Six years ago, circulation clerk Elizabeth Howard walked up and down the aisles of the Eunice and James L. West Library, selecting books at random.
Taking a book from the shelf, she continues without opening to read it. A few aisles down, she finds another book of similar size to the first, and replaces it with the one from before. Taking the new book, she finds another and switches those two as well, continuing until anyone searching for them wouldn’t be able to find them.
Howard didn’t plunge the library into chaos without reason. This was a test for the students she oversaw as a circulation clerk, her first position at the library. She also checked books and equipment in and assigned shelf readings to students; they had find misplaced books and return them to their proper place. To check if the students were doing the job properly, Howard would sometimes purposefully misplace books to see if they found them.
This is where Howard began her journey to her present job as library director. It is this kind of creative problem solving that informs what she does today; she needs to know what every department in the library is doing, and that, just like the students six years ago, everyone is up to standard.
“I feel my experience with all those different departments helps me understand what they feel and what they need,” she said. “You need to know a bit of everything.”
Howard’s office overlooks the Wesleyan mall, with a view of the Canafax Clock Tower and the neighborhood beyond. She walks into this lofty office every day to oversee the library and its day-to-day functions.
“She tries to take care of everyone to the best of her ability,” Coordinator of Circulation June Johnson said.
As director, Howard has overseen numerous projects, including homecoming and Meals on Wheels. She is also responsible for the board game shelf in the West Library. Students are able to check out the games and take them home for free. Twice a year the library holds an International Board Game celebration.
Howard began working at the library six years ago after meeting the previous director, Cindy Potter, while working at a Borders bookstore. Potter invited Howard to come and tour the facility with her, and if someone with hiring privileges wants to spend time with you, you go, Howard said with a smile.
From there, Howard was hired as a circulation clerk, working under Johnson. Howard worked happily in this part-time position. Her attitude always positive and bubbly; she is a true people person, Johnson said. Howard worked as a circulation clerk for six months before being promoted.
“She started at the bottom, and now she’s at the top,” Johnson said.
When a job opened in technical services, Howard was quick to rise to the occasion.
“My philosophy is if someone asks something you say yes, and go above what is expected,” Howard said.
Less than six months later, a new full-time position opened in periodicals, and true to her philosophy, Howard accepted the challenge. Here she bound and processed magazines and other periodicals.
After that she became an electronic collections assistant, ordering e-books and managing new outreach programs she had started. It was only after her time here that she became a librarian.
“It’s really challenging to become a librarian and find a job with that title,” Howards said with a smile.
As a librarian, Howard worked in the digital repository, creating the archive space.
“She’s always willing to do any project, and to help in all the different departments,” Elizabeth Bridges, collection management librarian, said.
When Potter retired two years ago, Howard was selected as the interim director; she learned the ins and outs of the job. Her varied work history helped her when it came to understanding all aspects of the library that she was tasked with overseeing. She became the library director a year ago.
“I know what they’re doing, and I know what they’re dealing with,” Howard said of all her departments.
The library hosts this semester’s International Board Game Day from noon to 5 p.m. on Friday. For more information, go to txwes.edu.