A storied past

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Library director brings wealth of experience to new role

By Mark Ambrogi

It took nearly a year in a Roman Catholic monastery, but Carolyn Goolsby discovered her true calling was being a librarian.

Goolsby, who is also a Jeopardy champion and weightlifting record holder, decided to take some time for personal reflection after the grandmother who raised her went into a nursing home. Goolsby had been her grandmother’s caregiver as she battled Alzheimer’s disease.

“I was in the position to consider the religious life,” said Goolsby, who served at Our Lady of Angels monastery in Crozet, Va. “I couldn’t have done it any earlier or wouldn’t have because I had obligations. If you ponder doing something different with your life, you should do it. It was a great experience to have.”

Although it was hard work, Goolsby said she learned a lot about herself during 10 months in the monastery.

“I learned what I really want to do is public library work,” said Goolsby, 49. “I’ve not looked back. I think working in the library is the best job ever. I love what I do. They say if you love what you do, you’ll never work another day in your life. It’s true in my case.”

Goolsby will bring that passion to her new post as director of the Carmel Public Library. Goolsby, who started Aug. 17, replaces acting director Nancy Newport, who returns to her role as assistant director. Long-time director Wendy Phillips retired earlier this summer.

Goolsby was among more than 35 applicants seeking the top job at the library. The list narrowed to seven candidates for Skype interviews and four were selected for in-person interviews.

Ranjit Puthran, the Carmel library board president and search committee head, said the search committee and board were impressed that Goolsby had previous library director experience, serving as director of Wood Buffalo Regional Library in Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada, for the past two and a half years. She ran a staff of 50 people, representing a geographic area of 27,500 square miles.

Puthran said Goolsby’s strengths include budgeting, innovation, understanding emerging trends and implementing strategic plans.

“We can see her as the face and voice of the library,” Puthran said.

Goolsby had already been working for libraries and teaching library science at Florida State before starting the monastery stint in 2006. After the monastery, Goolsby served as the technical services manager at the Tacoma (Wash.) Public Library. She then took on the challenge of the post at Wood Buffalo.

“I had people I could only reach by bush plane or the Ice Road,” Goolsby said. “It was an adventure.”

Although she enjoyed her time in Canada, Goolsby wanted to return to the U.S., and Carmel seemed a great fit.

“The city has completely charmed me,” Goolsby said. “Carmel has wonderful support for the library. We have dedicated long-time employees. I’m a big proponent of give-them-what-they-want library. I don’t think it’s our place to tell people what they should read. My job is operating the library. The library board members are the people in charge. We’ll be building upon the great work Wendy has done the last 15 years. Carmel is one of the highest-rated libraries for its size. And pound for pound, I think it beats New York Public in a fair fight.”

Game show champion

In 2002, Goolsby competed on “Jeopardy,” earning $15,599 as the champion. Her two shows aired March 28 and 31, 2003. The monetary total and dates are etched in her memory.

“I got myself out of debt. It was a life-changing amount of money for me,” Goolsby said. “I paid off student loans.”

Meet Carolyn Goolsby 

Personal: Grew up in Savannah, Ga. Graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Armstrong State University in Savannah. Earned a master’s degree from the University of Maryland.

Hobbies: Weightlifting. She was a champion in the All-Round Weightlifting Association National Championship in 2002. “I was the only woman in my weight class,” Goolsby said. “I did set five world records. It was fun, but I dislocated my shoulder training for 2003 nationals and that was it.”

Favorite author: “Right now it’s George R.R. Martin because I worked my way through his A Song of Ice and Fire series. I enjoyed J.K. Rowling’s books, not just Harry Potter. If I had to pick an author I wouldn’t want to be without, it would be Terry Pratchett.”

Favorite way to relax: “Cooking in my kitchen with a nice glass of wine.”

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