Adams Street’s Birdseye helps people connect with books – and much more

Kimberley Theodore, Special to the Reporter
Aug. 7, 2014

Elisa Birdseye: Adams Street BPL Branch librarian.Elisa Birdseye: Adams Street BPL Branch librarian.Librarian Elisa Birdseye has worked in Boston Public Library branches for 28 years. She spent 20 years working at the Copley Library then came to the Adams Street Branch of the Boston Public Library.

“I handle mostly adult programs and related events for seniors as well,” said Birdseye.

The 51-year-old grew up near Stone Mountain, Atlanta but has lived in Boston since she was 18.

“I’ve lived here in the Huntington Avenue area then Jamaica Plain then Roslindale and now Hyde Park where I’ve been living for about 15 years,” said Birdseye.

For Birdseye, working at the Copley Library and working at the Adams Street Branch of the Boston Public Library has its differences.

“At the Boston Public Library in Copley, you see a lot of different people every day so it’s harder to build relationships with them. But when you’re working in the branches you get to know your neighborhood and you become important to them,” said Birdseye.

“I go to some community events and kids will come up to me and say, ‘You’re from the library’ and I really like that,” said Birdeye.

Both of Birdseye’s parents were teachers. Her father majored in English and her mother was a science teacher so books played a major role in her life. As Birdseye furthered her education, she attended The New England Conservatory then later went to library school. 

“I always used to work in a library as well as being involved with music so I’ve got a pretty diverse background in that sense,” said Birdseye.

At the age of nine, Birdseye had a strong interest in playing the French horn but her school only offered string instruments. 

“I was convinced by the teacher to play the viola and thought, ‘Well I’ll just pick this up then switch to French horn.’ She must have done the right thing because it suits me. [The viola’s] the right instrument for me,” said Birdseye. She has been playing for 42 years now.

Fresh out of school at The New England Conservatory, Birdseye found a job that led her to working in Copley at the Boston Public Library with sound archives.

“I thought after I graduated from school I was going to go back and work full time but I needed a summer job and the Boston Public Library had shelving jobs available. But they looked at my resume and noticed that I knew how to handle sound recordings so they put me in sound archives, which I loved,” said Birdseye. “I then realized that it was a pretty good way of making a living so I stayed and went for my masters in Library Science.”

Birdseye enjoys what she does as a librarian. She finds comfort in getting to work with the people who come into the library. 

“There have been a couple of success stories with people I’ve helped with job searches, people who after a long hard struggle have come back and said, ‘I just want to thank you for helping me find a job.’ And you don’t always know how big of an impact things like that can be but it makes weeks of not so great experiences melt away,” said Birdseye.

One of the events Birdseye has looked forward to while working at the Adams Street Library is The Big Read, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts, designed to bring reading back into the center of the lives of people. The Adams Street branch has been the coordinating site for two years.

“This is an adult related program and it gets the whole community interested in reading one particular book,” said Birdeye. “The book we’re doing this year has to do with immigration from Ethiopia so it’ll be interesting.” 

Birdseye also looks forward to hopefully having lemonade reading hours. “One thing that Branch Manager Kate Brown came up with is the idea of using our reading garden to do lemonade reading hours,” said Birdseye. 

“Everyone’s lives are just so busy, so we thought if we’d set aside a time for them to relax and enjoy their books, they might really like that,” said Birdseye.

At this point in her career Birdseye wants to continue play music professionally with the New Bedford Symphony and freelance in town whenever possible. 

As a librarian, Birdseye would like to continue working with the community.

“If I could continue to reach out to people, get them what they need and help them figure out how to use the library services we have to offer, I think that would be awesome,” said Birdseye.

“There’s a lot of really awesome resources here at The Adams Street Library that people don’t always know they can get to and we’re trying to get  more outreach so that people will be able to take advantage of those resources,” said Birdseye.

“I’m very lucky to have a job that I love and to be surrounded by people that I like working with and I don’t want to change that,” said Birdseye.