Kathy was finally persuaded to run as the library entry in the Miss Long Beach City Employee contest in 1971.

How I became a librarian

I graduated from college in 1967 with a major in English. My first job was with Continental Airlines as a stewardess. I didn’t like it and I wanted to quit, but I had no idea what else to do. My father, who always wanted me to be a teacher or a librarian, told me that if I wanted to go to library school he would pay for it. Since teaching didn’t interest me, I took him up on his offer of library school. As it turned out, a library career was the perfect fit for me and I worked as a librarian for almost 40 years. I quit the airlines and was accepted into USC Library School in 1968 where our one “computer” class was a lecture on Fortran and Cobol.

My early library career

I graduated from USC in the Summer of 1969. My husband and I lived in Long Beach so I was hoping that I could get a job at LBPL. I interviewed with Mildred Snider in Administration. I remember that she brought Florence Powers into the interview because Miss Powers was the head of the Literature & History Department and there was an opening which might be perfect for an English major. I was hired in September 1969.

One of Miss Power’s requirements for her librarians was to read (whatever we wanted) for an hour a day. I remember sitting in a comfy chair in her tiny office in the basement of the Old Main library and reading Agatha Christie, Kurt Vonnegut, Tom Wolfe, dozens of romance and mystery novels, and whatever appealed to me. As a librarian working in L&H we were expected to be familiar with as many titles as possible so we could recommend them to our patrons. This had to be the best job ever.

I remember fondly the people I worked with on the L&H desk in the early days:

  • Leslie Swaddling was a dapper gentleman who had a lot of ladies vying for his attention, but he wasn’t interested in any of them. Leslie was the person who very patiently stayed with me on the desk my first few weeks to make sure I knew where everything was.

  • Diane Erdelyi was hired several months before I was and we became really good friends. I always admired her for planning trips to Europe all by herself. I can still see her pouring over the most recent edition of Fodor’s and deciding where she would travel next. She also had some great parties in her apartment in Belmont Shore.

  • Cordelia Howard was an elegant lady with a dry sense of humor and a quirky smile. She always made me laugh.

  • Helene Silver was a no-nonsense librarian who took over L&H when Florence Powers retired. Helene always wanted Tuesdays off because that was the day she cleaned her house.

Sometime in the early 1970’s the women in the library were finally given permission to wear pantsuits to work instead of the required dress/skirt. This was huge. The top had to match the bottom on the pantsuit of course.

Library bowling team, 1972 – Kathy Proffit, Diane Erdelyi, Harriet Friis, Fern Sikkema, Toni Welch and a happy Norm Harris.

About that time, Norm Harris, who worked as a clerk in the Film Department, organized a library bowling team. We called ourselves Harris’s Harem. Diane Erdelyi was on the team too and I wish I could remember everyone else. It was really fun.

Homebound Reader’s Program

One of my jobs in L&H was to mail books to people who could not get to the library to pick out their own books. We called it the Shut-In Service then. All of those hours reading books in Florence Power’s office was paying off. I had to choose the books for these people and hope that they liked them.

I will never forget one of the ladies, Miss Morrell, a voracious reader, who let me know in no uncertain terms what she thought of every book I chose for her. She always put a note in the returned books to let me know her opinion and to ask for more of the same or to tell me never send anything like that again. It was a challenge because she read five books a week.

Claudine (right) and Kathy prepare books to send to Homebound (Shut-In) readers, 1972.

In the summer of 1972 there was a fire in the Old Main library. The fire started in the office of the Shut-In Service which was located under the stairs in the basement. I was on vacation when it happened and Claudine Burnett was the one who had to peel off waterlogged labels from any salvageable book packages in order to recreate our mailing list. All records of what we had sent to these people were lost.

In 1975 our daughter was born and I took three months off work. After three months I came back part time and travelled around to various reference desks at Main and the branches. I spent a lot of time working in the Books for the Blind department where we mailed our readers books on cassette tapes.

I left LBPL in 1979 when my family moved to Sacramento. I had several different library jobs after that, and then in 1985 I became the medical librarian at Sutter Hospital in Sacramento and worked there for 22 years. After I retired from Sutter Hospital I taught library classes at the local junior college for five years.