You are a SPECIAL Librarian! You are a Military Librarian!

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DMIL Member Interview with Tammy Kirk

1 . How did you get involved in military librarianship?

I first became aware of military librarians when I was stationed in Sinop, Turkey while in the Navy. When I decided to become a librarian, I remembered the library/librarian there and thought that becoming a military librarian might be a way to combine my love of service with my love of travel.

2 . How did you get involved in DMIL?

I won a scholarship, as a student, to attend SLA in Nashville. Because I knew I wanted to become a military librarian I made sure to network heavily with DMIL at that conference.  After the conference, I also used my DMIL contacts to complete coursework in my special libraries class in a blatant attempt to extend my network and search for more post-graduation employment opportunities!

3 . What has been your best experience working for the military?

I have had many wonderful experiences working for the military. I am very aware that, as a military librarian, my job is to help inform and educate members of a community who make some of the most difficult and critical choices facing our nation. The aspect of librarianship that has always been most important to me, though, has been access to information.  In my current position with the Nashville District of the US Army Corps of Engineers, I have uploaded troves of information to the USACE Digital Library (UDL). The UDL is an invaluable tool that allows me to give the public access to a wide array of previously inaccessible information. This includes the 1937 and 1939 Cumberland River Flood photos, maps and charts that show the Cumberland River before we built most of our modern locks and dams, and photos of some communities that no longer exist because of some of those projects. Some of these photographs have been used in local history books.

4. What has been your best experience being involved in DMIL?

I love how truly helpful and supportive the members of DMIL are. From my very first conference the librarians I met rallied around me and tried to help me find a job. They helped me further my network and encouraged me to apply for positions. From that point on, any time I seriously applied for positions I had people who could help me.  As a librarian, I have a community I can turn to for professional advice. I also enjoy moving frequently (too frequently, according to some of my mentors…). Whenever I decide to change positions, I have mentors in each of the services who can usually tell me something about the position I am considering and offer suggestions about applying.  In all, DMIL is a very knowledgeable community that is very willing to share their experience and knowledge with others.

5. What positions in DMIL have you held?

 I have been a planner twice – San Diego and Philly.

6. If someone were to visit your library or your town, what would you be sure to show them or recommend that they see?

What is nice is that, more and more, people don’t have to actually visit my library to see my show-and-tell type items. You can also see these things digitally. When I know that I’m going to have visitors I usually put out items that show both the history of our district and highlight what I have been doing to provide access to our historical items.

For example, I might display a flood photo book. Most of our projects were created primarily for flood-prevention, and the flood photos highlight the importance of that mission (

Another primary function of our district, of course, is Navigation; so I might put out one of our most recent navigation charts along with one of our historic maps, possibly our 1942 Cumberland River navigation chart


Depending on the visitor I might put out the book(s) that were created using resources that I had put into the UDL. This highlights the value of making these resources available to the public. I might also print out covers of items that I uploaded into the UDL for public review.

For people visiting Nashville I always recommend a visit to the Parthenon.  It is a replica of the one in Athens created for the Tennessee Centennial anniversary celebration. The interior hallway has a nice history with photos and objects describing the celebration.  It also has a so-so permanent art exhibit, but the rotating exhibit can be very nice. The gallery with the statue of Athena is great, though, as are the replicas of the Elgin Marbles.  It’s historical kitschy fun.  Nashville also has plenty for those who are into Civil War history or country music. The food is really good, too.

7. If you were to recommend one book, just for fun, what would it be?

One?! Nice try! I just finished Maria Semple’s latest so that makes me think of Where’d You Go, Bernadette? It was a very light-hearted, humorous novel. For any wife/mother that has ever dreamed of running away from home, though, I just finished Leave Me by Gayle Forman and really enjoyed it.  Pure escapist fantasy.  You didn’t think I’d really only suggest one, did you? I’ll show a bit of restraint, though, and leave it there.

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