January 22, 2022

Rosemary Arneson: Natural Resource

When UMW Librarian Rosemary Arneson tapped into her field, it was a study of card catalogs, microfiche and encyclopedias. The library at Emory University, where she earned a master’s degree in librarianship, did house a pair of clunky computers but special permission was needed to use them.

Arneson is proud to keep the original Mary Washington College spinning wheel in her office in Simpson Library. “It’s a beautiful great wheel,” she said, “and to me, it’s a reminder of where we came from as an institution.”

Arneson is proud to keep the original Mary Washington College spinning wheel in her office in Simpson Library. “It’s a beautiful great wheel,” she said, “and to me, it’s a reminder of where we came from as an institution.”

Now, wi-fi transports a dizzying array of data to screens on our desktops and laptops, tablets and iPads, Smartphones and iPhones, Androids and more.

“I have never been bored,” said Arneson, who insists the core of her calling remains. “Library work is, and always has been, about connecting our users with content. We’re still here helping people find the information they need.”

At least for a couple more weeks. She’s retiring this month.

Her last day’s a Thursday, which could prove routine – catching up with library staff, a meeting or two, and maybe, just maybe, her favorite, working the Reference Desk and connecting with students.

Friday, all bets are off. After 10 years at the helm of UMW’s Simpson Library, Arneson will fly off to Paris! Bon voyage!

Q: What brought you to Mary Washington?
A: I knew UMW from working at James Madison University in the early ’80s, and I’d met [University Librarian Emeritus] Roy Strohl at meetings over the years. I was ready to move on from my last job at the University of Montevallo in Alabama when I saw the UMW post.

Q: How do you feel about the changing library landscape?
A: Moving from card catalogs to online systems, paper indexes to full text databases, and collections that are more electronic than physical kept me learning new things all the time.

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
A: The staff and students I get to work with – a wonderful, dedicated group of folks. I know they’ll keep working to improve the library and its services. Over the years, I’ve hired several librarians fresh out of school and worked with students who went on to careers in libraries and archives. They all make me proud.

A stint at the Talking Book Center – part of the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled – in a regional public library in Georgia got Arneson hooked on the field. A member of the American Library Association, she also has held positions at Virginia State University, Fairfield University in Connecticut and Queens College in North Carolina.

A stint at the Talking Book Center – part of the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled – in a regional public library in Georgia got Arneson hooked on the field. A member of the American Library Association, she also has held positions at Virginia State University, Fairfield University in Connecticut and Queens College in North Carolina.

Q: Most challenging?
A: Part of being the university librarian is that I manage the budget; there’s never enough money to do all the things we want to do.

Q: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A: I didn’t set out to become a librarian. I had a brief career in commercial television as the first female camera operator in Columbus, Georgia. I’m the reason camera people no longer have to wear ties. 

Q: What’s your motto?
A: I can’t do everything, but I can do something, so what can I do to make things better?

Q: What are you reading?
A: The Rusalka Wheel in Brooks Mencher’s Yarn Woman series, centered on a textile forensic analyst. This book involves a spinning wheel from Eastern Europe that turns up in an antiques shop in San Francisco’s Chinatown. 

Q: What else do you do in your free time?
A: Anything with yarn. Mostly, I knit. I usually have two or three projects on the needles at a time. (Right now, the second of a pair of socks, the first of a pair of mittens, and a baby dress.)  I also love to travel. 

Celebrate Rosemary Arneson’s UMW career and say “au revoir” at a retirement gathering this afternoon at 4 in the HCC Convergence Gallery.

Comments

  1. Congratulations on your retirement, Rosemary! You have been a wonderful colleague and I miss you already!