Getting to Know… Robin Bernstein, Senior Director, Library Services

Hi Robin. I’ve opened most of this series with the same question: why do you work in a library? The question should be “why wouldn’t everyone want to work in a library?” I can’t imagine doing anything else. It kind of just fell into my lap… I had every intention of becoming an accountant; however, once I started working here part-time I knew I didn’t want to do anything else.

What were your experiences with libraries before working in them? My only experience with libraries was I knew they existed and were good for obtaining books. I preferred to have my own library at home; therefore, I always purchased my books. I did ‘hang out’ in my high school library for a short time since it was a place to socialize.

What’s something unexpected you’ve learned about working in libraries? I don’t think there is anything unexpected that I’ve learned about libraries in recent years; however, the people who work in them need to be multi-faceted now. We don’t just help educate students and locate information, we entertain, we mentor, we coach, we host functions, we are computer gurus, we are diverse, we possess specialized skill-sets, and we are non-judgmental and welcome everyone into the library world. The people who frequent them are just as diverse as us and seeking all the expertise we possess. However, we now live in a world in which instant gratification is rampant; therefore, we need to keep things fresh and accommodate our patrons’ needs expeditiously.

Is there something you wish everyone who didn’t work in a library knew about working in them? I guess it would be that we do not sit around reading books all day. I would like to ask them ‘how do you think the books get on the shelves?’ It takes a village to create a successful library. Every library position plays a pivotal role and I wish there was an easy way to educate people of that fact. For instance, you need technical services staff to order and process materials, you need public service staff to assist patrons with locating information, you need library administrators to envision the future and provide the resources and activities to engage users… Need I go on?

What excites you most about libraries? Everything excites me about libraries… I’m very passionate about my profession. I think what excites me the most is that libraries are constantly changing and so everything is always fresh and new. Obtaining new resources, learning new technologies, shifting priorities, and making people happy is what excites me.

Alright, let’s wrap up with what I think are most peoples’ favorite questions: Where would you most like to live? That’s an easy one–New York City!

What do you most look forward to doing on the weekends? Relaxing and enjoying my husband’s company.

Who are the historical figures you’re most intrigued by? The Kennedys. I have always been fascinated with the lives, tragedies, and successes of this iconic American family.

Who are your favorite heroines? Helen Keller, Anne Frank, and Eleanor Roosevelt–they each have inspired me in different ways.

What about in fiction? Probably Jo March because of her independent and strong-willed personality and her desire to want to live in New York City.

Growing up, what did you want to be? A math teacher… I loved math and was really good at it too… Maybe that’s why I like working with statistics and metrics.

What are your favorite words? Yiddish words–so many of them are perfect for all situations. For example, schlep, klutz, kvetch, oy vey, chutzpah, nosh, schmooze, I could go on and on and on…

Are there any expressions or words you feel you overuse? Fake news, amazing, huge (do you sense a theme here?)

Which natural gift would you most like to possess? The ability to sing well. I love to sing but can’t hold a tune.

Who are your favorite artists? George Seurat and Marc Chagall. I first become intrigued with Seurat when I heard the music from “Sunday in the Park with George” and wanted to learn everything there was about him and his style of painting. As for Chagall, I embroidered the Chagall Windows when I was in my teens and my love for his work developed.

Who’s your favorite musician? This is an easy one… Barbara Streisand. My favorite song is ‘Evergreen.’

And I know that she’s your favorite actress and filmmaker too. My favorite movie is The Way We Were, although I love all of her movies except for Up the Sandbox, as that was a weird one…

Last couple! Who’s your favorite poet? Robert Frost. When I was in 10th grade we had to locate, memorize, and recite a poem. I chose ‘The Road Not Taken’ and since that time it has led me to all the right decisions in my life.

And of course, I have to ask: what’s your favorite book and who’s your favorite author? My favorite book of all time is Gone With The Wind. However, my favorite author would have to be Pat Conroy–once I read Prince of Tides I had to read all his work.

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