This is an ongoing series of profiles of BayNet members who work in little-known libraries and information services around the bay. Heidi Goldstein is the Head Librarian of Ex’pression College for Digital Arts in Emeryville.

Ex'pression College for Digital Arts. Photo by Tiffany Lo.
Ex'pression College for Digital Arts. Photo by Tiffany Lo.

How did you decide to become a librarian?

I’ve always been a reader and a lover of books. At about fifteen, I decided that librarianship would be a great career for me as I knew I didn’t want to be a standard classroom teacher. I knew that I loved to organize anything I could and figure out systems of order for things of all types. I also knew that I liked helping people and loved the concept of instructing people on how to help themselves. I worked in retail bookselling, both as a bookseller and as a manager, and knew that loaning people books was more appealing to me than charging for them.

Heidi Goldstein
Heidi Goldstein

In between bookstore jobs, I worked in a huge mess of a vintage clothing store. I had the task of putting it in some order. I devised my own system that included: sparkly Supremes dresses, fifties daytime dresses, sixties cocktail dresses, ironic seventies t-shirts, lederhosen, and so on. It was a mental challenge and included fashion history research and I loved every bit of it. I knew that librarianship was the perfect field into which I should delve.

Also, my mother still swears that she told me, when I was about 3 years of age, that I would grow up to be a librarian. At 37 years old, I now have to agree that she was right!

In what ways is a digital arts school library different from the more traditional school libraries?

The Wintzen Library and Learning Resource Center, while not large in size, is vast in its resourcefulness. Our students tend to focus on manuals and software usage more so than the traditional academic learning institutions as many of our classes are software-based. Ex’pression College, in and of itself, is different in that we are a fast-paced, learning-intensive, 24 hour a day, 365 day a week school. Our library, currently open only to enrolled students, has over three thousand books that range from, but are not limited to: children’s books to animal anatomy, jazz biographies to Star Wars history, acoustics and physics comprehension to logo construction, and rock and roll graphic design to punk rock music history. We also have an extensive DVD collection which includes concerts, tutorials, general films that tend toward the cult classic and hyper-creative, animation, experimental, and documentaries.

The library is also where all students come to attain their textbooks. For the General Education classes, they may borrow their books for the length of the term (five weeks). For the classes that represent the respective programs, Sound Arts, Animation and Visual Effects, Motion Graphic Design, and Game Art and Design, the library gives the students their textbooks which they then may keep for their professional library. This figures greatly in the activities of the library while saving the students large amounts of money from having to purchase their books.

Our library is similar to other schools as it is a hub of information, a central location in which students may print out papers, and where tutoring occurs. As the librarian, I help students with papers, research, and writing.

Ex’pression College uses Web 2.0 tools extensively: blogs, twitter, Facebook, and etc. How has this impacted your library work, if at all?

I believe that the school’s involvement with Web 2.0 has increased our brand recognition all around. The Web has permitted a small, niche-market Bachelor’s degree-granting school to gain international publicity. The library utilizes Twitter and Facebook to communicate with Ex’pression students who might not come into the library on a regular basis. Updates are made to Twitter, Facebook, and various other school-based websites regarding new additions to the library catalog and various events that happen around the school and in the library. Communicating with students in the way they communicate with each other has infinitely assisted in increasing the library’s appeal and communication levels.

What is your most memorable library experience?

My most memorable library experience is as simple and as pure as library experiences come. A student came in to talk to me about life and some difficulties she was having. I listened and advised as anyone would. But then, I used my super-reader-recommendation skills to come up with something wonderful for her to read. Lynda Barry has been my favorite comic artist/writer for a long time. A peer of Matt Groening of “The Simpsons,” she writes bittersweet, semi-autobiographical reflections on life, adolescence, and the complicated intertwining of family, awkwardness, and self-awareness. I offered one of Barry’s books, 100 Demons, to the student who was having troubles. A few days later she came into the library, eyes glistening, book in hand. “You reminded me how much I love to read,” she said shyly, “thank you.”

More recently, I was thrown a huge surprise birthday party by one of the library assistants, who is a student here at Ex’pression. The library had been decorated, a DJ had set up speakers, many of the people in attendance wore Guy Fawkes’ masks and an Ex’pression alumnus had airbrushed a 4 foot long painting of me that lots of people had signed. At least sixty people were in attendance, food was eaten, and much fun was had. This was not the same kind of memorable library experience as the previous one…but still memorable nonetheless!

Any good advice for new librarians still looking for work?

I started out looking for a hearty, civil service job in the public library sector. I envisioned helping those who needed help figuring out how to navigate the Web, performing the hardcore reference interview, and eagerly receiving the random question. As San Jose State University is the largest MLIS program in the country and competition is fierce, acquiring a public library job was more difficult than I could have ever imagined. I ended up, six months after getting my Master’s degree, with a job here at Ex’pression College in a position nothing like that which I had expected.

My advice would be this: keep your mind open and prospects wide open. The unexpected could be better than that which you originally hoped for!