Reed between the lines: Caroline Reed’s journey to the library
As Director of Research, Instruction and Outreach Services at the Jane Bancroft Cook Library (JBCL) Caroline Reed pulls from her
background as a social worker every day. “People come to you with a need and you show them resources so they can help themselves,” Reed said. Reed has helped and inspired numerous students struggling with research, thesis projects and library services.
Reed began her career with an undergraduate degree in social work and worked on the administrative side of this field. “My father always taught me that people were basically good,” Reed said. “He told me that you don’t necessarily have to like people, but you
do have to respect them.”
She dealt with things like proposals for funding, needs assessment and matching foster parents to children. With a minor in sociology, Reed uses this background to be JBCL’s liaison to the Social Sciences division. Familiarity with social science citation styles is but one of Reed’s useful skills. “It helps because you have done research in the literature and you kind of know how people think,” Reed said about using her educational background in the library. “I don’t think social work is so dissimilar to what I do as a reference librarian.”
Reed also held a work-study position in her university’s library while she was pursuing her undergraduate degree. She was asked to fill in for the university’s reference librarian two nights per week and used her knowledge of the collection to help other students’ research.
After three years as a social worker, things took a sudden turn when Reed’s husband was offered a job in the
U.S. Virgin Islands. The couple decided to “take an adventure” for a year and a half. Feeling that she lacked knowledge
of the culture in the Virgin Islands, Reed left her career in social work, choosing instead to work in various hotels and
retail stores. She found her rightful place, however, when she learned about an opening in the library at the College
of the Virgin Islands. Reed remained a reference assistant in the college’s library since she did not have a degree in Library Science.
“I knew that I really enjoyed working in libraries, but the only place to get a degree, that was close [to the
Virgin Islands] was in Puerto Rico, where the classes were taught in Spanish,”
Reed said. “Since I am monolingual, that really wasn’t going to work.” She held this job for 13 years, staying in the
Virgin Islands much longer than the intended year and a half.
“[My father] may also have been a big influence in my becoming a librarian, because I still remember he would take me to the library, he would go into the card catalog and he would give me a pencil and little piece of paper and have me write down the numbers that were on the card,” Reed said. “He would take me by the hand into the section and have me fi nd the book.”
When her husband got a new job in Sarasota in 1996, Reed began working at JBCL as a reference assistant. While
working in the library, Reed pursued her Library Sciences degree one class at a time, graduating in 2002. With a
Library Sciences degree, Reed was able to do things such as teach classes and organize administrative aspects of the library. “I was hired on an emergency basis because a librarian left,” Reed said. “The semester was going to be starting and we were one librarian down.”
Although she struggled not to say “books,” Reed said that her favorite part of the library is watching how everything has changed and developed over the years. As a member of the American Library Association, Reed attended a conference in 1993 where
speakers first presented the idea of online scholarly journals, much to the shock of a conservative crowd. “The entire room was shaking their heads and saying ‘Why would we ever want electronic journals when we have them in our libraries in print?’” Reed recalled. Three years later when she began working at JBCL, Reed saw online databases such as JSTOR and Project
Muse in use. “[When I left] we had just started getting online databases at the University of the Virgin Islands,”
Reed said. “It was all on CD-ROM, so we actually had a lab where you had to put a CD into a CD player to access that information.”
Reed is now the resident expert on these library technologies. Help with citations, inter-library loans, research topics and more can be answered by a quick “chat with a librarian” on the JBCL website. “The other day I was so excited because there were two questions at the same time,” Reed exclaimed. “I took one question and another librarian took the other.”
Always smiling and happy to help, Reed is appreciated by students and faculty alike for her comprehensive
knowledge of the JBCL collection. Using her social work background, Reed has a special knack for helping students, in
the library and out.