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Working Stiff

Dunham takes indirect path to becoming a public library librarian

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Grandview Librarian Linda Dunham has been a fixture at the community library for more than 24 years. The local librarian, who has her undergraduate degree in food technology and animal husbandry, always pictured herself working as a research librarian, but has carved a spot for herself in Grandview.

GRANDVIEW - When you ask Grandview Librarian Linda Dunham how long she has worked at Bleyhl Community Library, she has her answer down to the exact day. As of last Tuesday, Dunham had been on the job for 24 years, one month and two days. Although Dunham has been working at the library for some time, it's the story of how she came to be a community librarian that is unusual.

Dunham was born in south Texas, moving to Arkansas at the age of 2 1/2. When Dunham turned 14 she moved again, this time to attend a boarding school in Missouri, which was called the School of the Ozarks at the time. Dunham explained that the school included a four-year high school and a junior college.

Dunham said when she started attending the junior college, she was working toward being an English major. However, when all was said and done she ended up getting her undergraduate degree in food technology and animal husbandry.

Dunham said the reason for this sudden switch was that after attending two years of college at the School of Ozarks she had to make a decision regarding where she would continue her education. She said the school offered full ride two-year scholarships to several colleges in the area. Dunham admitted that she chose to attend the college she did because it was where one of her relatives was attending school. The only snag was the one subject she could major in and still use her scholarship was animal husbandry.

Needless to say, Dunham is qualified to be a butcher. After graduating from college she was offered a job working as a meat inspector for the United States Department of Agriculture. Dunham explained that she didn't take the job because it would have meant living in one place no longer than 30 days at a time.

After interviewing for several other jobs related to her degree, Dunham found that the University of Missouri had just opened a library science school. Dunham immediately enrolled and was a part of the first library science class.

However, she later married a man who was working on his doctorate at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Dunham said she decided it would be a good idea if she started attending classes there as well, but she ended up having to fight to go to school there. Dunham said at the time the school was looking for liberal arts majors and not science majors, which technically she was. Dunham said she scheduled a meeting and explained to university administrators that she had a strong liberal arts background and deserved to go to the school. It took a little convincing, with the administrators asking Dunham if she would be willing to take an oral exam on library science from one of the leading professors in the field. If she passed she would gain entry.

Dunham started classes there immediately, graduating after about a year and half.

Dunham said the first job she took out of college was at a pharmaceutical library in New Jersey. After working there for awhile she took time off to raise her children, then her family moved to Michigan State University, where her husband was doing research. From there her family moved to South Texas and then on to Prosser in 1977, where her husband had gotten a job at the Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center.

The fall after her family had moved to the Lower Valley, Dunham got a job working as a reporter and photographer for the Prosser Record-Bulletin. She didn't hear about the library job in Grandview until about a year and half after taking the reporting job. She said she was at the Prosser library one day when one of the librarians told her about the opening.

Dunham said she immediately went to Grandview and learned that the position was closing that day. So she stood there and filled out the application, while her six-year old son waited.

Dunham said she remembers not hearing anything about the job for a long time. Then one day she was called in for an interview in front of the library board. Then it was another two months before Dunham was offered the job.

"I had given up even getting the job," Dunham said.

Dunham said her job at the Grandview community library provides for a lot of variety. She said she was a little surprised how much her research background has helped her in the public forum. She said a lot of younger people don't realize that one of the best ways to do research still involves using books and not the internet.

Dunham said working at the public library has also forced her to confront her shyness. She said she has found that she enjoys people. In fact, she said that after working at the library for so long, there are a lot of people she has met through the library that are like old friends.

In fact, the library is where Dunham met her second husband. She said the two first met at the circulation desk.

Dunham said the thing she has found the most challenging in regards to her job, is trying to run an up-to-date library that has what users are looking for and doing it on less and less money. She noted that the library currently has only half of the money it previously did to purchase books.

Dunham said generous donors are helping ensure that the library is able to keep up with book purchases. She noted that the Friends of the Library group has also proven to be an essential element to the library.

In the end, even though Dunham always envisioned herself has a research librarian, she has found her niche at the Grandview community library.

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