By: Gale Biddle
In March, the pandemic closed our libraries. In the ensuing months, we planned how we would reopen safely. We tried to imagine what our libraries would look like with social distancing, disinfecting, and masking policies. Someone was going to need to be the brave one to go first. In July, Kelly Thormodson was that first brave soul and reopened the doors of the Harrell Health Sciences Library Research and Learning Commons at the Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey. We learned a few things from her, and now we can learn a few things about
Kelly began working at Penn State on April 1, 2019. Yes, it was April Fool’s Day, but when you hear Kelly talk about how much she enjoys being at Penn State, it was anything but a trick. When I asked her what she likes about Penn State, she immediately said, “The collegiality. When I interviewed for the position, I had interviews at Hershey and University Park. I heard at Hershey how much everyone wants people to succeed and how much support people are given. The next day, I heard the same thing at University Park. When both places said the same thing, it really stood out.” She also says that she sees it every day with her colleagues across the University.
As Associate Dean for Library and Information Services and Director, Kelly says she “puts out fires,” collaborates with Penn State and Penn State Health, and communicates with her great
team through an open-door policy (that’s somewhat figurative now with safe work practices!). She serves on the executive councils of both Dean Dewey and Dean Black. In addition, she maintains the budget and administration of the department. Fresh out of college, Kelly spent two years as a corporate trainer for a hotel company. She traveled all over the country opening new hotels. In fact, she opened 22 hotels in those two years. Opening a hotel included training the new staff on how to clean the rooms, how to manage the front desk, and even how to clean the pool. It wasn’t unusual to have 18 hour days and sometimes even 36 hour days leading up to the opening. Kelly is glad she did that when she was young, but soon realized it wasn’t her life’s ambition and went on to grad school to become a Librarian.
Kelly grew up on a dairy farm in Minnesota. (For you “Golden Girls” fans, the township where Kelly grew up was St. Olaf township.) Her first job was picking rocks out of the fields and feeding calves. She loved to help her grandma with the garden and chickens she raised. And, of course, with Minnesota being the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” there were three lakes on the farm. She has extended family who continue the back-breaking and underappreciated work of running it.
When Kelly wants to find her moment of Zen, she enjoys painting. She typically works with acrylics and oils. Her subjects are usually objects, but someday she might venture into abstract
painting. After spending some time in Seattle, she became a self-professed “wine snob” by taking classes and seminars on wine. For the ultimate in fun, she combines her love of painting
with her love of wine and enjoys the popular “Sip and Paint” classes. Not surprisingly, like many of us in the libraries, she enjoys reading, especially mysteries. In fact, she’s a member of not one but four book clubs. And at the end of a long day, she likes to spend time with her cats, Felix and Calli….and maybe a little sip of Disaronno!
Ten Random Questions with Kelly Thormodson
1. One song you never get tired of? Alcohol by Bare Naked Ladies
2. App you wished someone would invent? An app that lets me know when things of interest are on sale around me (e.g. Disaronno, wine, steak)
3. Artist you always recommend when someone asks? Brandi Carlile
4. Last show you binge watched? Schitt’s Creek
5. Would you rather go to the past or the future? Future
6. Cutest animal? Penguins
7. What things do you miss the most since the pandemic began? Going out to restaurants with friends and traveling
8. What is something that you’ve enjoyed since the pandemic began? Working from home. Kelly would like to continue to have at least one day working from home for herself and her team once the pandemic is over.
9. What did you learn about yourself during the shutdown? An extrovert, Kelly had to learn how to find ways to get energy from sources other than people.
10. What one thing do you really want but can’t afford? A Hermès handbag. (For those like me who had never really heard of Hermès, their handbags cost thousands of dollars.)