Patron Driven: Committee Heads

Patron Driven: Season One Blog Series

Patron Driven is a new podcast series that tells crowd-sourced library stories where the personal and professional meet. Season one follows four library staffers whose library flooded due to Hurricane Harvey. Arriving June 22, 2020.

As we reported season one of Patron Driven, Choice’s new narrative podcast, cohosts Bill Mickey and I saw the natural story arc in the Lone Star College – Kingwood Library’s tale. The season shows how Hurricane Harvey destroyed the library and follows four library staffers through their personal and professional journeys of rebuilding. That obvious arc was an absolute gift to us. It’s the sort of thing every storyteller’s looking for, whether that person’s doing journalism, fiction, documentary, or really any kind of narrative. The arc provides the ups and downs for the roller-coaster ride that makes a story good. But it’s equally important—if not even more so—for a successful story to have a cast of characters that are at once compelling, relatable, and humane. At least for the type of story we wanted to tell.

Character’s the sort of thing that’s tough to judge via email or text, and even in conversation it can take a few chats to really lock in. People can be shy or guarded in ways that obfuscate who they really are. Lots of people raise their drawbridges and point their cannons at a stranger’s approach.

That was not the case with the four library staffers from the Lone Star College – Kingwood Library.

The first time we spoke with them they were polite, but clearly at ease with one another and confident. Listening back to the recording of that first call, it’s astounding how clearly Jennifer, Anne, Mikha, and Allison’s personalities shine through. Right off the bat Allison’s providing numbers about the Kingwood campus’s student body size, “I think 11 to 12,000” she says.

Anne, Mikha, Allison and Jennifer, left to right

And then Jennifer rushes in, arriving a little late and out bursts, “I’m sorry. I’m running late. I’m Jennifer Martinez. I’m the division operations manager of instructional support. I’m sorry. I just thought I would ‘get on in there.’”

Bill and I chuckled, and Allison continued with a detailed list of programs that the Kingwood campus offers—things like nursing, dental hygiene, cosmetology, computer gaming.

And then Jennifer jumps in as she slows, “Occupational therapy, respiratory therapy, fire science. We just built a new process tech building for the booming gas and oil industry in Houston.”

Even this little interaction says something about each of the participants. Allison’s on the details. And that line from Jennifer about “get[ting] on in there.” It’s just so … Texan.

Throughout the call, Anne’s bursting with opinions, and Mikha’s quieter, but forceful. There’s an interaction between Mikha and Anne, where Mikha’s telling us about how the library is part of the larger system of Lone Star College libraries, and she’s listing the various committees that they take part in and she says, “We have one technical services department that is connected to our system office. So they’re sort of our centralized hub for anything technical, and they also provide our cataloging services. So, what we end up doing, is we create committees. We have a circulation committee, which Anne’s on—”

“I’m actually the head of it right now.”

“Ok.” Laughter all around. “Yeah, we’re typically the heads of …” And a bit more laughter.

They’re so comfortable together. Even before they were joking about being the heads of all the committees Mikha had them cracking up at a quip, and from that point on any sense of discomfort or lingering uncertainty seemed to fade. They were together. They were in their element.

On that first call, Bill and I were just hoping to get a better sense of what had happened to the library. I don’t think either of us was expecting to be so engaged by the speakers on the other end of the line. But we were. And that has been one of the delights of working on this project. Getting to know four really remarkable people.

I can’t wait for you to meet them too.

— Mark

To get the full story, subscribe wherever you get your podcasts on June 22.

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About the author:

Mark Derks is the digital media specialist at Choice. He produces the Authority File podcast, and writes and co-hosts Patron Driven.