TADL Staff Spotlight: Tom Szafranski

What is your role at the library and how did you choose this career?

I am a Library Assistant in the Sight & Sound Department at the TADL Main Library.

Well, I was a regular patron of the old (Carnegie) Traverse City District Library on 6th Street. You might say that I was a “frequent flier” at the library. When the (new) Main Library on Woodmere Avenue was opening, the library needed to hire extra hands for the Sight & Sound department. At that time my life was full of personal and professional transitions. So I thought, “Yeah. I’d like that,” and I started working part time for TADL on January 7th of 1999.

So this month you’ll be starting your twentieth year working for TADL?

Yes! I started my job three days before the (new) Main Library opened on January 10, 1999. It was part-time at first, but moved to full-time shortly thereafter. So, this month will be nineteen years of working for TADL, and I love it!

You mentioned that life was transitioning for you prior to working at TADL. What type of work did you do before coming to TADL?

I was a radio host (DJ) for WTCM FM in the afternoons from 1981 to 1994. Then worked at WLDR as the morning host and program director from 1994-2000. WLDR’s owner, Don Wiitala, was actively looking to sell the radio station, so I was definitely considering what my future career options might be.

What drew you to beginning your career in radio?

I always loved radio. Maybe because I was given a transistor radio as a gift for my First Communion. Then, in high school, I had an assignment to do an interview for a class project. So, I interviewed one of the radio hosts at WDRQ in Detroit. I was hooked! And after high school I attended the Specs Howard School of Broadcast Arts (now Media Arts) and I was on my way to a career in radio. For me, even crummy radio is good radio!

Maybe library patrons don’t know this, but you’re the “voice of the library,” right?

Ha, ha, yeah. I was asked to voice the, “Attention: the library will be closing in ___ minutes…” announcement. So, yeah. I’m the guy telling you to hurry up and depart from the library.

At first there was only a Public Address (speaker) system to make announcements throughout the library building. Several staff members used to make those announcements at closing time. Now that we have the ability to schedule automated recordings, I also recorded the TADL telephone directory for when people call the library.

What’s your favorite thing about your role with the Sight and Sound department?

I’ve met a lot of great people as library patrons. Over nineteen years, many acquaintances have become friends. What I really enjoy is being a movie “matchmaker,” if you will. Making a suggestion to someone seeking a good movie to watch is a lot of fun. 

What’s your favorite movie?

Only one? Well, my favorite comedy would have to be Rushmore. But, I also really love the black and white foreign drama Wings of Desire.

My go-to advice for anyone looking for a good movie to fit all preferences is The Sandlot. It’s a kids movie, but everyone loves it! Not one person that I’ve recommended that film to has come back to tell me I was wrong.

What has changed the most in Music and Movies over the past nineteen years?

Certainly some of the media formats have changed. Most notably, VHS cassettes are no longer a part of our collection. However, I am really impressed by the volume of material being produced. There are so many new, “Hot” titles being released on a frequent basis. Plus, the timeframe between when the movie is in the theater to when it’s available on DVD/Blueray is so much shorter.

Any insights about the library that you’d like to share with patrons?

As I said, I was a frequent library user before working for TADL. What’s true for me nineteen years ago is still true today; the library is a place to access knowledge of all types. No matter what interests you, when you walk into the library, you are going to learn something new!