Mary Fran Galat works as a cataloging clerk in the Weinberg Memorial Library. This past year, she received a Pro Deo Award for 20 years of service. Kevin Norris, editor of Information Update, interviewed Mary Fran via Facebook Messenger
Kevin: I can't believe you have been here 20 years! I remember you when you were a student. Tell us something about your background and the work you do.
Mary Fran: Well, I was born and raised here in Scranton. I have an older brother and a younger sister. I went to a Catholic grade school and high school. I graduated from The University in 1986, and after jobs at the Tudor Book Store and the Guild, came to work here in 1991.
Kevin: You worked in cataloging as a student assistant, as well, didn't you?
Mary Fran: Yes, I did. My brother was a student worker at the library, and told me it was a great job. It was basically helping with the work in the back room – stamping, tagging, putting date due slips in the books, as well as keeping the card catalog updated.
It was really strange to see the card catalog done away with a few years ago. I spent so much work time adding cards, it was sad to see them just thrown away.
It was a great atmosphere to work in the back room in the "old" library. Several departments worked back there, and you got to meet and get to know people a lot easier. Things are spread out more here.
Kevin: I agree. The "old" library was more like a family – of course, both in good and bad ways, but it certainly was closer. So, you came back in 1991. That would have been right before the move to the "new" library. Any particular memories about the move?
MaryFran: One memory that seems to stand out is wheeling empty book trucks from the old library to the new one. For empty trucks, they sure were noisy!
Kevin: I remember that too. At least, we didn't have to move the books ourselves; we had professional movers. What is your job now, and what are some of the things you do in that job?
Mary Fran: The majority of work now is with the computer – looking up titles as they come in and exporting the information from OCLC to our online catalog. Then the books are itemed and barcoded before they leave the department for shelving. Most of the physical processing that I used to do as a student is now already done by the time I get the book. Although, occasionally we get gift books that need processing. I also try to help maintain our cataloging wiki, and try to post cataloging statistics on the library's staff blog.
Kevin: Which is easier than the old days of the card catalog. Or maybe not?
Mary Fran: The card catalog was definitely time-consuming. One book could have so many cards associated with it. There were cards for title, authors and subject headings. If there were multiple cards, you had to tie them together with a string. I could almost guarantee that if I had to work on the card catalog, that would be the time everyone seemed to be looking up a book.
Kevin: There was always a backlog of cards to file, too. And, I remember several times in Reference someone coming up to me and asking where a book was. They would be carrying the card they had torn out of the catalog. I understand you have a lot of interests outside of work. What are some of these?
Mary Fran: Well, I like to read, some science fiction, mysteries, teen and young adult stories like the Percy Jackson series and 39 Clues series. I like to travel, particularly with my family. I'll pretty much go wherever my nephews want to go. I like going to the movies to see just about anything, but for the last 10 years or so it's been kids movies, and that has been fine with me. I also like to bowl, and I've been on a local team for over 15 years.
Mary Fran Galat
Is it correct that you have traveled to Greece?
Mary Fran: Yes, several times. My grandfather (on my dad's side) came from Nafplio, a seaport town about two hours from Athens. My sister and I visited Greece for the first time through a University sponsored trip. We got a taste of the country, but never met any of our relatives. Unfortunately we only got to know them after my grandfather passed away. His only surviving family member at that time was his brother, a priest. My grandfather was one of at least nine brothers and sisters. We traveled to Greece after he died to get to know our family, and settle his finances. We got along fabulously with our cousins, and both families have visited each other several times. I was very happy that my nephews could meet my grandfather's brother and see his hometown.
Kevin: What did you like best about Greece?
Mary Fran: For me, meeting and getting to know my relatives was the best. Family is very important, and as I get older I realize this more and more. I think it's wonderful to be able to pass this family connection on to my nephews and niece. It was also great to visit in person all the historical places you only see on TV and in the movies – like the Parthenon at the Acropolis, Corinth, Delphi, Olympia, Mycenae, and Epidaurus. And hanging out on amazing beaches pretty much every day of your vacation is not too shabby, either!
Kevin: I understand too that you're interested in sci-fi and more specifically Star Trek?
Mary Fran: I've always enjoyed science fiction and fantasy books and films. I "discovered' Star Trek in the 70's when they were in the rerun phase. I liked what I saw and continued following its many forms – original, Next Generation, DS 9, and such – from movies to television and back to movies. I also enjoyed the recent "reboot" of the movie by J. J. Abrams.
Mary Fran: It was great years ago when they had conventions in Wilkes-Barre and here at the Cultural Center. We had the "biggies" like William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Patrick Stewart, and Gene Roddenberry, as well as pretty much the rest of many of the casts of most of the shows. I've also gone to a few conventions in New York City, but hardly any in the last 10 years or so.
Kevin: Are the Star Trek conventions as weird as everybody says they are?
Mary Fran: Most of the people who attend are just "regular" people, but there are always ones who are a little "out there" or very hard core fans, and most of the time they are the ones who end up on the TV news!
Kevin: Well, back to Scranton … congratulations on your Pro Deo!
Mary Fran: I've enjoyed working here at the library for more than 20 years. I've met some very interesting people, made many good friends, and found lots of good things to read!