Gatepost Interview: Curriculum Librarian Samantha Westall

[Jessica Duff]

What is your resume and background?

For the last five years, I was a school library media specialist. I worked at a high school in South Central Massachusetts. It’s in Dudley, Massachusetts. School library media specialist is a title with a certain teaching certification, specializing in Library Science, which teaches students to do research properly, use library material, databases etcetera.

Why did you decide to become a librarian?

My undergraduate degree in in archaeology anthropology, but while I was in college I did my student work in the library for three years. My first round into graduate school, when I applied the original time [for museum studies], I was bumped. I was on the waiting list and I got dropped, so I applied again the following year and I got into Simmons and URI for library science.

Did you ever go into archaeology and anthropology as a career?

When I originally applied to graduate school I wanted to do museum studies, so I would have been basically doing the two together – working in the archival areas during processing and that sort of thing. For me, it was an easy transition. I haven’t done a dig in a while. However, I do like to go to different UNESCO sites across the world.

What is your favorite place that you have traveled to?

I’ve been to 32 countries. Two of my favorites are Greece and London. Russia is really cool – St. Petersburg is beautiful. So it depends. Each of the places I’ve been to has something special. I lived in Belize for six months. I worked with the director of archaeology for the country. That was amazing.

What was being an undergraduate like for you?

It was different. I grew up in Massachusetts, but I went to school in Indiana at a private university. So that was a big change – going from a liberal state to a pretty conservative state. School was never a problem. I always did well in classes. In the archaeology classes, we actually had our own lab. We worked with human remains. We did our own digs in Indiana and Ohio. That was really awesome getting to do that from freshman year on. There was also a master’s program that was part of the university that did forensic anthropology with the only forensic anthropologists in the entire state of Indiana. The undergraduates got to help with cases for the FBI and everything like that. That was really awesome and hands-on, and then my last semester I spent abroad.

What experience was memorable when you worked with the FBI?

A boy had killed his grandmother, grandfather, mother and taken his sister hostage. He buried them in a tarp in the basement and then carpeted it in cement. … Body ooze and bones were all that was left. … Because of the tarp, there was no way for the water to get out. Finally, he was arrested. He was pulled over by a police officer and the cop separated the brother and the sister. The sister told the cop everything that he’d done. … So when they had to uncap and see where the bodies were, it was a rather strong smell. When you’re dealing with human decomposition, it’s not as though you get used to it, it’s pretty hard. … They only brought us in when there was a lot and we usually didn’t work directly with the bodies. We would be mostly helping move debris out of the way. The forensic anthropologists would be doing 90 percent of the work, but we got to be on site and it was pretty cool.

Did you ever consider going into forensic anthropology?

Not really. I thought of it after I got out of grad school. … I’ve always liked history, and forensic anthropologists only work on stuff from 1930 to present. Actually, it might have gone up to the 1940’s now. It varies depending on how many years it’s been since they’ve been interred. … And that was just too young for me, and I didn’t think that was something that I was totally interested in.

What are your hobbies?

I read a lot. I also write. I’ve written a young adult book. It’s never been published and I’m working on the second one. … It’s a trilogy. I may pitch it once I finish the second. … I bake a lot and cook. I travel – that’s one of my favorite things to do. I love experiencing other cultures and history. I actually embroider. … And Game of Thrones, I’m obsessed with Game of Thrones.

What do you think students would find surprising about you?

Probably that I’ve written a book or how many books I’ve read. In the last three years, I’ve read over a thousand books.

What advice would you give to students?

Have a dream. That dream job that you always want – but be flexible. Sometimes, life is going to throw you curve balls. … Try your hardest and just try to be fluid, and hang on as best you can.