Posted on Sep 05, 2017
New Westbrook-Gorham Rotary member Becky Albert grew up in Westbrook, the fourth of five children. Her early years included eating ice cream at Vallee’s Drug Store, seeing movies at the Star Theater, and enjoying Sacarrappa Days. Her three older siblings were more than 8 years older, so she was exposed to a lot of popular music and literature from a very early age. She recounted reading every single Nancy Drew book on her sister’s shelves and receiving The Hobbit as a Christmas gift one year. She also devoured many books at both the Warren and Walker libraries. These were the beginnings of her love for literature.
 
It was while growing up in Westbrook that she was first exposed to service. Her brother was working at the Cerebral Palsy Center in Portland and she volunteered there during their summer program. Working at the Center opened her eyes to people who wanted for everything, even the use of their own limbs and voices. She worked with children whose life experiences were far removed from her own.
 
Becky graduated from Westbrook High in 1979, and earned a BA from USM in History with a minor in Philosophy - so graduate school was in her future.  She considered becoming a lawyer, as she had worked at a law firm during college. However, she decided the associates worked far too many hours.  The law librarian at the firm convinced her to enter the field of librarianship.
 
As soon as she entered graduate school at the University of Kentucky, she knew that Librarianship was the right career path for her. She could continue to read and learn and debate and put to use all that she had previously learned. Before Google, there were only libraries when you needed questions answered. Even today, libraries are important. Becky quote her favorite author Neil Gaiman: “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers.  A librarian can bring you back the right one.” 
 
There are many types of librarians: corporate librarians, law librarians, health librarians, music librarians, school librarians, teen librarians, children’s librarians, academic librarians, public librarians. There are specialty fields like music, art and ancient history. There are librarians who focus solely on reference questions, inter-library loans or cataloging materials.
 
NH State Library, Concord
 
Becky’s career path took her first to the New Hampshire State Library where she led a federal grant funded project to address adult literacy. This offered another opportunity for service when she volunteered as a literacy tutor. She learned that there were many adults in NH who had never learned to read. Each one she worked with had something in common – they felt alone and ashamed. She wanted these folks to understand that they were not alone and to feel empowered by sharing their progress with each other.  To that end, she worked with other program coordinators to secure a grant to found a program called Connections - book discussions groups for new readers. This brought students and tutors together in local libraries to read a series of high quality children’s literature. Within a couple of years, this was expanded to include a statewide annual conference for new adult readers, funded in part by a 501c3 that she helped form.
 
After 12 years at the state library, she moved on to a new type of library experience at a small independent boarding and day school, the Tilton School.  Service was a major tenet of the school’s philosophy and she helped out with the school’s community service program regularly. This included project throughout the semester, like spending afternoons at the local Veterans Hospital, serving meals at a local soup kitchen, walking dogs at the local shelter and helping children with homework. During her time there, she was awarded the NH Excellence in Education Award in Librarianship.
 
Tilson School, Tilson NH
 
A few years ago, she changed her professional life again and became the Director of a small library in central NH. Now she has come full circle and is back in Westbrook, the Director of the Library she used as a child.
 
Becky Albert signs children's book for Walker Library
 
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