January 29, 2009

Thank You, Karen

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — tsladmin @ 11:18 pm

My first job out of library school was as a reference librarian at the Calumet City Public Library in Chicago’s south suburbs. I was a total noob, and I look back now and laugh at how green I was. But I was lucky enough to have a great mentor and boss who taught me a number of things – customer service, patience, and how reference worked in the real world. In fact, she’s pretty much responsible for my customer service ethic.
And that fateful day in what I think must have been 1993, when I discovered the Library had a CompuServe account that no one ever used, she said, “Sure, go ahead and play with it – see what you can find.” Yes, that fateful day, I found a recipe for Irish soda bread online for a patron, and I’ve been hooked ever since. She encouraged me as I expanded my knowledge into email, gopher, archie, telnet, and then the web, and she indulged my crazy ideas about how we could use all of these tools in our work.
Truly, I wouldn’t have accomplished everything I have in my career if Karen Bala hadn’t been the best first boss a baby librarian could have. So thank you, Karen – you made a big difference in my life, and I wish I’d had another opportunity to tell you that.


  1. I knew Karen Bala from library courses from NIU. We were in a number of classes together. I thought she was good at figuring things out, at spelling things out in a direct manner, while still maintaining a kindness with people. (You really needed that in doing some group projects.) Working in an academic library, I’d basically lost touch the past ten years, but I would hear about her from time to time. I know she will be missed.

    Comment by Tom — January 31, 2009 @ 10:52 am

  2. I started reading your blog because it was about libraries and librarians… both of which have had a huge impact on my life. And then I read this post and I just stopped and stared at the monitor. I couldn’t believe my eyes!
    I spent the first 12 years of my life in Calumet City. Twice a week when I was growing up I rode the library bus to the Calumet City Library. My life was books and that library was my favorite place in the whole world! I was a voracious reader and the librarians let me borrow 32 books every week – way over the normal limit for the amount of books you could borrow. That was way back in the 1970’s. I’ve never found a library since that has the same special magic… I still dream about that library…..

    Comment by Khadijateri — April 20, 2009 @ 10:39 am

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