Meet a Member: Suzy Szasz Palmer

Library Dean
Greenwood Library, Longwood University

When did you first know that you wanted to be a librarian?
I didn't know I wanted to be a librarian until about six months after I received my MLS and I had gone on to pursue a PhD in government and foreign affairs (at the University of Virginia). I was working as a research assistant for two professors, and while I was doing very well in my courses, I suddenly realized I was having much more fun as an RA. One had me hunting for materials his previous assistants couldn't find; most were in Greek or Latin. My Latin was fair at the time, my Greek non-existent. These were my first really hard "reference questions," and I loved it!

Where did you go to library school?
I went to the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University. I think they were the first school to remove "library" from their name, a long time ago.

What was your first library job?
My first library job was "Reference & Instruction Librarian" at Uris Library, Cornell University (Ithaca, NY). Uris was the undergraduate library at the time. I had never worked a single day in a library, in any capacity, before I got this job. That would NEVER happen today!

What is your position now?
Now I am Dean of the Greenwood Library at Longwood University (Farmvillle, VA). So my library career has come full circle back to Virginia!

What is your favorite part of librarianship?
My favorite part of librarianship, in all the positions I've had, is the customer service aspect. I believe we have to go above and beyond what our patrons ask us for. We need to be engaged in their questions in order to guide them. In my more recent administrative positions, I mostly enjoy mentoring the next generation of librarians and working with them to stretch beyond their comfort zones.

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you on the job? Or, if you can’t think of anything, what is the most strange or hilarious reference request you’ve ever received?
After 35-plus years as a librarian, I have too many funny stories and strange reference questions to remember. The first thing that comes to mind: escorting John Cleese across the Cornell campus for his talk at the library -- he's well over 6' and I'm (well) under five -- and then having him make a short joke about me and the University Librarian in his opening remarks. I think I started "owning" being short after that!

If you could have anything in the universe installed in your office for your personal use, what would it be?
Since I probably wouldn't have time to use a gourmet kitchen in my office, I'd settle for an ice cream maker.

What is something your colleagues would be surprised to know about you?
I guess it depends on what we mean by "colleagues." People I work with know me pretty well, but for those reading this who are my VLA colleagues across the state, they may not know that I've had systemic lupus for over 45 years. For me, it's a form of advocacy to share this information with others and educate people about living with a chronic illness.

Interview conducted by Autumn Reinhardt Simpson, VLA Ad Hoc Website Content Committee Co-Chair. Don't miss our other Meet a Member features!