Meet A Member: Ann Roberts

Elizabeth Ann Roberts headshotWhere do you work?
The Public Search Facility of the United States Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, VA.

What is your current position?
Reference Librarian, Online Assistance Desk

When did you first know that you wanted to be a librarian?
I probably didn't know that I really wanted to be a librarian until I started working at the East Baton Rouge Parish Library in Baton Rouge, LA. Even though I was working in a paraprofessional position at the time, because I had already attained the MLS, I was allowed to work on some truly fun projects. I was able to assist with planning the Louisiana Literary Marketplace, an annual event featuring Louisiana authors, (and I have the post card from James Lee Burke to prove it!), a family literacy program called Prime Time Family Reading Time, and monthly adult programs, including programming built around a Smithsonian travelling exhibit. I was hooked!

What was your first library job?
My first library job was at the aforementioned East Baton Rouge Parish Library in Baton Rouge, LA.
My supervisor was Mary Stein, who has a wonderful Ted Talk about library services in Baton Rouge.
Mary always reinforced my dedication to customer service, and the city of Baton Rouge has rewarded
the library system with increased funding for a new central library and additional branches, over the years.

What is your favorite part of librarianship?
Helping people! I am truly an old school librarian. When I was getting my MLS, right before the advent of the WWW, everything was about service. I and my colleagues felt that librarianship was one of the "helping professions", and I have always reflected that in my work, no matter where I have ended up working throughout my career.

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you on the job?
Oh, geez. I can think of several instances of "strange funny", but not so much "ha ha funny". I know librarians have many stories of working with a public that is not always mentally fit, and while I might smile and chuckle, it makes me a little uncomfortable. In my second publication through Libraries Unlimited, a book on library services to adults, I kind of got on a "high horse" about this issue. People with mental illness really can't help it and we as a profession have to look beyond their quirks and see what their real information needs are and do our best to help. Here in the Public Search Facility of the Patent Office, we have our share of odd balls, as well. I guess the strangest thing I've seen lately was the gentleman wearing a pair of jeans as a scarf around his neck. In his defense, it was cold that day, and maybe he didn't have a real scarf. I gave him the same support and attention that I would to anyone else and he seemed pleased with the help.

If you could have anything in the universe installed in your office for your personal use, what would it be?
A picture window with a water view.

What is something your colleagues would be surprised to know about you?
Prior to obtaining my MLS, I studied music for many years. I have a Master's Degree in Vocal Performance from LSU in Baton Rouge, where I was lucky enough to study with a very well-known opera singer who was our artist-in-residence at the time, Miss Martina Arroyo. While I was studying with her, she made an appearance on Johnny Carson, and often appeared as a guest performer on other television shows. We were all so thrilled to see our teacher on Carson. She currently has her own foundation for young performers in New York. Alas, I am too old to benefit.

Interview conducted by Gregg Grunow.
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