Jewish Library Lover of the Week – Sally

Most days, you can find Sally at the library… organizing scavenger hunts, punk shows and 3-D printing classes. We sat down to hear more about her position as Development and Communications Specialist for DC Public Library Foundation and to learn about her life in DC!

You’re from NY originally. What brought you to DC and how long have you been here?

I moved to DC a little over four years ago at the beginning of Obama’s second term – it felt like a lot of millennials were making the same move during this time. It’s a bit cliché to say I came to DC looking for more meaningful, mission-driven work, but that’s basically the truth! I was ready to leave my corporate marketing job in NYC. I also had a couple of very close friends from college who were living here, so having some built-in support made the transition easier. I began applying for government and non-profit jobs, and I ended up accepting an offer from the DC Public Library to help launch a city-wide early literacy initiative. I love NYC and my family is near there (in the suburbs), but I have no plans to move back.  

You just returned from a trip to Morocco. What did you see or learn that you will bring back to your life here?

Before this visit to Morocco, I hadn’t left the country in six or seven years. The trip was a good reminder for me to prioritize travel a little more and save/budget accordingly because there is no substitute for physically visiting and absorbing a new place. The culture in Morocco is perhaps the most hospitable I have ever experienced. Everyone is very warm and eager to share their cities, food and traditions with tourists. There’s always time for afternoon tea; no one is ever in a rush. This is very different from the east coast mode of operation!

Since my return, I’m trying to slow down, enjoy more simple moments, and take time for mint tea breaks.  I was reminded of another lesson that always seems to come up when traveling abroad. You have to be at peace with what you cannot control because things almost never go according to plan, especially when relying on public transportation and Mother Nature.

Tell us about your job with the DC Public Library! What do you do there?

After working in the Library’s Marketing Department on the initial phase of the Sing, Talk and Read DC early literacy campaign, I moved over to the DC Public Library Foundation – the Development Department at the library. My role focuses on developing public and private programs designed to attract the next generation of library users and supporters. I get to work with our brilliant librarians and community partners to market and execute a variety of programs including free concerts, co-working for local creatives, author events, Fab Lab happy hours, fundraisers, and more. Come fall, I’ll be working on our second annual city-wide banned book scavenger hunt in celebration of Banned Books Week.

Every day is different and our program offerings are always evolving. I created the @dcpl_literati Instagram account as a way to promote some of these unique library programs to a new audience. I also manage less interesting but necessary administrative stuff, like the Foundation’s accounts payable and receivable and our donor database.

When many people think about a library, they think–obviously–of books , but DC’s library is so much more, right?

Public libraries are safe, egalitarian spaces that cater to the needs of the community. Nowadays this increasingly includes digital literacy and access to technology.

The DC Public Library is a very innovative system when it comes to leading the makerspace movement in libraries. With a DC Public Library card, you can take classes ranging from PowerPoint Basics to 3D printing, record music in the Studio Lab, print your own novel using the self-publishing machine, and so much more. As a history nerd, I love our Washingtoniana and Black Studies Special Collections, which house everything from the DC Music Archive to old photographs and oral histories. Library visitors can come for the free internet and stay for the documentary screening or the punk show in the basement. This intersection of free educational and cultural opportunities is what makes the DC Public Library such an important, local institution. 

Are the renovations at MLK making things crazy for you right now?

Definitely! From a public perspective, that location, at the convergence of every metro line, was the most central in the city. The departments and resources that were housed at the MLK Library are now scattered throughout the District in interim spaces. Communicating all of these changes and updates to the public is challenging. We also no longer have a central, free space to host author events, job trainings, story time, art exhibitions, etc. Internally, this forces us to be creative and thrifty, and engage the community where they already are. Although there is a void downtown left by the temporary close, the library is so much more than just a physical building.

What is your favorite thing about living in DC?

The diversity and access to cultural events. It’s hard to be bored here. There’s always something new to explore, like an exhibit or live show. I really appreciate the music scene and love how the city celebrates with different festivals like the Funk Parade, H Street Festival, Bluegrass and Folk Festival and Capital Pride Festival. I’ve also met a lot of passionate and interesting people here. So many people who live in DC are working and fighting for a greater cause. You don’t see that in every city.

What is one thing you would change about DC if you could?

Obviously the cost of living is high and only continues to go up. I also wish the food scene was more accessible. There are tons of ‘buzzed about’ trendy restaurants for foodies, but DC lacks a wide variety of affordable places that offer quality basics. My taste buds are not very sophisticated but the New Yorker in me would like to see more options when it comes to delicious and affordable bagels, bakeries, Italian and Chinese food. That’s not to say these places don’t exist, but they are just fewer in number. I realize it’s probably difficult for small, independently owned businesses to meet rent and charge reasonable prices, but I wish that could change. It all ties back to cost of living being high. On Rye feels like a little taste of NY, and I am excited about Shouk.

What does being Jewish mean to you?

Like a lot of secular young Jews in the States, being Jewish is a big part of my cultural identity and has shaped my personality, values and sense of humor. I definitely take an interest in Jewish history, tradition, food, arts and culture and like to see what’s happening at Sixth and I and the DCJCC, which is just a few blocks from where I live. I really love the Washington Jewish Film Festival at the DCJCC as a lens into the Jewish experience across the globe, from Israel to Europe to Africa.

I also have a close group of friends in DC (Jews, non-Jews, half-Jews) with whom I celebrate the holidays when I can’t make it home to family. This year we started doing a friends-Seder for Passover, and I think it will become an annual tradition.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

That’s always a tough question, it’s hard to set expectations for the future. Where do I realistically see myself vs. where I’d like to be – these are probably two different projections! I hope I’m in a funky, cool city with access to nature. Maybe that’s DC or somewhere new. I hope I’m surrounded by close friends, not too far from family, maybe starting my own family, who knows!? I hope my work is creative and benefits society in some way. I do see a dog in the picture, that’s about all I can guarantee.

What is one thing you couldn’t get through the day without?

Coffee incentivizes me to get out of bed every morning, and I usually have to cater to my sweet tooth on a daily basis. But it’s my wonderful friends, boyfriend, family and coworkers who provide the comic relief I need to get through the day-to-day. Times are tense, so a good laugh and some nonsense is paramount.

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