My name is Mary Dempsey and I’m an artist and librarian. I’m passionate about the power of information, especially in the context of community-led partnerships. As much as libraries have to offer patrons, without partnering with and listening to the communities they intend to serve, libraries will never understand their communities’ needs.
My career in information began when I started working in higher education in 2006 while attending Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah earning my Bachelor of Arts (in Studio Arts) degree. I worked in the University Accessibly Center, helping to adapt print materials for students with disabilities. By the time I graduated and left in 2009 I was assistant to one of the department heads – helping teach university courses and creating presentations for professional conferences. I witnessed firsthand the difference information about accommodations made to the educational experience of students with disabilities.
After moving back to Washington state, I returned to working in higher education in 2011 at Green River College. Working at the Kent satellite campus, my role at the front desk focused heavily on managing and disseminating information. Eventually I was planning campus events, creating informational brochures and flyers, and helping with community outreach events. I had been promoted but after almost 6 years there was no further room for growth.
My years working in higher education had taught me two things- one, I have a passion for the power of information, and two, a teaching career wasn’t for me. As I considered my future career options, one of my friends began work as a librarian. Following her professional journey inspired the direction of my own.
I graduated with my Master of Information and Library Services from the University of Washington Seattle in 2019. My thesis project was developing a circus arts library collection and building an Access-based checkout system for Synapse Circus Center in Auburn (collaborating with circus arts schools around the world).
While earning my degree in 2017, I was lucky enough to be hired by the King County Library System (KCLS). My current employer has offered me some amazing opportunities, such as co-leading the KCLS contingent of Seattle Public Library’s Your Next Job program and interviewing Alson Kelen on behalf of the Auburn Marshallese community. I have made it a professional practice to listen – truly listen – to learn how I can best meet information needs. And to insert my artistic flair however I can to keep things fun!