Ruth Rose Hennessey


Ruth Rose Hennessey

MLIS 1980
Adult Services Reference Librarian
Corvallis-Benton County Public Library
Corvallis, OR USA

What I am doing now.

Reference Librarian serving a busy downtown central library in a sci-tech university town of 50,000 plus 25,000 students. Our community is very literate and demanding yet our downtown location means that we serve a steady number of homeless, transient, and often agitated people living on the street. I am on the public reference desk 20+ hours a week including 8 hours a week covering the Youth Services reference desk. I am responsible for a collection budget of over $60,000. I help people with technology skills from expert to terrified utilize our digital library materials. I do lots and lots of readers advisory for all ages. I am the only certified bilingual staff member, and one of only 3 in the entire City government, so I do a lot of Citywide translations.

What are the most valuable skills I use in my job?

Even though my library degree is very old, some things have not changed in reference librarianship. The Reference Interview is still key in connecting people to information.  People still need to be helped in communicating what it is they are really asking. One of the most important things is that I have an MLS. I didn’t work in an institution for 13 years; I was a street librarian. When I did return to working for an entity, I needed an MLS which I had. That’s all I needed to get me in the door as a substitute on-call librarian, and then I was able to work my way into a full-time permanent job. In order to be a public librarian, you have to really want to help people, be able to quickly change from one task to the next, and believe in libraries as cornerstones of democracy. This was true in 1980, and is probably even truer today.

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