Results-Oriented Public Library Director Lara Croft Strives to Connect Her Community
“Right now, there’s a weird disconnect between the public perception that libraries are obsolete or irrelevant and the experience of actually working in one. I love helping to dispel these myths.”
More than just a requirement for her preferred position, an MLIS from the San José State University School of Information will help Lara Croft attain skills she can actively apply to her work.
While studying for her master’s degree in education with designs to become a teacher, Lara Croft found a job working part time in a library and was hooked. “I have always been interested in literacy and learning,” says Croft, “but had dragged my feet on actually teaching, and I wasn’t sure why.” Working in a library quickly revealed to Croft some truths about herself. Croft recalls, “I understood that I’m a result-oriented person. When you increase programs, publicity and collections [for a library], numbers increase. It’s so satisfying.” While both teaching and librarianship are meaningful and important professions to Croft, she found library work to be better suited to her personality. These revelations led Croft to pursue a career as a library director and, eventually, to the San José State University School of Information for her Master of Library and Information Science degree.
Today, Croft works as the part-time director of the Langdon Public Library in Newington, New Hampshire while continuing her work in the MLIS program at the SJSU School of Information. Her combination of education, library and managerial experience, and the fact that she had recently begun her course work at the iSchool were enough to qualify her for the position. Says Croft, “I also came to the interview with a list of ‘areas of responsibility’ I expected to handle as a small-town NH library director.” The list proved to the library’s trustees that she was a perfect fit. Although she is still pretty new to the program at the iSchool, Croft has already learned vital skills to supplement what she’s learned on the job, particularly in her Information Professions course with Wayne Disher. “Since I work in a public library, his approach was very applicable to my chosen field.”
Best of Both Worlds
Newington may be a small seacoast town, but the Langdon Public Library is an integral part of its tight-knit, vibrant community and Croft works diligently to serve its patrons. Croft sees the importance of all public libraries, no matter the size or location. “I’m a small town girl at heart,” she admits. “My current library is the best of both worlds. I know just about everyone in town by name and enjoy helping them connect with each other. There’s a lot of industry in town that gives us more resources to work with, so our budget is not as tight here as it may be in other small town libraries.” Setting up book events in the library like the one pictured above with author Robert Curtis, leading book groups like the one pictured below and connecting the community with technology keeps Lara plenty busy.
Because of this professional schedule, Croft needed an online program dedicated to both education and flexibility. “An entirely online program was essential with my schedule,” Croft says. “[Plus], one of my former directors had recently received his MLIS degree there, so I knew it was a reputable program.” Unless her current employer budgets for more than two courses a year tuition reimbursement, Croft will be graduating from the program in 2021. This long view approach to the program allows her the time to fulfill her responsibilities to her library and the community it serves while working toward her MLIS.
For those out looking for a job in the LIS field, Croft has some general advice. “If a job opens up that isn’t what you enjoy, but will look good on your resume for the job you want,” she says, “take it and try to make the best of it.” She goes on to say that, while you may not get the job you want right away, that’s okay. “I found my calling [at age 33] and I can’t imagine doing anything else.” All her previous positions, from retail management to non-profit work, prepared her for the work she’s doing now in one way or another. Although she was demoralized and adrift in her twenties, she now realizes how important that time in her life was in building her skills as a professional.
Looking ahead, Croft sees herself staying in a directorial position at her current library, and nurturing the public LIS community for the time being. “I’ve seen a lot of good librarians leave our state for jobs with benefits in Massachusetts, and I’d like to be an advocate for better funding for libraries in NH that will keep our best and brightest from having to move on in order to succeed at life.” Also, Croft will continue her work with the various New Hampshire-based associations she belongs to: NH Library Association, New England Library Association and NH Library Trustee Association. In addition, she’ll be serving as chair of the NH Small Libraries Summit conference to be held in 2018.
Even if facing new, exciting challenges and growing more as a professional in the LIS field sways Croft from her current position in the future, fighting for the relevance of public libraries will always be a calling for her. “There’s a weird disconnect,” she says, “between the public perception that libraries are obsolete or irrelevant and the actual experience of working in one, which is an exciting, adaptable and busy environment.” Croft concludes, “I love helping to dispel the myths and advocate for better funding and more support for libraries and library professionals.”