TADL Staff Spotlight: Vicki Carpenter

Vicki Carpenter, Administrative Assistant
TADL Main Library


What is your role at the library and how and how long have you worked for TADL?

I’ve worked in several roles for TADL over the past twenty-nine years (it will be thirty years this August). Over the years, I’ve worked for three Library Directors and I’m currently the Administrative Assistant, which I’ve been for the past seven years.

Wow! Almost thirty years, you must have started working at the library when you were very young. Tell us more about how your employment started with TADL.

After I graduated from Western Michigan University, in 1988, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration (Marketing) I returned back home that summer to Traverse City where I took a breather and continued working at Doug Murdick’s Fudge where I had worked for several years on and off throughout school.

About midsummer that year the library staff threw a bridal shower for my future sister-in law who was a Page in the Sight and Sound Department at the library. My brother and sister-in-law actually met at the Traverse Area District Library on 6th Street. At the party I was talking to Gloria Crandall (Head of the Sight and Sound department) and she encouraged me to put in my application at the library. I applied right away knowing that there was going to be an opening since my brother and sister in-law were moving from the area so that my brother could attend grad school. Following my interview with Library Director, Mike McGuire, I was hired as a Library Aide, one of two positions that were actually open in the Sight and Sound Department. About two years later, Gloria retired, so I applied for and was appointed the full time department head for Sight and Sound.

The Sight and Sound department at the Main Library is one of the largest audio and video collections at a public library in Michigan. What was it like in the late 1980s and early 90s?

Sight and Sound was definitely Mike’s (McGuire) “baby’, so he was pretty hands on in that department and handled the collection development and ordered all the materials. He was sort of a pioneer as far as AV materials go in the library. My role in Sight and Sound was more of a team leader. It was a really dynamic and fun part of the library.

We had audio books on cassette tapes, music on LP, movies on laserdisc, informational content VHS, and later we took on CD/DVD formats. We could order 16mm films for loan and we had a fancy state-of-the-art microcomputer for use. Sight and Sound was originally one small room in the basement of the 6th Street library location. The collection grew so much that we expanded into the larger meeting room next door. We quite literally moved everything into that new space overnight; shelves, materials, etc., and opened it up to the public the very next day in a beautiful space with lots of windows and greenery outside.

What is one of the most exciting things that you worked on during your career at TADL?

I remember sometime in 1997, or so, Mike McGuire asked several staff members to provide input with the architects and designers of the new TADL Main Library. I found it really validating that Mike knew which staff members had some specific expertise or background that might be useful in the planning process.

As the Sight and Sound department head, I remember having the opportunity to help design the space to maximize staff workflow and the library patron experience. On top of that, we had input on the final selection of wood finishes such as Cherry wood because of “cherry country” and lots of blues in the carpet to represent the water of Boardman Lake and the Grand Traverse Bay. That was a lot of fun.

When did you transition from Sight and Sound to Administrative work?

In 2000, I accepted a part-time Administrative Clerk position. It provided me time to help my family grow a business in the area. Shortly after that I became a mother, which I absolutely love! Then in 2011, when Dawn Buchanan retired, I applied for and became the Administrative Assistant.

Someone said that you were a key participant in TADL’s cooking show on public access cable. Is this true?

Ha, ha, yep! Mike McGuire, TADL Director, really enjoyed cooking and he was good at it, too. He came up with the idea as part of the library’s Mission of promoting “intellectual, recreational or vocational information and enrichment.”

The show was called, “What’s Cooking At The Library?” and it was broadcast on TCTV2 public access cable. The focus was on, well…what was happening at the library. And we shared that with the public while we made delicious food to eat! Each episode featured a special guest staff member who shared what was going on in their part of the library. And then we got to eat the food!

We filmed it in the Staff Kitchen/Lounge area of the Main Library, with platforms to raise the tables up and a special three-sided tablecloth. My role was a little bit Vanna White-like as I handed Mike ingredients from the side. I guess you could call me, “the refrigerator girl.”

The funniest thing about it is that there were a number of times when I was at the grocery store and random citizens would say to me, “I saw you on that cooking show!”

Vicki in her “What’s Cooking at the Library?” show apron.

What do you think has changed the most in public libraries in the past 30 years?

Probably the automation of the card catalog in the early to mid 90’s. We no longer had to use a physical card catalog. I didn’t have to file the index cards in those tiny drawers and it could be especially cumbersome in the Sight and Sound department. I remember many CD’s with multiple artists that had over 30 cards to file for on CD.

Now, the computerized Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC) is so much easier to handle the volume of materials in our collections and has changed the speed and access of information for staff and patrons.

What’s one thing about the Traverse Area District Library that you want our community to know?

The library is such a steady force in our community and, because I’ve worked for the library so long, for me it’s like a home away from home. I have colleagues that are like my extended family, and many community members that have become friends.

While the specific materials, media formats and services change through the years, the library adapts without losing the core purpose; to be a constant place to access information, seek personal enrichment, and other public services.