Shannon VanHemert has been moderating PUBYAC for over 20 years. “I get my greatest kick when librarians from really small, isolated libraries send a message, or librarians from countries other than the United States post. I grew up in a really remote place, and for a time as an adult I lived cut off from professional contact. So I guess I really relate to those librarians who don’t have anyone to talk to. The listserve belongs to the whole world, not just the U.S. It’s the subscribers that make PUBYAC the valuable tool that it is–I just facilitate things.”
Shannon was born smack dab in the center of the continental United States and grew up in Montana’s Gallatin Valley in a small rural community of potato farmers and dairymen. She escaped to college in Michigan where, much to her continued astonishment, she got married before she graduated. She then emigrated to Canada and landed her first job in the children’s department of the Cambridge Public Library. After three years, she moved to the Philippines, where along with typhoons, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and coup d’etats, she frequently traveled to rebel-held territory to teach cataloging among the rice paddies. “The school down in Calauan needed a library to get Dept. of Education accreditation, and I was the only one around who had any idea about how to go about it. And they say being a librarian is tame! It just all depends on where you put yourself.”
She returned to the U.S. to earn her MLS at the University of Pittsburgh, where PUBYAC got its start. “This was just the beginning of when the Internet was taking off–we didn’t even have the Web yet.” Her frustration that children’s librarians had no Internet voice led her to figure out how to run a listserver, and the library school was willing to help.
And while she spends a lot of time working, she also thinks it is important to maintain balance. She creates stained glass windows, preaches Xeriscaping, wrangles chickens, pigs and garlic, and tries to avoid cleaning the house. She would rather receive power tools than perfume. Her favorite places to shop are Home Depot and the local thrift store. She can wire a room for electricity, install a fireplace, tape and spackle the drywall and then shingle the whole thing. Her favorite fashion period is 1895-1905. She worships the ground Dr. Seuss walked on. If she had tons of money, she would employ an orchestra so she could play piano concertos whenever the mood struck. She is a synesthete, has been giddily married for over 35 years, has two grown sons, a daughter-in-law, two grandsons, and believes that tea should always be drunk from a pretty cup.