Work We Do: Jessica Frankel, Southold Free Library

I’m Jessica Frankel, the reference librarian for Southold Free Library in Southold, N.Y.

Because of Google and databases, a lot of people know information already and they come to me when they need that next step of information. 

The reference librarian role has changed over the years. It’s much more a proactive position where we don’t wait for folks to ask us questions, we try to anticipate information needs of the community. I helped someone recently in getting them a book from a library in a different state; that’s a service we provide here.

Because the library has really become a community center, which is really exciting, everyone’s roles have changed a little bit.

I help people search about anything from health care issues. There was a credit scam last year so we set up displays about scams and protecting yourself. Folks will come in and ask for phone numbers because they used to use the phone book and now they don’t know how to find them anymore.

I was a high school English teacher before I got my master’s in library science. I enjoyed teaching but it really wasn’t a passion. I decided if I wanted to have a career it should be a passion of mine. And I always enjoyed the library and I always enjoyed research, so I decided to go back to school and went to Columbia University School of Library Service. It was great. I knew right then and there that’s what I wanted to do.

I’ve been a librarian now for 38 years, but most of my career was spent on Wall Street, and I did corporate research for many years.

Then, when my husband and I retired out here about nine years ago, I wanted to continue in libraries, so I made the switch to public librarianship.

I think it is important that people understand our role in the community as the link between people and information — in the many forms that comes in.

I think my favorite part is just helping people out when they really didn’t think it was possible to get information. Folks will come in and they’ll say “You know, I’ve been looking for this for a long time; you’re not going to find it …” I said, well that’s a good challenge.

I usually do find it.

“The Work We Do” is a Suffolk Times multimedia project profiling workers on the North Fork. It is made possible by Peconic Landing. See more photos on Instagram @thesuffolktimes.