Longtime library staffer wins award

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

MARBLE HILL, Mo. -- Joyce James is a familiar face at the Bollinger County Library, always ready with a book suggestion for patrons. And although she has no formal training as a librarian, James is such a vital staff member that she's been named Missouri's Outstanding Library Employee for 2006.

The award was announced last week by the Missouri Library Association, a group dedicated to continuing education and advocacy for public libraries.

"This is really an outstanding nomination," said Margaret Booker, executive director of the association. "She's worked for the library for over 20 years, which is a big deal in library land."

James has worked for the library for 26 years in all. She got her start back in 1975, working for six years before she and her husband moved to Wyoming for his job with an oil service company. They returned to the area in the early 1980s when her husband was transferred to Carmi, Ill. And when that job ended, they returned to their roots in Bollinger County.

"This is our home, where we were born and raised," she said. "I enjoy people, I love working with people. And it is not the same thing everyday all day long."

In the nomination, library director Eva Dunn praised James, the assistant director, for her knowledge of authors and the reading tastes of the patrons, as well as her work remodeling the library, especially the children's areas, reorganizing the library staff, reference and computer areas and hard work keeping the library's financial records.

Facing floodwaters

Dunn said James worked diligently to rescue everything that could be saved when Crooked Creek left its banks in 2002, sending water into the library.

The flood was the second time Crooked Creek waters got into the library. Water got into the library previously in 1982, when James was living in Wyoming.

James said she received a call at 3 a.m. that the creek's water was up at the library door. "When I got there, it was way up on the door. All I could do is stand there and watch that water just run," she said. "I was just horrified."

"She is a jewel here at the library," Dunn said. "She knows people's tastes very well."

The 55,000-volume library built an addition in 2004 and won a tax increase in 2006 that will help expand programming and James will be a big part of the expansions, Dunn said.

James received the award in Columbia, Mo., during the association's annual banquet. "I was so thrilled when I went up there," she said. "I was glad I didn't have to make a public speech."

The key to making recommendations for reading choices, James said, is to know the patrons and to listen to their thoughts on the books they read. "I just know what people are going to like," she said. "I kid them, and tell them that I am picking out books for people that I would like to read but don't have the time."

rkeller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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