Meet this issue’s Featured Library Employee for the Missouri Library Association, Mary Kate Gliedt!
What is your name, your library, and your role at the library?
My name is Mary Kate Gliedt, and I’m the Manager of Genealogy at the St. Louis Public Library.
What originally got you interested in working at a library?
Initially, COVID! I went to graduate school in New York, where I lived for nearly ten years before I came home to St. Louis to wait out a “two week quarantine” that turned into a permanent move and career change! Prior to working for the library, I worked as a senior educator at the Tenement Museum in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, sharing stories of the immigrant communities that made their homes in the neighborhood. Working in the Genealogy department at SLPL is a continuation of the work that I’ve been passionate about for years.
What keeps you coming back every day?
Sometimes, sheer stubbornness…but more frequently, the chances to solve the mysteries our customers bring, and to explore the different ways in which people are connected, keep me coming back.
What’s challenging about your work?
My position is brand new, so finding my place and my role in a long-standing institution can be tricky, and taking the department in new directions is always a scary leap. Thankfully, those risks have been well worth it for the library and for our customers. We have also been living with COVID for my entire tenure at the St. Louis Public Library, and things like not seeing my coworkers’ faces because of our masks, or meeting many of my colleagues on Google Meet, have been particularly challenging as a new hire.
Has your work made you either curious, or passionate, or awestruck about something?
I’ve been working in the immigration and migration history field for years now, and one thing I’m always struck by is how interesting the stories of normal people are. History chooses to uplift certain stories over others, but the stories of presidents and other wealthy, white, cisgender men aren’t the only ones worth telling! In the world of genealogy, most of us aren’t related to George Washington, but we are related to people who worked a job, raised a family, experienced tragedy, and lived their lives in ways that feel almost impossible to us today. I find those stories of normal life much more compelling, and that’s a reason I’m drawn to genealogy – it gives everyone a chance to be placed in the historic narrative.
Who is one of your mentors?
I’ve been incredibly lucky throughout my career to work with talented, smart, engaged women who demonstrate exactly what you can accomplish with enough passion and grit to get the job done. From Nancy Wormington at my first internship in Kansas City to Angie Miraflor and Amanda Bahr-Evola at my current job, I’ve learned an incredible amount from each one, and become the professional I am thanks to their influences.
What book, author, artist, show, or music are you engaging with this week, either personally or professionally? Persuade us in one or two sentences that we should pick this up, too.
Honestly, when the going gets tough, the tough watch Dance Moms. There’s nothing more distracting than a little dance drama when work and pandemic life get to be too much.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
One of my favorite immigration facts – no names were ever changed at Ellis Island- despite what The Godfather II says! Ship manifest documents were created before immigrants boarded ships in Europe, and Ellis Island officials simply made sure the person they were processing was listed on the ship manifest. Additionally, every Ellis Island official was required to be fluent in three or more languages, so every immigrant was able to complete their processing in a language familiar to them. While it’s certainly possible an Ellis Island official struggled to pronounce a name, or to find it on the manifest, they had no more authority to change a name legally than a Starbucks barista who misspells your name on a pumpkin spice latte.
Would you like to nominate someone to be our next Featured Library Employee? Examples could be:
…a new employee you’d like to introduce
…someone with a unique job or on a unique career path
…an employee you find inspirational
…a coworker whose gifts you wish were more widely known
…someone who’s “an institution” full of interesting stories
…a role that has a new focus or is reaching a new audience
…someone you’d like to make more visible to potential employers
Submit name(s) and contact information, along with place of employment, to Shannon Mawhiney at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll do all the work of contacting; we just need you to connect us!