The Heart of the Library: Stories and Trends from Librarian, Lisa Sotak

The Heart of the Library: Stories and Trends from Librarian, Lisa Sotak

Libraries are crucial for communities. They've always been more than places to borrow books, study, or use the Internet; they've historically been neighborhood hubs, educational enclaves, and gateways to great adventures! This blog peeks behind the scenes of a seasoned librarian's life--one who has dedicated her career to creating a love for reading and learning--to reveal insights readers will love.

Her name is Lisa Sotak, and her journey from a biologist to a librarian, combined with the challenges and rewards she faces in her role, offers a unique look at libraries' vital role in our lives. Let's jump in!

How long have you been a librarian, and what initially drew you to that expertise?

I graduated from the University of North Texas with my Master’s in Library Science in 2009. I was originally a biologist, but soon after graduation, I got married, had 3 fantastic children, and stayed home to raise them. 

While I loved being with them, I didn’t find it quite intellectually stimulating enough. I needed to do something to occupy my mind, so I started looking at graduate school options. This was slightly limited because my then-husband was in the Air Force and we were moving quite a bit--from New Mexico to Singapore to Texas to Guam and back to New Mexico. I settled on Librarianship because I had fond memories of going to the public library when I was younger and am passionate about helping people. It seemed like a perfect fit.

What are some of the most rewarding and challenging aspects of being a librarian today?

The rewards are great when you see the people you help walk away happy. This can be because they found a great book, their kids are excited to read, or they got the job you helped them write the resume for! Challenges abound, however. Frequently, it comes down to budget. Libraries don’t make money and are often on the end of budget cuts and personnel drawbacks. We are constantly trying to find out how to quantify the intrinsic value that we provide to communities, and it can be exhausting sometimes.


Can you share a story about when the library significantly impacted someone’s life?

I was working at my local public library, and an older couple came in wanting to learn how to use Facebook to post a file on a special day. They had just gotten started creating an account and were floundering in all the details. (This was back when it was harder to post pdfs and other files). We scheduled several one-on-one sessions when I wasn’t on the reference desk, and when the time came, they could post a memorial poem she wrote on the anniversary of the death of their grandchild. We still keep in touch today.

What character from any book do you most identify with and why?

I don’t know about ‘most’. There is an element in every character I read that resonates with me; good or bad qualities. The things I rejoice in about myself down to the kernel of shame that I won’t admit to anyone else. That’s why I read. So I can learn more about myself!

Can you recommend a few books featuring bold, courageous, and adventurous female protagonists that my readers should check out?

This is kind of an oddball list that spans age ranges and genres: Matilda by Roald Dahl, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson, Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson, Patrica Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series.

What trends are you seeing in literature today, particularly regarding female protagonists and adventure genres?

There are many, many books featuring strong female protagonists that are not bound by the older traditional mores around love and romance being the end goal. These may and are often a part of the journey but it’s no longer the sole destination. There are also a lot more females in adventure books. Diversity in publishing is finally being realized so that we have more diverse authors and their characters in regards to race, gender, orientation, and living situations. I appreciate that publishers realize the variety of readers out there who desperately want to see themselves portrayed in books in ways that aren’t designed to inspire pity or disdain.

How do you see libraries adapting to meet the needs of future generations?

Libraries are ever-evolving to meet the needs of their patrons! We typically try to bridge the digital divide by providing technology and internet services to those who may not have easy access to them. We also ride the technology wave by having older technologies along with leading-edge things that are available. There are lots of libraries around that still have microfiche and microfilm but also 3D printers. Libraries of things are also gaining momentum, from baking pans to STEM kits to people who will tell you their history. The only threat to this is potential funding cuts, which everyone can have a voice by visiting their public library, contacting their city and state leaders, and voting for bonds that support libraries.

If you could travel back in time and meet any author, who would it be and why?

Nope. I want to preserve my view of them and not have it tarnished by reality. Too many people meet the celebrity of their dreams and are crushed by the realization that they are just people with their own thoughts, opinions, and experiences. I like to keep the myths I have created about my favorite authors--my world is a happy world free from disappointments!


Fair enough! 

Lisa, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about you and your field, and I think my audience will, too! 😊

Libraries are constantly evolving, with new trends, diverse voices, and innovative services emerging to meet the needs of readers of all ages. As we celebrate librarians’ contributions and their impact on our communities, it’s obvious that their work is essential in promoting literacy and driving a love for reading. Support your local library by exploring its resources and making your voice heard to ensure it remain part of the community.

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