Nancy Walton Interview

Nancy Walton.

Nancy Walton worked in Minnesota, Maryland, California, and Morocco before returning to Minnesota. In Minnesota, she started out at the Minnesota Braille and Talking Book Library (1994-1998), State Library Programs Specialist (1998-2010), and ended her career by serving as State Librarian and Director of State Library Services (2010-2013).

In her interview, she touches on her first experience working in her school library as a member of the Library Club at Minneapolis's Washburn High School to working as a Peace Corp volunteer in Rabat, Morocco (1971-1974), to working within State Library Services. Other topics touched on in her interview include: working in the Ames Collection in Wilson Library (University of Minnesota, Minneapolis) next to Minitex staff in 1969; working with Bill DeJohn (Minitex Director, 1984-2012); her role as State Librarian in providing equity of access to information and resources; the 1994 expansion of the Minnesota Braille and Talking Book Library in Faribault; the 2002 closing of the library for the Minnesota Department of Children, Families, and Learning and layoffs of State Library staff; the disbursement of State Library Services professional library collection to St. Catherine University's School of Library and Information Science; the long history of the State Library Services and the Regional Public Library systems in Minnesota, and words of wisdom to library staff today.

Interviewed by Sara Ring, Minitex, on January 10, 2013.

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Quotes From the Interview

On her role as State Librarian:

My job really is equity of access... and that in a nutshell is really what motivates me is that I believe passionately that every Minnesotan and frankly, everyone in this country, deserves the joy of having access to resources that enable them to make good decisions to help their community survive economically in a time of tremendous change, to maintain links with their families through the investments that the state has made in the regional library telecom aid, and broadband and other resources, so that people have electronic access that's free through their public libraries, and to support the infrastructure for academic and school libraries. (16:47-18:21)

On MnLINK and resource sharing in Minnesota:

And then, of course, we have the MnLINK Gateway and State Library Services was integrally involved with the beginning of MnLINK. It's housed and supported very effectively through the Minitex governance structure...MnLINK pulls all those resources together... I still read weird books, and I sometimes find that the only copy may be in a small library in Northern Minnesota. I go online and order the book, it comes through the delivery system which is supported by dollars from our agency and dollars allocated to Minitex... it comes to the branch of the library that is closest to my house. And there are states that go "how do you do this?" This is amazing. And the thing is, we've had it for years. We just assume that it's the way that everybody does it, but not everybody does. We're very fortunate that we have that infrastructure. Otherwise, we're just a bunch of stand alone collections and how is that equity of access? (24:06-25:26)

On working in libraries for the Peace Corp in Morocco:

...My official assignment was to work with the Moroccan government to help, in a couple of areas. One was to help them establish a library school so that they could train a corps of individuals, so that they could work in libraries across the country, because they were transitioning to understanding the model. In fact, my last year that I was in Morocco (1974) was the year that they opened the [first public] library in Morocco... Libraries were connected to the embassies or they were connected usually with mosques... I actually did 3 libraries in 3 years. Initially I worked for the Ministry of [Secondary] Education which was responsible for the National University... I was responsible for the archival side of the library school and as part of my training for the Peace Corps, I went and spent a few weeks in Washington D.C... working with the staff at the National Archives to get an overview of archival management and to carry those skills with me... The 2nd year I worked with the Forestry Research Station which was part of the Ministry of Agriculture. It was a very interesting collection which was in over 20 different languages... that's where I learned very quickly to work on a French keyboard, cataloging in French... my third assignment in Morocco was at the Ministry of Health and Safety, and it was to set up and organize a collection that was used for a group of students who were studying to be a group of lab techs... that experience [in Morocco] really brought my perspective of the world and I am very grateful for it because it had a huge impact on me as a person and it helped shape my character. (25:29-37-45)

On words of wisdom to library staff:

I always tell people to embrace every experience that you can ever have, because it's going to come across your desk or your phone, or your email. And sometimes the most obscure book that you've read may be just the serendipity reference something that someone needs... embrace your history, but also embrace change. That's the best advice that I could give for you... don't cling to the past, be willing to embrace the future. But, learn from your past and bring it with you. (58:10-1:10:07)

Creative Commons LicenseThis Oral History Project interview by Minitex is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

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