Humans of Parkland: Jane Smith

Photo provided by Jane Smith.

Photo provided by Jane Smith.

Emma Gray


“I guess my story is that I’m more of a late bloomer…When I graduated high school I went off, I had this master plan, I was going off to a four-year school and I, for some reason, thought I knew exactly what I was going to be. I thought PE teacher because I would be fit for the rest of my life, which is hilarious to think about now. But when you’re 18 or 17, I guess, you think you know everything.

[College] was the first time I was away from home and I liked it. I was on the track team, and I didn’t go to class, and only went to practice, and had a lot of fun with my friends, and was kicked out for academics.

So I was made to go back home and I had to go to Danville Area Community College, which was like ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t want to go to Danville, to DACC.’ It was good for me though because I was at home and it was structured. I finished up there, got my associates degree, loved it actually because it was a small space and I had come from a small town.

Then I went to transfer to [Illinois State University] and basically the same thing [happened]. I was off on my own for only the second time in my life. I wasn’t focused on school, wasn’t ready for school honestly, or to be on my own. I either didn’t go to class or I would [just] go to my English classes because at that point I had decided I was going to be an English major. I decided I would just to go class and not actually do any of the work.

I ended up getting academically suspended from my second university and then I was working in the real world. I worked in a video store for about five years and loved it, but that wasn’t my destiny.

So I ended up going back to ISU and working full time, going to school part time, and finished my degree before I turned 30 thankfully. I had a job waiting for me as a technical writer. I worked in these corporate environments and hated [it]. I’m just not a corporate kind of gal. I ended up at a temp agency instead.

A friend said to me, ‘Why don’t you go back to school to become a librarian?’ And it opened a whole new window for me. I was in my early thirties at the time and I was just like ‘Oh my god, how is that even going to happen?’

So I moved to Chicago from Bloomington and went to grad school, worked full time at a law firm library: loved it. I decided I wanted to be a law librarian because it was where the money was at basically, [but I realized] no: working in a school environment was going to be a lot more fun.

[I] worked at Illinois Wesleyan University Library, which is a gorgeous thing. But I didn’t feel like I was helping people, couldn’t get that enjoyment out of work.

When the job came open at Parkland…[I] decided to give it a try. And I got the job, and I’ve been here for ten years now. Every day that I work with a student and see the impact that we as librarians can have I get kind of choked up about it, because it really means a lot to me to help people.

I feel like [this job] is me trying to nurture the ‘me’ that was struggling when I was an undergrad. I think it’s a pretty powerful thing.”