An Interview With Ms. Livingston: Books, Library, and More!

Metta Pollio

We all know Ms. Livingston and how she’ll move mountains to get us that book we want. But did you know she had a whole other career before she was our favorite librarian? Read on to learn about our librarian!

Metta: Alright, first question, what was your past experience before being the librarian here?

Ms. Livingston: I’ve had many past experiences. Actually, this is maybe my third or fourth career. But I used to work in book publishing, and that’s how I started my career. And I started by doing book cover art. So, as a book cover designer and art director my job was basically to create the covers of all the books.  I worked for Time Warner Books, which is pretty big. It’s one of the big five publishers, even though we were considered a small boutique publisher. I don’t draw, but I’m very creative, and I have no ability to execute. But I can have it all appear, which is very frustrating; I could see it, but I couldn’t execute it. So, I became an art director pretty quickly. Because I have a good talent for recognizing other people’s talents and being able to see the big picture, I was a good art director. So basically, I would sit in a meeting with the author, the editor, and all the people who are selling the book, and they would kind of describe what they wanted for a book cover. Then I would think, who do I know that’s an amazing photographer, that can get me the image I want, or who would be the best illustrator to draw the typeface or whatever. And then I would contract out these different people. And then when all the art pieces came back, I would put them together, and then create the final project. What else? Gosh, I also have a background in food.

Metta: I heard you went to culinary school?

Ms. Livingston: I have a culinary degree. It’s kind of crazy. I went to French culinary school once upon a time. It’s kind of cool. For a while, I worked as a pastry chef at a restaurant trying to think what other cool food jobs. But you know why? I guess right after college, I really wanted to work in food publishing. So that’s kind of what I was trying to do. 

Metta: That makes sense.

Ms. Livingston: So I tried to put together my English degree, my love of writing with my obsession for good food. And this is before the internet and everything, so food magazines were massive. I was trying to figure out how to work for like a Gourmet magazine or Bon Appetit or something. So I went to culinary school thinking that would help me. I went at night, and it was so much fun. I got mad, mad culinary skills too.

Metta: That’s cool! Why did you want to be a librarian here?

Ms. Livingston: Here or just a librarian in general? 

Metta: Yeah, here.

Ms. Livingston: Okay. Well, I went back to library school. Not that many years ago, pretty recently. So I heard that you had to get a master’s in library science to be a librarian; you cannot just become a librarian. It’s one of the few fields where you have to have a Master’s in Library Science to do the job. So I went back to school at night. And I think when I was young, in college, and somebody tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Hey, you could be a librarian as a living,” I would have probably done it back then. But I didn’t know–this is pre-Internet back when dinosaurs roamed around. So like, life was very different, you know, and I didn’t really know what I could grow up and become. So book publishing was the best. But then when I got married and started having kids, we had to move away. I had to leave New York City where it’s the epicenter of publishing. So if, again, if somebody had said, “Hey, you could go into this field of Library Science,” I would have probably been like the happiest person ever. There’s probably a culinary library somewhere that just has cookbooks and or being a specialist in, you know, cataloging all that stuff would be kind of cool. The reason I went to work in a school is that I wanted to be on the same schedule as my kids. It just so happens, this the district where my kids go to school, so it makes my life very manageable. I love that. I feel like I know the kids from the neighborhood from when they’re little, and it’s the best because I get to be around and I feel like an extension of  my family. And it’s a really great balance because, you know, you get to be really part of the community and I feel like my role as a librarian in the community is kind of an important one. You know what I mean? 

Metta: Yeah, that makes total sense. What is your favorite part about being the librarian here?

Ms. Livingston: Oh my gosh, yeah, I would have to say my favorite part is the students, the students that I get to get to know, that I continue to keep in touch with as they grow. My favorite thing ever is when I hand a kid a book, and they get so excited, and that they trust me to pick books for them, you know what I mean? And sometimes I turned them on to that thing that they just oh my god, they can’t get enough of. 

Metta: Definitely. What do you do outside of being the librarian?

Ms: Livingston: Well, I have two teenagers at home now. So they are a lot of work. I’m a single parent, so it’s me and my kids. And they are a lot of work. My daughter is a senior, so she’s getting ready to go to college. So I spend a lot of time doing that. And then my son is a freshman, but he’s a very serious musician. He spends every day running around with lessons and things. I basically go from my job here to being a job as a mom that you know, is very busy, but it’s fun.

Metta: What are some of your favorite books? It’s a very broad question…

Ms. Livingston: No, no, that’s okay, that’s easy. I can talk about books all day long. So one of my favorite books of all time, if somebody wants to ask me… Well so here’s the thing, the books that I love the most are the books where the characters still walk with me as I carry them with me. So Little Women, one of the best books of all time is one of my favorites. I love memoir, so a book I just gave out today, Glass Castle, is one of my favorite books. It’s a very hard book. I love this book called Heavy, It’s another memoir. But my favorite books, there are two. They are really intense books. One is called The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. And it’s like a masterpiece of my eyes to me. She’s like a modern-day Dickens. And I just, wow. And then my other second favorite book is massive. I read it during quarantine, and it’s like one of the hardest things I’ve ever read emotionally but it’s one of the best pieces of writing. It’s called A Little Life. And I read and you know, so those are a couple. Well, Goldfinch turned into a movie, and yeah that’s it.

Metta: Alright, that was the last question, thank you!

Ms. Livingston: Of course!