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Local librarian devoted to the neighborhood

April 2, 2015

by Hanna Teal

Since Lauren Cardinal was 4-years-old she made weekly visits from her South Allen Street home to return a tote filled with books to the Pine Hills library. Reading was a passion of Cardinal’s, but it wasn’t until her late 20s that she made books her career.

Lauren Cardinal works at the reference desk in the Pine Hills Library/Hanna Teal

Lauren Cardinal works at the reference desk in the Pine Hills Library/Hanna Teal

Cardinal is a full-time librarian at the Pine Hills branch of the Albany Public library where her responsibilities include ordering newly released books and coordinating programs for the library. The reference desk is her favorite task because she gets to meet the library’s patrons.

“You get a core group of people that come in just to see you. Whether it’s to ask for your opinion on a book, ask for your help, or just ask how you are doing,” said Cardinal. “It makes the job so much more meaningful.”

Cardinal is enthusiastic, professional, and incredibly patient, according to Mary Coon, her supervisor and head of the west branches of the Albany Public Library. Coon thinks Cardinal brings much to the table, but having patience is a quality Coon believes every librarian needs to master.

“I’ve seen her spend over a half-hour helping someone download an audio book,” said Coon. “She stays with someone until she is confident their needs have been fulfilled.”

Cardinal’s commitment to the neighborhood may have stemmed from her mother, Virginia Hammer, the president of the Pine Hills Neighborhood Association. Hammer said her daughter has found her calling.

“She’s extremely self-disciplined and has such an active mind,” said Hammer.

Becoming a librarian wasn’t always what Cardinal’s aspiration. After graduating from Albany High, she attended Vassar College where she earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science.  She spent the next six years conducting data processing for Experian, a global information services group.

“My dad was in computer science and my brother studied computer science. It seemed like a logical next step for me,” said Cardinal. “Plus, I knew I could get a job.”

After a while, Cardinal tired of sitting in a cubicle and doing the same thing all day, every day. She realized she needed variety and socialization, a stimulation she could get as a librarian. So, Cardinal switched paths and then earned a master’s degree in information sciences from the state University at Albany. She spent her first year and a half as a librarian at the Guilderland Public Library, and another five years at the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library.

Lauren Cardinal puts books away at the Pine Hills Library/Hanna Teal

Lauren Cardinal puts books away at the Pine Hills Library/Hanna Teal

But she still didn’t feel like part of a community. When there was an event in Clifton Park or the local school district, Cardinal had no connection. She still lives on South Allen Street and when she learned that the Pine Hills Library was hiring. She jumped at the opportunity.

Cardinal likes never knowing what to expect or how the day is going to go at work. But mainly, she loves the people and the relationships she has built. Coon said that Cardinal’s connections with the patrons make her a great candidate for a supervisor position.  Cardinal wouldn’t mind taking on more responsibilities,  but is happy to just be part of a community as a librarian.

“I felt like an outsider at the other libraries. Here, it was my neighborhood, it was my community,” said Cardinal. “I grew up right around the corner.” -30-


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