on top of it is no easy task. I also studied English for my undergraduate degree. I think we were in the same 203 section and I did finish the Tana French book. I do wish he had talked about what happened to him in the woods. Your dogs are so cute! See ya around.


    • Hi Roxanna:
      Sorry it has taken me a few days to get back to you. Planned to spend the weekend doing class stuff and wound up doing “son” stuff instead. Oh well, he should be back at college soon and then it is all about me (work and school and dogs — oh my!) until Winter Break.

      Some days I don’t feel like I get anything done! Today, being the day after a holiday, our patrons were just crazy — I had staff submit 3 (or was it 4) incident report forms today, so mainly I partially dealt with those, got through my email at work, partially built a cabinet that I purchased for my office so I can store Foundation fundraiser materials in it, dealt with timesheets and a couple other finance department things, worked a Children’s Desk shift from 5-8, cataloged some books, and helped one of my staff close. Pretty much a “what needs to be done today” kind of day. Tomorrow I start off bright an early with a Foundation meeting that I am overseeing (good thing the agenda is that same as last month since I had no time today to write up a new one — just need to change the date, print them out, and I am good to go). And so it goes…

      That whole series by Tana French is awesome. I like to listen to audiobooks while I catalog, and I have found hers to require just the right amount of attention. I recommend the rest…

      Thanks for the comment!


  5. Thanks for the explanation. I never realized how much was involved in the Merit Badge process!


    • I know, it is a lot of steps, and the scouts are expected to pretty much be self-motivated and do the steps with just oversight from the counselor (and their parents!) which is asking a lot from an 11-year-old. Somehow the dedicated ones manage and earn the badges.


  6. Hi Karen,

    I love the look and idea of altered books, and have picked up a few how-to guides and tutorials. But every time I think about starting a project, part of me wails at the thought of “ruining” a book! I worked in a library years ago where one of my projects was repairing and relabeling books that had been cleaned after suffering smoke damage in a fire, so perhaps knowing “I can fix this!” is part of my problem. Do you ever have this conflict between the artist and the librarian in you?

    -Wondie, aka Heather Dicianna


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