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Mary Davis


Mary Davis headshotMost people at UNF either know or have heard of Mary Davis. Long-time reference librarian in the Thomas G. Carpenter Library, Davis knows her way around campus and has served the University for years not only as a valuable library resource but as a member of numerous campus committees. As reference librarian, Davis scours the library's collections and all its electronic resources for answers to tough questions, provides individual instruction to students and faculty hoping to improve their research skills, and teaches the library's library skills course. As an active member of the UNF community, Davis is quick to offer her time to serve on various campus and library committees and has been a frequent participant in official campus functions, including graduations.

When Davis first began her college career, she hadn't planned to become a librarian. She originally began attending Florida A&M University seeking a nursing degree, but opted instead to pursue a career as a mother. Davis interrupted her studies for 11 years to raise a family, after which she returned to FAMU to earn a bachelor's degree in business administration. After graduation in 1971, she accepted a job with Westinghouse Credit Corporation, but spent only a week working for the company when she was offered a position in the library with the soon-to-open University of North Florida. Davis has been one of the university's stalwarts ever since.

Although Davis had worked in the FAMU library while she was a student, she, and most of the other newly hired UNF library staff, were unprepared for the formidable job that lay ahead. They literally had to create a library from nothing. "We basically were told we have this money and we could order anything we wanted to," she recalls. "We haven't had that luxury since." But create a library they did under the able direction of the university's original and current library director, Andrew Farkas. The University and the library opened on schedule in 1972.

Although originally hired by the library's Technical Services Division, Davis has spent most of her career working in the Reference Department. Receiving a grant-in-aid to continue her education, Davis took a year's leave in 1975 to earn a master's degree in library science from Florida State University. She has been a reference librarian ever since.

Davis attributes her longevity at the library to her fascination with reference work. "You never know what you're going to be asked to find. That is the real challenge. You have to be a generalist and know a little about a lot of things. If you know how to do research, you can find just about anything."

Davis has witnessed numerous changes in the library since she was first hired, but the most momentous have been technology driven. When she first started working in the library, the card catalog dominated the reference area. Today, computers occupy as much or more space as the card catalogs and provide library users with more information than a card catalog could ever have offered. While technological advances have expanded users' research possibilities, Davis admits that these same advances present their own challenges both to users and to reference staff.

Training has become a huge part of Davis' job. "Because there are so many changes in this area, there is a constant need to train users. They have to learn where to look for the information and how to use it once they find it." The library has come a long way since UNF opened in 1972, but Davis is quick to point out that the computer will never quite replace the reference collection of a library. "A lot of of people think that everything exists on the Internet, but it doesn't. Many people are discovering that and must go back to more traditional sources for many of their answers."

Davis says her biggest challenge has been her participation in the library's move into its new facilities in 1980. "We had to figure out how to take the books off the shelves and move them into the new building in the same order so we didn't have to spend a lot of time reshelving." With the help of all library staff and inmates from one of Florida's correctional facilities, the move was completed in record time with a minimum of misshelved resources.

When asked about her future plans and when she might retire from UNF, Davis acknowledges that she has considered retirement, but has thoughts of becoming an information broker if she ever does decide to leave. "I would be a person you would come to and tell what information you're looking for and I would find it from the comforts of my home."

But Davis has yet to decide to retire largely because of all the exciting changes that are the regular fare at UNF and in the library. As Davis so aptly puts it, "There have been so many positive changes at UNF. There is always something new happening. If I didn't have that change, I would be bored to death."


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