Meet Alumna Erin Cataldi ’11
Campus News
Erin Cataldi

Erin Cataldi ’11

The teen and adult reference librarian at the Johnson County Public Library – Clark Pleasant Branch in New Whiteland, Indiana, is one busy bibliophile.

Erin Cataldi ’11, the eldest of 12 children, moved from Northern Indiana to get her bachelor’s degree in history from Franklin College. She stayed through a master’s program in library science at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), and today she lives in downtown Franklin with John, her partner of five years, and their four cats.

“I came down to Franklin for college, and I never left,” she said.

After more than eight years as a librarian, her love of and enthusiasm for books has not waned. If anything, it has increased, as she has taken on new roles in other literature-based areas, such as writing book reviews for local magazines and editorials for the newspaper. She also blogs for JCPL on Facebook. Further, Cataldi is a part-time adjunct professor for the IUPUI library-science division. She has spent the past six years teaching students how to recommend books, write reviews and start book clubs. Here, Cataldi gives a glimpse of why she loves being a librarian:

What is most rewarding about your work as a librarian?

“I get people all the time who come in and say, ‘It’s just books. Why do we need a library when we have Google?’ In addition to books, our library system has a variety of programming and does a lot of community outreach. The scope is really impressive to me. We try to do a lot in the schools and community, like promoting summer reading and participating in different fairs and festivals.

“I love the people who come in for the first time, in like a decade, and are in awe because they can sign up for after-school programs, and can even check out DVDs, sewing machines, board games, baking pans and science kits.

“In partnership with AARP, the library also offers annual tax preparation services. While I can’t legally advise anyone on their taxes, I can print the needed forms. I give a lot of book recommendations and answer reference questions, like when a house was built, how many food pantries are in the county and which indigenous tribes were from this area. I like it when I get a harder question, and I have to dig deeper to find an answer.

“I’m also proud of starting our Local Author Book Fair and Stout Stories Book Club. The fair happens every spring, except in 2020 when we had to cancel because of the pandemic. It also launched our local-author book collection. Stout Stories was a collaborative idea between me and the children’s librarian at the JCPL – Trafalgar Branch. A few years ago, we approached our branch managers with the idea of putting the ‘pub’ in public library. Now, our book club meets monthly at Johnson County-based breweries and wineries. Anyone 21 and over can join. There’s no residency requirement; you don’t even have to own a library card.”

You were featured in Kyle Cassidy’s 2017 book, “This is What a Librarian Looks Like: A Celebration of Libraries, Communities and Access to Information.” How did you get involved with that book?

“That was a right place, right time situation. In 2014, I was lucky enough to get chosen to go to the American Library Association conference in Las Vegas. Kyle Cassidy had done a Kickstarter about the book, and he was going to be at the conference to take photos. There were hundreds of librarians in line to get their photo taken, so I didn’t know right away that I was going in there, let alone be on the cover. I didn’t even see the cover until it hit the Amazon presale. The coolest moment of that experience was seeing that Carla Hayden, the current librarian of Congress, was photographed in her office at the Library of Congress holding the book.”

Almost everything is digital nowadays, including books, so why should people still go to the library?

“In addition to the previously mentioned programming and community outreach the library offers, information literacy, like spotting fake news and learning what material to trust online, is a big reason why libraries are still relevant, especially for students. There’s so much on the internet that it’s hard to find reliable sources. The library really shines in this area because it has resources that can be trusted, and references to help people find the data they need. Also, a lot of e-books cost money, but the library has them to loan. I don’t think print books are going anywhere, especially based on what I’ve seen over the past couple of years. There’s a market for both print and e-books.”

By Sara McAninch, SOUTH Magazine

Reprinted with permission, edited for content and length.

POSTED Nov 18, 2021