Jane from Avondale, Arizona

I’ve been a book-aholic since birth, I believe, and I’ve managed to make my passion into my life’s work, as well.  But first, please allow me to reminisce about growing up with books.  As a kid, my mom would read to me all the time.  At three years old I’d sit in the beauty parlor while my mom had her weekly hair appointments, and I’d read my books out loud—or all the ladies thought I was reading, because I had all the stories memorized.  The library was, and is, one of my favorite places to be.  I’d check out stacks and stacks of books, and I especially loved the Edward Eager books, Gone-Away Lake and Return to Gone-Away by Elizabeth Enright, and any books about magic and secret places.  Of course, I loved the Nancy Drew mysteries, and as I became a teenager I devoured romances, and for some odd reason, anything about gangs, my favorite being The Cross and the Switchblade. After a (thankfully) brief detour into “books I thought I should read,” I am now happily true to myself and have settled into the books I enjoy most—mystery and romance, especially Michael Connelly, Sue Grafton, and Janet Evanovich.  

During my last year of college where I was getting my degree in elementary education, I volunteered at my local public library in Salem, Oregon.  It is to this library that I owe a debt of gratitude for the career and life I have today.  As I was nearing graduation, I was starting to panic about what I would do once I had my degree. All the other students were sending resumes to school districts and setting up interviews.  I never even thought of doing this, and it occurred to me that I truly did not want to teach.  When I brought up my fear to a friend, he came up with a brilliant idea that I could perhaps go into publishing.  This was all I needed to hear to know that, yes, the book industry was my life’s calling.  (To digress for a minute, I’ve since spoken with this friend, and he had no memory of saying that to me!  This story reminds me that all of us have a powerful impact on the people in our lives, and we likely don’t even know it.)

After my volunteer shifts ended, I spent time in the library researching everything they had about the publishing world.  I read Bennett Cerf’s book about Random House, and I started dreaming of working at Random House.  The library also had the perfect book about careers in the publishing industry.  It included information about what kinds of positions were available and the addresses and phone numbers of the publishing companies. I found other books that featured creating resumes and cover letters, and I put together a mailing to many New York publishing houses.

One morning, as I was getting ready to head to school for my student teaching, the phone rang, and it was someone from the human resources department of Random House!  I apparently didn’t make much of an impression on them (I think I might have been hyperventilating!), because I didn’t hear back again.  But, it was exciting nonetheless.  I started calling the other companies and letting them know that I would be coming to New York and that I would like to meet with them. Within a couple of weeks, I was offered a position at Bantam Doubleday Dell, and I worked there for about three years.  Then I joined the Children’s Books Marketing department at Harcourt and was there for eight years.  During those 11 years at the publishing houses I specialized in library marketing.  Six years ago, I decided I wanted to actually be working directly with libraries, and I’m currently a sales consultant for Baker & Taylor, the largest library book wholesaler in the country.  I now visit public libraries in four states and help them to purchase books and services that serve the needs of people like me!

Who knew I could actually make a career out of going to the library every day?!  Thank you, Salem Public Library and my friend Michael Jean.