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Books Today, Anthropology Tomorrow

March 12, 2014

by Vanessa Langdon

Mary Jane’s Books in Albany may stock texts on anthropology but employee Nora Kanarkiewicz wants more; she wants to experience cultures. The 21-year-old, originally from Duanesburg, has worked at Mary Jane’s for eight months after a string of unfulfilling jobs in the food industry. She plans to leave the customer service behind and study cultures after graduation in May.

Kanarkiewicz has held a steady job since she was 15-years-old and saved up money to buy her own car to avoid sharing with her sister. Now her paycheck covers car insurance and a cell phone bill.

“Honestly I think having a job helps keep me sane. It’s something that occupies my time that is not school related… it helps me manage and balance time to have multiple obligations outside of class,” Kanarkiewicz said. “It gets my mind off school, but I’m not being a couch potato.”

Kanarkiewicz holds Gizmo who wanders in the store/Vanessa Langdon

Kanarkiewicz holds Gizmo who wanders in the store/Vanessa Langdon

Kanarkiewicz needs the job to help her stay on track. The senior at the University at Albany admits being a student and an employee can be a hassle.

“If I didn’t work I could definitely get by and have more free time, but I like working way too much,” she said. “I was unemployed for about two weeks this year and I just felt like I had way too much free time on my hands.”

Her duties at Mary Jane’s, at the corner of Western Avenue and Quail Street, include finding books for customers, cleaning, processing online orders, setting up shelves, working the cash register, buying back books, and rentals. Mary Jane’s operates with a small staff of nine said Kanarkiewicz so “all the employees are trained to do any task that might need doing.”

Her background in the food industry makes her appreciate her job with books. “When I get done with a shift at Mary Jane’s I’m tired, but not mental(ly) drained. Food service was both physically and mentally tiring for me; it’s basically nonstop customer service, which I find tedious.”

The bookstore environment enables Kanarkiewicz to break up her time spent on people-to-people contact on even the busiest of days.

“At MJB you can go in the back for a minute and do a task that doesn’t involve customers, which can be kind of nice,” she said.

Kanarkiewicz worked at Price Chopper in Guilderland where she also interacted with customers. “I enjoy helping customers who want to be helped and who want to listen to what I am saying, but when there is someone who is just going to fight you every step of the way it’s exhausting,” Kanarkiewicz said. “I don’t dislike it, but I wouldn’t say I prefer it.”

Her biggest challenge at Mary Jane’s is getting on the same page as the customers. “I have to remember that just because I know how the system works doesn’t mean everyone does, if it’s your first time coming in we try not to scare you off.”

Working at Mary Jane’s has had its perks, the employee discount on textbooks is a positive, Kanarkiewicz has also made friends with her coworkers. “A crew doesn’t work well if people don’t get along. We all work together fairly well, and hang out outside of work.”

One of her fellow workers noticed that Kanarkiewicz is so dependable the store owner relies on her outside the store.

“She has a really great work ethic, she is great with the customers and is always helping other coworkers,” said Alexandra Finch, a student from The College of Saint Rose. “Whenever our boss Carole, the owner of the store goes out of town, Nora always watches Carole’s dogs.”

Another coworker remembered a time Kanarkiewicz went out of her way one day. “Nora chased a customer down the street because she found a cheaper option for the book he just purchased and wanted to make sure he had the option to save $15,” said Jackie Carr, who recommended Kanarkiewicz for the job.

“I’ve worked with Nora since the summer…before Mary Jane Books, and currently, we work together at WCDB 90.9 FM,” said Carr. While Kanarkiewicz herself said that the customers are her biggest huddle, Carr tells a different story: “Nora takes on extra tasks and strives to help with every customer’s individual needs. Everyone at Mary Jane Books will do these things for customers, but Nora goes above and beyond.”

In addition to the friends that her job has afforded her Kanarkiewicz began dating a staffer who also attends the University.

Kanarkiewicz enjoys working at Mary Jane’s but wants new experiences after completing her degree in May. She knows that the time spent at Mary Jane’s Books will help her career goals.

“Work in general helps you figure out what you do and don’t like about certain work places, and what you should take away from the experience can help you with your next job, even if it’s completely different.”

After completing her work at Mary Jane’s, Kanarkiewicz hopes to study cultures because, she said, “the culture in which you are raised makes a huge impact on how you view the world.” She doesn’t have a specific country she wants to visit but is just fascinated by “culturally motivated actions or opinions.” Her experiences with different cultures have been affected by her sister Joan, a member of the Peace Corps currently living in Panama. Kanarkiewicz visited this past December.

Kanarkiewicz had an ‘aha moment’ when she took an anthropology elective at Albany on human rights. “The class focused on genocide and practices like female circumcision, I thought it was one of the most interesting applications of anthropology, and it made me so sure that I picked the right major,” she said.

She wasn’t fortunate enough to have an internship to further investigate her field because the ones available focused on the archaeology aspects of anthropology. “I feel like I need to narrow my focus. Find something I am really passionate about inside the field of anthropology.”

While graduation is the end of a chapter she is not rushing back into the classroom for graduate school. “Once I finish undergrad it would be nice to take a breather and just work and relax without the pressure of school for a year or two,” she said. Like most people, she said she wants “to make enough to get by and not worry about money…a steady job.” -30-

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