Carolyn Bogott: Clinefelter — A love of books and people

Published 6:30 am Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Julie Clinefelter’s love of books and of people resonates as she talks about her job as director of our Austin Public Library.

Julie Clinefelter

She came into her current job by a circuitous route. In her childhood in California, she was an avid reader and her family spent lots of time in libraries and bookstores. However, library work as a career did not enter her mind during her undergraduate years where she majored in English and history.

She graduated with a degree in English literature, hoping to teach at the college level.  A part-time job in a library gave her a taste of library work, but it was not until a co-worker suggested the idea of a degree in library science that she thought about it seriously.

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The suggestion struck a chord, so while her husband was in law school at Hamline University, Julie pursued a two-year Masters in library and information science program at St. Catherine’s University.  She worked at a variety of book related jobs before joining the staff at the Galaxie Public Library in Apple Valley.

When Julie and her family moved to Austin in 2003, she was immediately very impressed with our library. She worked as a substitute for 10 years while she was busy with a young family, often foregoing laundry for reading.  When I.J. Holton Intermediate School opened, Julie’s children were old enough for her to take a job there in the media center. After a year at Holton, she joined the Austin Public Library full time as a librarian in 2014. When the directorship came open in 2017, she was encouraged by friends and mentors to apply for that job and she was selected.

Public libraries have changed drastically from the days when they were only repositories of books that could be borrowed. Of course, the materials available has grown far beyond books. Libraries have also become a community focal point. Julie has on her white board in her office: “Our goal is to provide space for people to come together to build community.”

That mission of being “the hub” of the community has become quite a challenge during the pandemic. Julie gives much credit to the staff in carrying out alternative plans to continue library services.

Her passion for early childhood literacy is evident as Julie talks about the importance of reading for most areas of success in life. The long familiar library story times are now being done online.  Our library’s 1.000 Books Before Kindergarten program provides incentives encouraging caregivers to read with children every day from an early age. The library will collaborate with  the Austin Aspires early childhood navigators to lead classes for parents in both English and Spanish.

The summer reading club for children was held with outdoor activities last summer, as well as a ukulele club.  Plans in 2021 will no doubt include a balance of online and in-person activities.

Julie percolates with hopes for the future of the library. She would like to continue one-on-one technological help for older people, which has proven more effective than classes. Providing future services including translators to help with filing legal papers like naturalization documents, etc., and having access to social service staff at the library are among her ideas.

Julie says she has taken inspiration from women supporting women in this community. When applying for this job she was assured by a number of women that, “You don’t have to know everything before taking a job.”  That support, plus all of her life experience, are what she credits with helping her do her job well.

We are fortunate to have this dedicated, visionary, and creative director of our library!