Most 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
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."