When she was little, Elizabeth Cole Schlackman ’03 learned to love libraries from her librarian mother.
“She raised us to be regular readers and regular users of libraries,” she said.
Schlackman was an aide in high school and worked as an assistant in the library at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College. Both she and her twin sister, Susan, followed their aunt, Virginia Sydnor Hodges ’39, to the College. After graduating from R-MWC with a degree in international studies, Schlackman moved to England to marry her husband, whom she met while studying in Reading, England. While her sister went on to become a librarian directly after graduation, Schlackman took the GRE to appease her parents. She spent a year working in retail before applying for a paid internship through the library association in the United Kingdom. She ended up spending two years in Oxford at Ruskin College, a small independent institution that specializes in adult education.
“I loved it,” Schlackman said. “I found my calling. I loved the technical side of it, but I also liked working with the students.”
After another two-year stint pursuing her graduate degree, she got a job as a librarian for the University of Reading. There, she worked with students ranging from community college level up to Ph.D. candidates and other researchers.
“I am someone who loves connecting people to the information they need,” she said. “I like books, but that’s not why I’m a librarian. I work in education because I believe wholeheartedly that education is transformative. It’s the biggest way to change your life.”
In 2014, Schlackman and her husband, who is an IT network manager, moved to Maryland to start their family. They now have a 1-year-old son, a dog, and a house. And Schlackman has her dream job as the collection development librarian for Montgomery College. There, she directs strategy for developing the collections of the library, which includes traditional media, such as books and also digital media. She divides her time between working with the college’s library resources and helping its students use them effectively.
A community college, Montgomery serves about 55,000 credit and non-credit students—many of them non-traditional adult students and immigrants.
“We provide a space where they can come and hang out, but also a space where they can have guidance from the library staff, and a place where they can have a space to do their work when their home life might not be conducive to doing that.”
The days of the quiet, matronly librarian who simply checks out books while hushing patrons are long-gone Schlackman added.
“Libraries have turned from storehouses to bridges,” Schlackman said. “We used to be these cavernous buildings full of books. But nowadays, so much of what we have is online. We spend so much time helping students learn online resources and how to access them.”
And while her library is a frequently used facility central to student life on campus, Schlackman does still find herself resorting to the occasional “shhh.”
“This is one of the few quiet places you can study on campus,” she laughed. “I do actually shush people.”