Sherie Brown is the director of the Massillon Public Library. She began working in the field at the University of Cincinnati Library while in college, but said she “really had no intention of continuing her career after graduating from college.”
After spending a summer at home, Brown intended to return to Cincinnati, intending to complete graduate school and publish.
“However, in July 1979, there was a job posting in the repository for someone with a musical background to select and catalog vinyl records for the Massillon Public Library,” Brown said. “As I played the piano and knew the difference between Bach and the Beatles, I applied through an employment agency and got hired. From there I became the young adult specialist and then I spent 25 years leading reference services and technology, and just when I thought it might be time to retire, I was hired in 2011 as director.
She has been married for 42 years to Gary Brown (an insurance agent, not the Repository columnist). They have two adult sons, Peter who lives in Baltimore and Jeffrey who moved next door with his wife Brittany and grandsons Everett and Emerson.
She graduated from Hoover High School and earned her degree in English Literature from the University of Cincinnati. She also attended graduate school at Kent State University School of Library Science.
“There are two things that I find the most fun (being the director of the Massillon library),” Brown said. “The first is to mentor young library staff and see them grow in their careers. The second is to connect people, like the informal organization that I do to bring together the leaders of the Massillon associations. I also like to answer a juicy reference question! The hardest part is to keep all the balls in the air. I always say my job is like air traffic control. And during COVID, we were building the plane while we were flying it. Oh, and the upkeep of an iconic building that is partly 186 years old.
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With all the information online these days, why are local libraries still important?
Public libraries were never meant to have books to borrow. Our goal remains, as it has always been, to level the playing field.
Some people in our community can afford to order all their books from Amazon, pay for high-speed internet, have their own scanners and printers, and subscribe to all the streaming content they want. For everyone else, the public library fills that gap.
Second, the public library is the community lounge, the last public space that welcomes you and expects you to spend nothing. While loneliness is so rampant in our world today, the library offers story hours with other parents, a vinyl record club, book clubs, family and teen movies, and genealogy days among many opportunities to connect.
For some patrons, library staff may be the only person they interact with on a regular basis, especially those who receive our home delivery. A community that supports these goals, like ours, impacts lives.
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What prompted you to work in this field?
It’s easy to say that I’ve always enjoyed reading, but that alone wouldn’t be enough to keep someone in the business for long — there’s no time for reading in a library job! But it’s a perfect choice for someone with varied interests because the job has changed constantly in nearly 43 years.
Libraries are constantly adopting new technology, so I’ve watched the transition from map files to the first online catalog (yes, all that information had to be entered!) to taking DOS courses to learning how to boot a CD phone book -ROM (incredible!) to get the grant that brought the internet (that changed our lives forever), to help bring a bookmobile to Massillon.
It never gets boring.
Would you like to share some of your favorite books/authors or passages that have drawn you to reading over the years?
The book that is never far from my mind is “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury. It’s haunting and prescient.
Bradbury warns that we don’t have to worry about government censors taking our books away from us…we do it to ourselves when we choose other stuffed animals as entertainment and stop reading. (Bradbury wrote the book on a typewriter at the public library!)
For a more recent love letter to books and libraries, I recommend Anthony Doerr’s Cloud Cuckoo Land.
What is your favorite game or sport to watch and play and why?
I’m notoriously unathletic, but I’ve been known to do well and love mini golf, if that matters!
As a spectator, I remain a fan of UC basketball, as it was the sport when I was in college, and my UC roommate became one of the Bearcat mascots. The closest thing to athletic stardom is wearing your costumed feet in the student shuttle.
If you could choose to do whatever you want for an entire day, what would it be and why?
It should be a boat, a beach, a book, a hamburger and Buffett (Jimmy). But I also like to spend a day trying new recipes and entertaining my family and friends. But, just the book would be nice!
Editor’s Note: Five Questions With… is a Sunday feature that features a member of the Stark County community. If you would like to recommend someone to participate, email [email protected]