Kim Odom is the new branch manager for the Ponte Vedra Beach Branch Library where she will oversee the day-to-day operations of what many call the heart of the community.
Tell me a little about your background.
I grew up between Charleston, South Carolina, and Jacksonville, North Carolina. I attended North Carolina State University for my undergrad. And then I moved back to Charleston, having already started my library career in circulation services and children’s services, and continued in Charleston working with teens.
I eventually got my master’s in library and information science from the University of South Carolina in Columbia. I served as a branch manager of a rural library in Hollywood, South Carolina, for a while. And also as a branch manager of an urban, smaller library, the John L. Dart Library in Charleston.
I miss Charleston, but I’ve been in Florida for the past three years, during which time I have had the pleasure of serving at FSCJ as an adjunct librarian and serving at the Jacksonville Public Library as both a youth librarian and then as an assistant branch supervisor.
Do you have a favorite role you’ve enjoyed the most?
My career has been just over 20 years, and I think my very favorite thing is watching a child’s eyes light up, just being amazed at what’s here.
Also, their being able to take more than one book, more than two books, more than three books out and parents being able to share that experience with them.
I think second to seeing how children light up is seeing how a staff pulls together to make the whole thing work. Because we spend a lot of time together. …
There are a lot of services that we provide. A lot of resources, especially online, that we provide. A lot of programs, great events that are cultural or informative or educational that we provide.
But what we are best at is being resources. We are human resources that connect all those services and other things to the people that come in.
So, second to children’s responses to being in library spaces, it’s the development of the team.
I think people who don’t avail themselves of their library don’t know what they’re missing. Tell me your thoughts on the role of the library in a community.
I think the library is the sponge. We absorb the stories. We absorb the climate. We house opportunities for people to connect and engage, people that have similar interests — as in a book club or a story time. And then people who have different perspectives — like in a book club or a story time!
So, libraries have that kind of impact.
There was one of the library world’s scholars, Rudine Sims Bishop, who talked about books being windows and mirrors and doors. Libraries are those same things. They are mirrors, and they reflect ourselves. And they are also windows allowing us to see others in ways that we might not have otherwise been able to see them. And they are doors, opening up new opportunities.
So, that’s the role, I feel, of libraries.
What should the community know about its library?
You were saying earlier that people don’t know what they’re missing. What we’re missing is them. Because when they come in with a fresh perspective, they may recognize the things that we have overlooked. Like, they may say, “Hey, you don’t have any books on quail hunting.”
We do have comment cards for just those kinds of things, suggestions.
What the library is missing are voices from the community that make us better. We’re the sponge, and we’re the hub.
Our programs are great. I’ve only been able to kind of peek in on a couple. I saw The Sisterhood of the Traveling Plants — that was awesome!
And seeing parents with the babies, that is precious.
Our reference staff is right there to help with any questions that you might have.
We have computers available for use here on site.
We have a teen space that’s dedicated for young people to connect, to read, to listen, to be comfortable in their own space with a robust collection, as well.
Seymour’s Bookstore is right here. So, of course, you can borrow books all the time, but one of the things that’s really important as you grow a reader in your household or you grow yourself as a reader is owning your own book. And we have them here at great prices.
And then, everyone who’s supporting Seymour’s is supporting us, because the Friends of the Library help us through collection development, through programming support and also just helping to support the staff and encourage the staff.
And it’s a beautiful facility.
And every month, the art exhibit changes. And the public is invited to submit their work for evaluation to be able to be displayed for the month.
How did you become interested in this particular career path?
I’m from a family of educators, clergy and veterans. So, they were all about education and order and personal responsibility, and that service is expected of you as a citizen.
So, being in a library was just sort of like the regular part of the day, the regular part of the week. We always visited the library.
But as a career, it was accidental. I was spending time in my local library doing applications for graduate school. They noticed that I had helped a couple of people find things. So, someone came up and said, “You know, we’re actually looking for someone, and you’ve helped a couple of people already, so maybe you’d like to apply to work here.”
I was like, “Yeah, I’m thinking about grad school. I don’t know.”
Then, they showed me the actual posting and it was like real money with real insurance, and here I am just out of college thinking maybe I could wait for grad school.
And I dived in right at the circulation desk for maybe three months. Then, I ended up in the children’s department as a programmer, and it was absolutely awesome. I was hooked.
I kept going because I was encouraged that I could be of service to the community by being in the library. … Nothing else really felt the same as helping people every day. That was an amazing gift.
What do you like to read?
I like to read widely. I’ll dabble in anything.
I think if I picked my favorite things to read, they would be detective, mystery-type stories. Historical fiction. And I like cookbooks.
I’ll watch HGTV and Food Network, and I have no intention of remodeling anything, and I have no intention of baking something from scratch. I just want to watch the process.
I love children’s books, especially the picture books that show bright colors and rhyme, because I’m a kid at heart.
What do you like about living in the Jacksonville area?
The weather, for sure. I’ve enjoyed going to the beach, because I’ve always lived on the coast, and I appreciate waterways.
How do you like to spend your free time?
I have learned that it’s really important to have multiple ways to unwind. Some ways can be five minutes long. Some ways can be 15 to 30 minutes long. Some have to take you out for a day. So, when I’m just kind of unwinding for less than 30 minutes, I can turn on some smooth jazz and pick up a coloring book. I like kind of tapping into my creative side.
If it’s something longer, I like the beach. I like just kind of spending time and listening to the rhythm of it all.
My youngest daughter’s 20, so I am 18 years heart-healthy. I had heart failure when she was 2. And I am so incredibly fortunate that I’ve watched her grow, both her and her sister. And I think that helps me keep perspective.
When other people might say, “Oh, it’s a hard day. It’s a bad day. Traffic was bad,” I’m like: I have time to sit. I can sit in traffic. I’m OK with that. I’ve got time to listen. Because I’ve had time. … I’m doing good. I get to work here! I get to work here, where right out the back door is a beautiful space to enjoy a deep breath. [Bird Island Park is directly behind the library.]
[NOTE: To learn more about the importance of the library to local residents, click here.]
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