By Myra Saturen
September 11, 2013
From the age of 11, Mary Stewart Erm, library manager at Northampton Community College's (NCC) Monroe Campus, has immersed herself in libraries. Her love for libraries began with her parents, who told her stories and read to her. "I couldn't wait to read on my own," she says.
In middle school and high school, she volunteered in her school libraries. By her sophomore year, she had landed a job as a library page at the Point Pleasant Beach branch of the Ocean County Library. She worked at this library as a junior and senior library assistant after graduating from high school, moving to the library's new branch when it opened in the 1980s.
After relocating to the Poconos, Erm worked at the Pocono Mountain Public Library in Tobyhanna and as a bookmobile clerk at the Eastern Monroe Public Library. In all, she has spent most of 36 years employed at New Jersey and Pocono libraries, most recently as the assistant director at Eastern Monroe Public Library, where she has also been, at various times, the head of youth services, branch manager, and library clerk. She became the library manager at NCC Monroe this past fall.
Erm began her formal study of library science in the NCC library technical assistant (LTA) program, from which she received a specialized diploma in 1998. She went on to earn her associate and bachelor's degrees in library science from the University of Maine, Augusta, in 2005, and her master's degree, summa cum laude, from Clarion University in 2008. She was pleased to find that all her NCC credits were accepted for transfer by the University of Maine.
Erm credits NCC's library technical assistant program with giving her a professional start in her field. "At NCC, I had the opportunity to get off to a running start," Erm says. At the College she learned about the library philosophy of connecting people with information, the day-to-day workings of a library, and how to find and sort information.
She is excited about the library at the new campus, slated to open in 2014. This facility will be right on the cutting edge, she says.
"Libraries have become about information, not only about books," Erm says.
The new library will feature vast electronic access, with a robust network for all kinds of devices everywhere. With more room, twice the current print collection, including DVDs, will find a home there, and there will be more than 40 computers, instead of the present 12. Collaborative study areas with flat screen monitors and lounge areas will provide the most up-to-date places for students to work on projects and learn together. Individual work stations will include stand-up desks to support different work styles.
A testing center will be located separately from the rest of the library, to enable test-givers to proctor exams without distracting other library users. Another room will be allocated just for printing and book scanning. The aesthetics, with sweeping views extending as far as the Delaware Water Gap, will make the library a showplace for beauty.
The library will be open to the community as well as to students. Area residents will be able to use the collection and resources on site for free. With a library card ($10/year) they can also borrow items.
Erm derives great satisfaction in being able to help people, to enable them to find and use information to finish projects, and more broadly, to take a step up in life. "It matters to me," she says, her voice full of conviction.
Northampton Community College's library technical assistant program is the only library technical assistant program offered in Pennsylvania. It is a 15-credit online course of study that prepares graduates to enter the workforce as paraprofessionals capable of working in a variety of libraries and information centers and/or to continue their library science educations. Classes may also be taken individually.
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