Ronda (or Rondie, as she’s known to her co-workers) is best known for her love of honey badgers, but everyone around here knows –despite her cool exterior- Ronda cares very deeply about the library.
When asked to give one word to describe Ronda, her co-workers told me: compassionate, messy, and cluttered. I, for one, can’t hold the clutter against her! One co-worker said of Ronda, “She’s a very nice person. And she’s very patient. Infinitely patient!” Another says, “My favorite thing about Ronda is that she always knows what I’m thinking. She’s in my head.”
In this interview, I sit down with this self-described book-wrangling cowgirl to get the scoop on the big desk at Macon County Public Library: circulation services.
So Ronda, what do you do at the library? How long have you been at your job? I’m the circulation services supervisor. I’m not sure, probably 18 years! I started working at the library March 1st 1989.
What’s your first memory of working at the library? My first 2 days were spent watching and listening and picking up garbage outside the building because no one had time to train me! We were very busy in March. And that’s literally what I did- watched, listened, absorbed- and picked up trash outside!
What’s your favorite thing about working at the library? What do you dislike most? *laughter* Is this being recorded? My favorite thing about working at the library is, I guess- besides the wonderful books I have access to- is leaving every day knowing I’ve done my best and I’ve helped my coworkers as much as I can. I feel like I’ve done my job, my job is done, and I can go home and they’ve got it handled. My least favorite- trying to deal with unhappy patrons and not let it get to me personally.
What attracted you to library work? Books, of course! I’ve always enjoyed books and reading. And I enjoy helping people, enjoy helping them find things they like to read. Also, the people you work with.
What’s most surprised you about working at the library? It’s never boring! There’s always some kind of something that’s never happened before, some kind of situation. Very complex.
What are the first 3 things you do when you get to work? Last 3? Say hello to everyone- how are you doing. Turn my computer on, and count money. Last three… say goodbye to everyone, turn off my computer, the last book drop pull of the day!
What are you most excited or passionate about? Finding something that unfindable, that’s lost, missing, misplaced. Thinking of where it could be and then finding it. That’s awesome!
What are the goals you most want to accomplish in your work? Not so much the goals that are in your job description, but the goals you hold personally? Working in the library system this long has made me wonder why, in high school, it was never mentioned as a possibility. That I could go into Library science, get a degree, be a librarian. I would have loved it. Who knew? So I took business administration. I have considered going back to school to get my librarian certification- but there again I would be doing administrative type things rather than what I’m doing now.. so I’ll stay where I am- I like it!
What would you say most motivates you to do what you do? I enjoy it. I enjoy it. I enjoy it – even if there are bad times and bad patrons and arguments and things you’ve got to unravel, I enjoy my job and I enjoy the people I work with. [Someone yells out, “She loves us!”] I do!
Of which contribution, accomplishment or achievement are you most proud? Professionally? Personally? Personally, obvious answer there is my family. My wonderful husband, very proud of my son, but a personal accomplishment of mine- hardest thing I’ve ever done and really stuck in and got through was when my son and I went to karate together and we both got brown belts. That was exceedingly hard.
We’re talking like- years ago when I was much younger but it was oh so hard then- I can’t imagine now! That was very, very good for internal building of character, because it really teaches you to be calm and try to not let anything get to ya. Nothing is so hard anymore- because when I start thinking something is hard I think, “No, this is not really hard because it’s not like that.” Because we had no air conditioning, sweated to death in a heavy white cotton gi. No complaining. If you had to throw up, you threw up out a window and came back. *Laughter* You did it barefoot so you had blisters on your feet, so yeah- nothing is hard after that! That’s where the optimistic pessimist in me comes in I guess!
Professionally- definitely being here at the library. I never thought I would have a career working with books that I love and helping people and being where information comes- we find out about things- and we’re hooked up on the internet now so you have that also so it’s very enjoyable.
Tell me about some of the memorable characters at the library. Do you have a story or person who stands out in your mind? Many- oh as you get to know the patrons there are very many that are memorable and stand out- and coworkers, like Janet! There’ll never be another one like her, that Janet!
There was a young through-hiker that came here (young, cute little fella with red hair) and he’d just come off the trail, came in to use the internet and he needed his cell phone and his cell phone died. And he did not have his charger- it was back home, wherever he came from, which is the other end of the Appalachian trail. I happened to have my phone charger with me and it fit his phone and it charged his phone up and he was soo happy. He was so happy, and it was just a small thing.
Are there any occupational hazards to being a library worker? Oh yeah- paper cuts! Stools, I have a yellow caution sign to “Watch for tilting stools.” Right there it is [she points to the sign above her desk] because for some reason stools and I sometimes have dancing contests. Like it will be at the end of the counter and then all of a sudden it’s behind me! Who knew!? And I’m dancing with it around and around and around.
Did you go to the library as a child? What’s your first memory of the library? I did- I went to the library, the small library here in Franklin and the even smaller library at our school. We also had Ms. Evelyn Pangle that came by with the portable library- like our Rover Bookmobile- and that was so awesome. I loved that. My first memory of the library would be the very small library that was where the old jail was- now it’s a mineral museum. It was very dark and dusty and quiet, but it still had books so I braved it.
When you think of the future of libraries, what gives you a sense of hope? What makes you concerned or worried? I have confidence that people are never going to not want books. Just from being on the ground, hearing what people say about it. And lots of people do eBook downloads now and go to the internet and read and watch and do whatever, but they still keep coming back to us for the books. And for a child especially, there’s nothing like a book. And if you’re a parent having a book you can read and share with that child- I remember being a child and I can still see in my mind’s eye the color on those pages and they way the book smelled. And the way it looked and just the weight of it. My favorite. I got a box full- my mom ordered a box of the Tarzan books by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and I had all the Nancy Drew books, the Hardy Boys (I didn’t care they were boys- it was good reading!), Trixie Belden- also very good, loved those stories and they are still here and being read and enjoyed.
I’m definitely worried. We are a kind of hidden benefit. Unless people use us and their family is grown around that sort of environment growing up – a lot of people have never come to the library and they don’t know what they’re missing. They really don’t. There are people that don’t enjoy reading because either their families didn’t do it or they’re just not that kind of person- it just doesn’t do it for them or whatever. Funding is a big worry and again that’s because were such a hidden benefit to the community. They just don’t realize what they have unless they use us so people that don’t come, they don’t know. They don’t understand.
If you weren’t working at the library, what might you be doing instead? I would enjoy, I think, being a veterinarian or working with animals because I love animals. Tour guide would be fun- my sister did that for a while and she enjoyed the heck outta that. But I enjoy the library.
What do you do when you aren’t working? Reading. Lots of reading, watching movies. I work out at my gym at home in the basement, read on the bike.
Real book or eBook? Real- I want to see the book, hold it. Just enjoy the whole experience. I read a book from front to back. I read the acknowledgements; I look at the back part if the author explains where he got his story ideas and all that. I just like the whole thing.
What’s your favorite book? The Gunslinger– by Stephen King. Anything Stephen King. I love him!
What was the last book you read? I am not done yet, but I’m reading the most enjoyable book by Preston & Child – White Fire. Excellent!
What’s a skill or talent you wish you had? I’d like to be able to ride a bicycle again. For some reason I can’t do that. I’ve got a new bicycle and my sense of balance is shot. I want training wheels- my husband thought I was kidding- but I’m not. I’m serious! I want training wheels on my Huffy bike. My huffy bike classic with fenders and such- that’s what I want!
Do you have a message to share? Anything you’d like to say to people who don’t use the library?