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New North End librarian hits her stride

Posted by Jeremy C. Fox  December 30, 2011 10:15 AM

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(Jeremy C. Fox for

North End Branch Library Children’s Librarian Jennifer Hawes and Branch Librarian Susan Voloshin.

Visitors to the North End Branch Library have been growing accustomed to a new face in recent months, as they’ve gotten to know the first new branch librarian in the neighborhood in more than 15 years.

Susan Voloshin took the top job in the local branch in September, but this library had already been one of many she called home over a 28-year career in the Boston Public Library system.

Voloshin began as a research librarian in the main branch, then moved on to cataloguing and the systems office before stints in branch libraries including Orient Heights, the West End, and seven or eight months in the North End under previous Branch Librarian Janet Buda. Voloshin spent the longest time — about 12 years — at the Charlestown Branch Library, where she worked as the general reference librarian.

Voloshin, 57, was excited for the opportunity that the North End library represented. “I’ve always liked this branch; I like this community,” she said. What’s most special about the North End library, she said, is the programming for children, which includes children’s movies, toddler story hours, a Lego club, crafts, and also homework help and tutoring for older children, all overseen by Children’s Librarian Jennifer Hawes.

Voloshin said her new job involves a little bit of everything. “You have to be all-around, almost like a concierge,” she said. “You know, the sink doesn’t work, this doesn’t happen. So it’s an incorporation of my old job and then the duties of the branch head as well.”

Voloshin grew up in an Italian-American family in East Boston and still lives in the Eagle Hill area. She’s dedicated to the neighborhood and is involved with the Chelsea Creek Action Group and other local environmental causes.

“East Boston’s always been … a great place for immigrants,” she said, noting the successful integration of the growing population of Colombians and others from Latin America in the neighborhood.

She studied at Bunker Hill Community College and UMass Boston to earn her bachelor’s degree and then at Simmons College for her master’s degree in library science. Libraries have been an important part of her personal as well as professional life: she met her husband, a musicologist, at a library.

Voloshin acknowledges that she entered the field before computerization had taken hold, and for her, the librarian’s traditional role of offering citizens words on paper still matters. She said that though the library is forced to work within a tight budget and focus increasingly on digital resources, she makes sure to include both popular and literary printed works in her planning.

“We don’t skimp on books, we really don’t,” she said. “And we’re careful in how we spend our money. I do a lot of research into what I’m buying. And sure, I buy for popular tastes, but I also try and buy well-reviewed books that sort of suit what people are reading.”

Voloshin said she’s grateful for the support of the community and especially the Friends of the North End Library, whom she praised for their efforts at improving the library building and making it more welcoming for residents. “They’re amazing,” she said. “They’ve helped us with so many things.”

For her, that’s what libraries are all about — helping others, whether they’re looking for the latest bestseller, information on filing their taxes, or instruction on how to navigate the complex, new digital world. And it’s in helping others that she finds her personal satisfaction.

“It’s enjoyable work,” she said. “It’s a helping kind of profession in many different ways, not only intellectually speaking. It’s a community-helping place; it’s a tourist-helping place. So actually you’re always doing positive stuff, which is good.”

For a schedule of events and other information about the North End Branch Library, click here. For information about the Friends of the North End Branch Library, click here.

Email Jeremy C. Fox at
Follow Jeremy C. Fox on Twitter: @jeremycfox.
Follow the North End on Twitter: @NorthEndUpdate.

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