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Washington County technical librarian elected vice president of Maryland Library Association

October 15, 2012|By JANET HEIM | janeth@herald-mail.com
  • Carrie Willson-Plymire, who is the head of Technical Services for the Washington County and Western Maryland Regional Libraries, has been named the vice president/president-elect of the Maryland Library Association.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

After graduating from St. John’s College in Annapolis in 1996, Carrie Willson-Plymire had no idea what she wanted to do. She loved books, but at that point in life, didn’t expect her career path would lead her to become a librarian.

Willson-Plymire said the strong liberal arts focus of the college prepared her well for many different career options. She said it was required reading that attracted her to the college. 

“I saw the reading list and thought, that’s all stuff I want to know,” Willson-Plymire said.

After several moves and several part-time stints working for Washington County Free Library, Willson-Plymire, 39, joined the staff as a full-time reference librarian in 2006. In 2008, she became head of technical services, which is her current job.

She reports to Mary Baykan, director of Washington County Free Library, and Joe Thompson, associate director of Western Maryland Regional Library. With their encouragement, Willson-Plymire has gotten involved with the Maryland Library Association and was recently elected as Vice President/President-elect.

Her term began July 1 and she will become president in July 2013. The position requires a morning meeting in Baltimore once a month and trips to Annapolis to represent the MLA during the legislative session, she said.

“It should be an interesting year,” Willson-Plymire said.

She has served as chair of the Maryland-Delaware Library Associations’ joint annual conference for the past two years. This year’s conference was held in Ocean City, Md., in early May.

Willson-Plymire has served in other ways for the MLA for the past several years, motivated by a “vague goal” she set at a 2007 Maryland Library Leadership Institute to get more involved. She has also had leadership positions in the Library Management Division of MLA.

“I didn’t realize at the time that I would get this involved,” Willson-Plymire said.

She is also secretary for Leadership Washington County, a member of Class 24.

A 1991 North Hagerstown High School graduate, Willson worked at Manidokan Camp near Sharpsburg for two years after college, then worked part-time for Washington County Free Library and a downtown bookstore for two years. She met Steven Plymire at the camp, where they worked together for several summers.

They married in 2000 and lived in Santa Fe., N.M., from 2000 to 2003, while Steven was working on his master’s degree. Carrie worked for the nonprofit Seeds of Change during that time.

When the couple returned to Hagerstown, Willson-Plymire again worked part-time for the public library, as well as Hagerstown Community College’s library and providing website support for Seeds of Change.

“I still had no idea I wanted to work in libraries,” she said.

While a part-time library employee, Kathleen O’Connell, assistant director of Washington County Free Library, offered her some staff development money to pursue a master’s degree in library and information sciences. Willson-Plymire completed her degree through Drexel University’s online program in 2006, while working three part-time jobs, then became a full-time job reference librarian.

It turns out her undergraduate studies were the perfect preparation for her career path.

“That’s what working in a library is all about – what questions are going to be asked, what cool stuff are we going to learn about today?,” Willson-Plymire said.

She added that libraries tend to attract employees who like lifelong learning, like herself, admitting that she usually exceeds the number of credits required for continuing education.

Willson-Plymire said of the 17 voting and 23 non-voting members of the MLA, Washington County had two representatives in each category.

“For such a small county, we are super involved in the state,” she said, crediting that to the encouragement of Baykan.

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