We’re continuing the “Get to Know Your Reference Librarians” series, giving you the scoop on some interesting facts and stories from your favorite reference librarians. You might already recognize the reference librarians at the Chester Fritz Library: they are usually the the ones sitting behind the Ask a Librarian desk that sits straight ahead as you walk into the Library. If you want to know more about these helpful people, you’re in luck!
Today, we’ll learn more about Janet Beth Rex, the subject specialist for these departments: Atmospheric Sciences, Aviation, Earth System Science & Policy, Philosophy & Religion, Political Science & Public Administration, Space Studies, and Women & Gender Studies. To contact Janet or to learn more about her educational background, be sure to visit her Chester Fritz Library webpage.
Where did you grow up?
I am from the land of cheeseheads. I grew up on a dairy farm near Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. In addition to lots of cats and dogs, we had pigs, chickens, and of course Holstein cows. For crops, we had peas, corn, wheat, and of course barley, since the state is also known for its beer. As a child, I had some great adventures in the country playing in a nearby gravel pit, at a nearby home that still housed an old cheese factory, in my cousins’ woods, and around Beaver Dam Lake, which I could see from my bedroom window.
How did you make your way to the Grand Forks area?
I came for a reference librarian position at the Chester Fritz Library.
What is your favorite place to eat in the Grand Forks area? What do you usually order (or what would you recommend)?
Recently, I have had some great dishes at various restaurants—two recent favorites were at Tao Garden (a Macadamia Nut Shrimp dish that was exquisite but then wasn’t as good when I returned for it again) and at Giuseppe’s Italian Ristorante (a special salmon dish that was created for that night only)—so perhaps neither of those two suggestions are especially helpful. I enjoy salmon, shrimp or vegetarian dishes at many restaurants in town. I also enjoy receiving Indian/Malaysian food each week from my co-worker Teji.
What is your favorite spot in Chester Fritz Library? What about that spot makes it your favorite?
I love my office, but I would tend to like any private spot in the library with a window view.
Why did you decide to become a librarian?
I love to read, and while growing up, I regularly visited my hometown library, which was reminiscent of a castle with window seats and a winding staircase through a tower. Since my mother did not get the opportunity to go to high school, she took us regularly to the public library, and I, like my sister, work in a library. I used to have wonderful nighttime dreams about tunneling through secret passageways in libraries. I received a Master’s degree in library science, as well as another Master’s degree in English, after getting my undergraduate degree in Religion and Sociology/Anthropology. Working as a librarian is a perfect job for someone like myself, who loves learning about and helping others learn about everything.
What is the craziest or most interesting job you’ve ever had?
I have done a number of interesting things. I have worked on an archaeological excavation in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, I have worked as a program and nursing assistant at a county mental health center, and I have been a corn detasseler. As a corn detasseler, you ride in a basket on the back of a tractor and pick the tassels off the corn stalks. After the 1997 Grand Forks flood, I coordinated Habitat for Humanity homes, and I worked at-a-distance for the Natural Hazards Center, Boulder, Colorado. I conveyed flood research information to them. Since one of the flood research projects was a joint project with Canada, the project needed approval from the Queen of England.
What strange skill do you have that many other people don’t?
People are sometimes amazed at my rapid note-taking skills.
What skill or talent do you wish you had?
I wish I had more time to develop skills in the arts. I am learning to play the piano, and I have published some poetry, but I don’t have very much time for the arts.
What do you think your life’s theme song would be?
Nothing is coming to mind, except my high school graduation theme song of “School’s Out” by Alice Cooper. That sounds like almost the antithesis of what I’ve actually done with my life.
What book do you think everyone should read and why?
I don’t have one specific book to recommend, since there are too many great books to pick just one book. However, I am concerned about the countrywide depth of our knowledge on things such as climate change, since our country is making many policy decisions that will have a great impact on our world. For a children’s book, The Velvet Room by Zilpha Keatley Snyder was one book that might have been unconsciously instrumental in my becoming a librarian. I often lead book discussions at the Lotus Meditation Center, give book presentations at the GF Unitarian Universalist Fellowship where I am the Program Chair, and I am currently reading the upcoming Writers Conference books.