Our fantastic librarians and staff are truly the backbone of the Free Library of Philadelphia, helping to advance literacy, guide learning, and inspire curiosity each and every day. In this new blog series, get to know some of the great people who make the Free Library shine! First up, meet Janine Pollock, Head of the Rare Book Department at Parkway Central Library:
How have libraries shaped your life?
Libraries have been the thread running through my entire life – the Free Library in particular. I went to elementary school a short walk from the Fox Chase Branch and spent many an afternoon there doing homework, reading, and socializing. High school projects took me, and usually several friends, to Northeast Regional. As a stay-at-home mother I took my kids to the library several times a week – Oak Lane, Greater Olney, and Bustleton – which helped instill in them a love of books and reading. When my kids were all in school and I was ready for a career change I volunteered at my local branch to see if I’d like working in a library environment.
What do you enjoy most about your job as Head of the Rare Book Department?
The collections are truly astonishing and I feel privileged to work among them. So many of the objects we hold are like secrets waiting to be revealed and it’s exciting to learn something new about them practically every day.
If you could have lunch with any author, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Charles Dickens, definitely. He knew how to have a good time and the best places to go for a good meal or a drink and by all accounts had a charming personality.
Of all the fantastic items that are part of the Rare Book Department collections, do you have a particular favorite? Why?
That’s a tough one because there are so many. On the upside I can’t really go wrong in choosing something like Shakespeare’s First Folio or Charles Dickens’s pet raven, Grip. But my favorite piece is a large pastel of Walt Whitman by J.P. Silver. It has a beautiful ornate gold frame with a caption that says “from life” and it’s the most compelling likeness of Whitman I’ve ever seen.
Tell us a factoid about yourself that people might be surprised to know.
I play keyboards in a rock band. I am actually just learning to play but I get to practice every week with really fantastic musicians and we’ve even played a few gigs.