Meet the Librarian: Dana Smith

Dana Smith, DMPL Librarian

What he does: Adult Services Librarian. My position at the Forest Avenue Library is half-time. Most of my efforts are directed at providing service at our public service contact points and development of adult programs. I also oversee the weekly “Conversations and Coffee” meetings, participate in collection development, provide tours and divert to whatever else may come along when needed.

How did you get to this position? 

I started working at the Central Library in Information Services in March 2016. I have been working at the Forest Avenue Library since October 2017.

When did you know you wanted to become a librarian? I was one of just a few people in library school that had not previously worked in a library before deciding to make this area my professional career. My prior experience was a little different. I became interested in libraries and specifically the value of information provided by libraries when I was teaching social sciences to military personnel in Germany. I was tasked with helping students prepare and pass high school GED equivalency tests just after the mandatory draft had ended in the 1970s. I was given classes, but there were no supporting teaching materials, texts, etc. Consequently, we made extensive use of the base library for supplemental materials. I helped students navigate to find the information they needed.

This helped me develop a real appreciation for the concept of lifelong learning made possible by the role libraries can play in development of this critical skill set. I knew that I wanted to continue exploring this on a career basis, which resulted in my attending library school when I returned from teaching overseas.

What was the path to your current role?

I started my professional career in academic libraries, where programs of information literacy and research skills instruction were the focus. This was an interesting time as it was also the advent of the personal computer, the internet, online databases and many early library automation efforts. I moved from this environment and became the research librarian at Pioneer Hi-Bred. My primary responsibility was to help the development and delivery of online library services to support laboratory research. When I retired, I soon realized I wanted to continue providing library public services in some capacity. I had worked as a substitute librarian at the West Des Moines and Johnston Public Libraries. When I saw an opportunity at DMPL I decided to apply, and here I am.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I still believe that information access is something that can empower a person. Helping someone find the information they need is very satisfying.

Tell us about the upcoming blues music events at DMPL.

The “Crossroads – A Journey with the Blues” music series is the outcome of a desire to replicate a program provided by the Central Iowa Blues Society (CIBS) called “Blues in the Schools,” with a library twist. We realized our customers would enjoy something of this nature based on the popularity of our addition of the 100 Best Blues albums into our blues CD collection, made possible by a 2018 grant from the Forest Avenue Library Brick Fund (a fundraising effort at the library).

We approached CIBS with the idea of having them provide talent for live performances along with people who could tell stories and convey the history behind the music. We also wanted some interactive events where playing guitar and learning blues harmonica would be featured. CIBS provided us award-winning talent and the Forest Avenue Brick fund provided sponsorship. The result is a four-part music series that will allow a sight and sound experience into the history and cultural impact of a uniquely American music called the blues. Whether you are a fan or not, this series will offer something for anyone interested in learning more about what is behind so much of today’s popular music. Come and see why so many have said it all started with the blues.

When you are off the clock, what are your hobbies/interests?

I like music of all kinds, but listen primarily to blues and jazz. I have a sort of bucket list of artists I want to see and try to get to their concerts if and when they are nearby. I do play guitar, but only for my cats. Sometimes it’s hard to tell, but I do think they are listening.

How would you describe the role of DMPL and libraries in general in this modern world? The DMPL and public libraries in general need to continue to evolve with the changing information needs of our society. Libraries have shown great flexibility and have met numerous challenges in so many critical areas to this end. Our role continues to be defined, but we are on the right track.

What are you reading right now? I just finished Hillbilly Elegy.

Anything else coming up at Forest Avenue Library?

I would of course encourage everyone to become involved in our blues music series: Crossroads – A Journey with the Blues. Our first program is Saturday, March 23 and will feature a live performance from Rob Lumbard and Tina Haase Findlay (2018 Iowa Blues Challenge Winners). Following this event, we will have programs in June, July and August.