An awful lot of school term papers and final projects around Missoula probably should have an author’s dedication page with the name Marje Doyle prominently mentioned.
“So many kids come in here to do research with their parents in tow, or being towed by a parent,” Doyle said as she celebrated her last full-time day at the Missoula Public Library on Friday. “Some teachers give the same assignment every year. One does historic buildings – we know that paper. Or biographies of musicians, or political figures. We have the books ready.”
While officially a reference librarian, Doyle has also coordinated the computer classroom and the library’s extensive volunteer roster.
During the past 10 years, she’s overseen the senior citizen outreach, which has grown from four residence facility visits a month to 18. And she is the library’s passport agent (walking people through the forms necessary for U.S. travel documents) and a public notary.
“When I graduated from library school at the University of Washington, we were just starting things like Lexus/Nexus and WestLaw,” said Doyle, whose first job was managing the legal library of a major Seattle law firm. “Now we have automated card catalogs that are so nice – they have so many more entry points to find what you’re looking for. And we have lots of specialized databases.
"You think you can find anything you want on Google, but the reality is – no, you can’t. (Author) Neil Gaiman said, ‘Where Google can bring you back 100,000 answers, a librarian can bring you back the right one.’ ”
Doyle wore another version of that sentiment on her shirt, which read: “Librarian, because Book Wizard isn’t an official title.” A button pinned to the shirt stated “Another hysteric librarian for freedom.”
Doyle, 62, has completed “the Big Four” of library experience: private collections, academic collections, public collections and school collections. Before joining Missoula Public Library, she kept the books at St. Joseph Elementary and Loyola-Sacred Heart High schools.
She’s also watched as Missoula’s library moved into the computer age, especially over the past five years of economic downturn when many Missoulians dropped their home Internet service and surfed the web at the library.
“There’s always a challenge of, do you try to be everything to the community or not?” she said. “A good public library is not just a place for recreation, information and entertainment. It’s a community heart. That’s why we’re respectful to everyone who comes here, from the guy who smells like wood smoke because he’s been living outdoors to the mother dragging three or four kids or the man in a suit and tie.”
Some things have gone away, too. The library’s archive of magazine back issues has shrunk to a few of the most popular titles. But don’t fret – most of the rest have found a new home just across the river at the University of Montana.
“We still need space for other things people are asking for,” Doyle said. “Hopefully, that will be solved when we get a new building.”