As we begin a new school year, we invite you to enjoy our monthly Staff Spotlights. This month, we bring you Julie Arensdorf of Memorial Library!
How long have you been working in libraries and how did this journey begin?
I’ve been a librarian for four years now. When I started college, I was a premed/Biology and Piano Performance double major, then I switched to English. I decided literature and writing were more my speed and piano, as much as I loved playing, was not something I wanted to do every day for 4-5 hours. I then earned minors in History and Spanish. At the end of my undergraduate years, I decided I’d love to teach, but after learning more about the job market for English PhDs I thought… well, maybe I could teach high school. So I did a Masters in Teaching for secondary English and I completed my student teaching in Durham, North Carolina. I was there finishing out my student teaching when I realized that working the 60-70 hours a week that being a high school teacher required probably wasn’t sustainable for me, so I started checking into library school. I applied and was accepted at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, where I worked in a couple of University Libraries and volunteered at local public libraries. I got a job right after graduation at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa.
How did you channel all of that background into library school?
I guess I have pretty diverse interests, so I appreciate that libraries allow for a lot of flexibility within the profession. I thought I was going to work in public libraries when I started library school. I was really interested in issues related to social justice and access to information when I applied to UNC. I started volunteering at the Durham Public Library and when I was working there I noticed a lot of patrons were using the computers to file for unemployment and apply for jobs. If you don’t know how to use a computer, often times you can’t even apply for a minimum wage position, which I found really concerning. In my second year, I took over as coordinator of the Community Workshop Series, which offered free computer classes at area public libraries in Durham, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro, North Carolina.
What kind of work do you do at Memorial Library?
I am the Reference and Outreach Librarian. Essentially what that means, is that I am responsible for marketing and outreach for Memorial Library. I work with other librarians around campus who are also in charge of outreach. It’s a new position, so I am helping to define exactly what I do, which is exciting.
What do you enjoy most about your position?
I love how many resources there are on campus! Coming from a smaller institution, there are just fewer people and fewer campus resources. So there are lots of opportunities for outreach and partnerships here at Madison, and that’s exciting. I also love how diverse my work is from day to day.
Tell me what a perfect day in Madison outside of the library looks like for you.
Well, I really enjoy riding my bike, and Madison has some great paths, so that would definitely be part of it. I’ve also enjoyed cross-country skiing, drifting around Monona Bay on stand up paddle boards, and exploring the different neighborhood festivals this summer. And music would play a big part in any perfect day—I had the opportunity to play in a concert with the Russian Folk Orchestra last spring, and with an accordion group at a neighborhood festival in August, which was really fun. Since moving here, I’ve also been attending a lot of rallies and protests, and I enjoy being engaged with my community. I like to keep busy, and love learning new things, taking art classes, trying new instruments. And of course ice cream—at the end of this perfect day, there must be ice cream.
Does your passion for the arts reflect in your librarian work at all?
I haven’t really thought about that. I guess a lot of my involvement when I lived in Dubuque was based in the arts community—volunteering and organizing festivals and events. I think the arts community is kind of interesting because if you’re involved in one area of the arts, you tend to know people in other areas, so I guess in that way, networking within the arts community could be similar to the networking I am doing here with different campus groups.
What is a fact about yourself that would surprise other people?
Oh gosh. Let’s see. I don’t see myself as particularly creative. I’m a pretty linear thinker (I love formal logic and systems analysis). I do traditionally creative things (music, art, poetry), but in a pretty linear way I guess.