Dr Carlson: librarian extraordinaire

Sara Bey, Staffer

While attending Florida State University in the early ‘70s, OPRF librarian Ann Carlson took a job as a student worker at the school library. Reading has always been a love of hers, so it made sense this was her college job.

It was then Carlson said she knew she wanted to revel in this passion for the library and all its beauty more because she “always found the library to be a refuge for me…I’ve always enjoyed the solitude in reading,” she said. “I think it comes from being a part of a big family.”

Growing up in Jacksonville, Fla., Carlson spent her childhood sailing and canoeing with her family. Her Catholic faith rooted her family’s expectations to work hard, not complain, and be honest.

Through academics and athletics, she has been living up to those expectations her whole life. At her all-girls Catholic high school, Bishop Kenny, she ran cross-country and was the soccer team’s captain. She also played basketball “in a time where girls were only allowed to play half-court, as not to ‘jiggle our insides,’” Carlson added with a laugh.

Carlson graduated high school in 1969 and took a gap year before enrolling at Florida State in the fall of 1970. There, she earned two Bachelor’s degrees, in English and Librarianship. In 1975, Carlson earned a Master’s degree in Library Science, beginning her 42-year-long librarian career.

Out of college, Carlson was a coordinator at Palm Beach County Public Library, where she said she “worked with migrant farm workers and held storytimes with children.” During the ‘70s, migrant workers hailed from places such as Mexico and Haiti. They worked on fields of sweet corn and herbs in Florida and were involved around the community.

She then went to the Orlando Public Library. While Carlson wrote many grants there, she realized she didn’t learn much about something she felt was important- early childhood education.

This realization prompted Carlson to apply to Columbia University in New York to get her PhD in Library Science. She wrote her dissertation titled “Early Childhood Literature Sharing Programs in Libraries,” where she learned from bright librarians and early childhood specialists about how to instill “a love of books and reading by age 3.”

In 1986, after receiving her doctorate, working in New York City and Chicago, Carlson became a professor at Dominican University, teaching graduate classes such as Books for Early Childhood and Library Materials for Children.

She came to OPRF in 2003, crediting this job opportunity to a former student who told her of the opening. Carlson was chosen to manage the OPRF library, and has been working here for 14 years.

“I love being a librarian,” Carlson said. “I love preparing students for research beyond high school, working with classes, and having close relationships with many teachers.”

She said she doesn’t just teach skill; she teaches students to be “creative, deep-thinking, and curious.”

When she isn’t investing her time in librarian work, Carlson volunteers her time tutoring at Hepzibah and the Animal Care League’s 2nd Chance Shop. “It’s important to get involved in the community you live in by supporting local events and volunteering at them,” she said. “This way, we can provide more community resources.”

When Carlson retires from OPRF, she doesn’t plan on retiring from her life’s work just yet. “While I will stop being a librarian here, I won’t stop being one,” she said, as she plans to keep working elsewhere.

Full retirement is something in the distant future for her, she said. “I plan on working until I’m 70,” she said, “and I’ll let you know then.”