Over the past 42 years, Assistant Library Director Patricia Kelly has been a steady presence in Deerfield’s library. She has overseen the library’s transformation through technological changes, guided students through research resources, and helped to mentor newer librarians.
When she retires at the end of this school year, she will join a small handful of faculty who have dedicated more than forty years of their lives to upholding Deerfield’s educational mission.
After studying Chinese Language and Literature in college, Ms. Kelly attended graduate school, where she earned a degree in library science. She then worked as a reference and bibliographic assistant in the Asia Collection at the University of Hawaii.
Her time at Deerfield began in 1978; at the time, three of her brothers had graduated from the school, and one was still a senior. Ms. Kelly said that she was very unfamiliar with technology when she left library school.
“If anything could break down around me, it would. I just had to walk by it and it would break down,” she said. “My oldest brother actually coached me on how to get over that fear, and because of that I was able to learn a lot of technical things that I never thought I could.”
Working as a cataloguer before the modern computer era, Ms. Kelly could only use a pencil and paper. Her job entailed recording information about each library book on 3×5 notecards and giving them to her colleague Christine Dubreuil, who would copy them using a mimeograph machine.
In 1981, they started using a typewriter to accelerate the process. Cataloging finally moved onto the computer in 1988, and Ms. Kelly’s role expanded to Cataloguer and Systems Librarian. She brought in the library’s first-ever online system, and as technology continued to develop, it helped to add more modern resources to the library’s offerings, such as videos and e-books.
Ms. Christine Dubreuil, who has worked with Ms. Kelly since her first day at Deerfield, praised her work ethic and dedication to the library.
“She would do just about anything that was asked of her,” Ms. Dubreuil said.
Another one of her colleagues, Acquisitions Coordinator Joyce Shalaby, called her “a jack of all trades in the library.”
Ms. Kelly became the Assistant Library Director in 2003. She currently manages the online system for remote access to the library’s resources and helps students navigate their research projects.
“The librarians are getting embedded into classes more now,” Ms. Kelly said. “It’s really helping students connect with their research better and have more fun with it, rather than seeing it as tedious and laborious. We’re finding that they’re having more success than in years before.”
Ms. Kelly said that some of her best memories at Deerfield have been working with students on their research projects, especially on topics she is personally interested in.
“My favorite course to work with is ‘Asia in World History,’ because my background is in Asian studies,” she said.
Ms. Kelly also works as the Toin International Exchange Student program liaison at Deerfield, encouraging students to study in Yokohama, Japan over the summer. She has participated in the program in the past as both a guest teacher and a chaperone, and Ms. Kelly has guided several Deerfield students to attend each year.
Over her time at Deerfield, Ms. Kelly has witnessed many of the school’s major changes, including co-education, increased diversity of the student body, and the infusion of technology into the classrooms.
Library Director Marshall Carroll, who came to Deerfield two years ago, said, “It was wonderful to work with someone with a tremendous amount of institutional knowledge about DA. Not only is Ms. Kelly intimately aware of the school’s historical knowledge, she knows the people that are here now, and has great insight into the inner workings and relationships that exist throughout campus.”
In retirement, Ms. Kelly plans to travel and spend more time on writing and photography. She also wants to refine her Chinese and her calligraphy, two skills that she studied in college. She made it clear that she will dearly miss working with Deerfield students.
As a final contribution to the Academy, Ms. Kelly recently decided to write a book on the history of the Boyden Library. She plans to chronicle how the library has developed under different directors, drawing from her own experience working with all of them except for one.
“It will be a gift to the school,” Ms. Kelly said.