Librarian ProFile: It's Amazing To Hear A Person's Voice Change In Their Career

Aug 23, 2013
Originally published on August 26, 2013 3:43 pm

This month, the NPR Arts Desk has been exploring the role of public libraries in the U.S. and how it's evolved over the years. The fascinating series, Keys to the Whole World: American Public Libraries, got us curious about what's happening in our own library at NPR. It provides instrumental services to staff from research and training, to developing massive music and radio story databases, to preserving and digitizing NPR's huge collection of audio. So basically it's oil in the gears around here, and the librarians themselves are rock stars (one of them literally is). A great example is NPR librarian Hannah Sommers. Check out her ProFile here, no library card required.

My name... Hannah Sommers

NPR employee since... 2004

Public radio listener since... I spent an entire summer listening to WVPE while I organized, relabeled and restocked the Chemistry Department supply rooms at my alma mater, Goshen College. It was 1994 and there was a lot going on around the world. I became hooked on international news (AND we passed OSHA inspection!).

My job at NPR is... a new and evolving role: Program Manager in the NPR Library. This job didn't exist two years ago. My job is to make sure that music and archived stories are easily accessible to journalists and others who needs them. The life of a story after broadcast is a very interesting one!

My first job... my friend and I joined a corn detasseling crew one summer in Indiana before high school. We thought it would be fun, which it was, in addition to being really hard work.

I wanted to be... a doctor when I grew up. Then I got some real-world experience in the profession. I love my doctors, but I don't envy the decisions they have to make.

I've learned the most about radio from... David Julian Gray [NPR IT product manager] and [Morning Edition Senior Producer] Barry Gordemer. David can explain everything about the production and behavior of sound waves. Barry is a generous teacher when it comes to the magic of storytelling.

The story I was most surprised to come across while digitizing the NPR archive was... not so much a story as a perspective: It's amazing to hear how a person's voice changes in the course of their career. Robert Siegel, for instance, sounds so different now than when he was reporting from London in the early 1980s. Theme music is another fun thing to listen to across time and compare.

Listening is most important when... there are passionate people around the table and a deadline to meet. My job is to make sure the best ideas advance regardless of how forcefully they are promoted.

One idea that defines us is... a belief as professionals that everyone should have access to quality information to make the decisions that life and work require.

I can't live without... good dim sum now and then. I also can't live without our Serendipity Days because the result is real innovation. For example, not long ago we experimented with a new search engine and decided to keep it in our product. A great investment of just 2 days.

The Newscast headline reporting the last year in my life would be... a timeless one: Proud Parents Welcome Baby Daughter: "We're Over The Moon".

Emerson Brown contributed to this post.

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