TADL Staff Spotlight: Michele Howard

Introducing our new Coordinator of Adult and Reference Services, Michele Howard. Former coordinator, Brice Bush, left TADL in early October to accept the role of Assistant Director for the East Lansing Public Library.


Michele Howard, Adult & Reference Department Coordinator
Traverse Area District Library

Can you share a little bit about your library background and your tenure at TADL?
My career at TADL began in January 2018, as a part-time librarian. This past October I was appointed interim Coordinator and interviewed for the permanent position. So, a lot has happened in the past ten months and it’s very exciting!

I’ve been a librarian for twenty-four years, having attended Michigan State University for my undergraduate studies and then the University of Michigan to earn a Masters degree in Information and Library Studies focusing on Law Librarianship. We moved to Traverse City in 1999 and I worked for four years at the Law Library which was operated in conjunction with TADL, Grand Traverse County Courts and the Bar Association. Then for another twelve years, I served the Osterlin Library at Northwestern Michigan College.

What are some of the most noticeable differences between Law/Academic library and the Public library?
One of the biggest differences is how the collections are organized. The Law Library uses the Library of Congress classification of materials, but TADL uses the Dewey Decimal System. It’s just a bit different to switch gears, so to speak. Beyond that, there aren’t big collections of Fiction books at academic libraries. So, that’s also a new dynamic to me.

I was pretty nervous about working at a public library because there’s the possibility of any random question being asked of you. So, it’s exciting but also a little bit unknown. While working at an academic library or specialty library, like a Law Library, the type of question is much more predictable. But as a librarian, once you develop the research skills it’s the same thought process…just different subject matter.

The public library is full of people that want to be here (at the library)! You can tell that patrons are comfortable and unafraid to ask questions, and we get to help them. This also means that there’s a lot of variety and diversity in working to serve the public. At a college library we still help people and the work is just as important, but the students are there because of assignment-based needs and seldom of their own choosing or personal interests.

What surprised you the most when you started working at TADL, compared to being a resident patron of the library?
Two things. First, I’m really impressed by the dedication of the library staff. We’re working, essentially, retail hours and the staff members really want to help the community. Second, the depth and breadth of resources and materials at TADL is immense! There’s so much available to our community through the public library.

What excites you the most about being the Coordinator of the Adult and Reference department?
I look forward to building upon our programming and other community engagement opportunities. This past summer, I had a blast taking the TADL Book Bike to the Sara Hardy Farmers Market. In July we started a Seed Library, where people can get seeds to plant at home and also can donate seeds from their own gardens. Another opportunity is expanding our senior citizen programming, both at the library and at outreach locations. There are so many things to be excited about and I look forward to working with our staff to make the library an even bigger part of the community.

What’s one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you?
I didn’t really read much as a kid. My parents took us to the library, I just wasn’t a reader and my mom never read to us. Then, when I turned 13, I started reading the Sweet Dreams romance book series… and I read the whole thing! Later on, I gravitated to nonfiction books out of natural curiosity and interest in learning. So, a love of reading can start at any age.