Snapshot: Rex Krajewski
Interview by Sasha Nyary
It’s fall, so adjunct Rex Krajewski ’00LS has his hands full heading up information services at Simmons’ Beatley Library and teaching LIS 407 (Reference/Information Services) to GSLIS students. And it’s fall, so Rex Krajewski has his hands full harvesting food from his garden at his home in Lynn and putting it up for the winter. Involved in information science and agriculture for much of his life, Krajewski grew up in what was then quite rural Wrentham. He studied English at Saint Michael’s College outside of Burlington, VT, where he worked in the library. He has taught a couple of different references courses at GSLIS and a variety of topics at GSLIS Continuing Education, including digital reference, online tutorial development, and collection development.
Q: What did you study in library school?
A: I was one those people who thought I wanted to be an archivist. I changed my mind fairly quickly. I certainly took reference classes but I was also interested in cataloging and technical services. I still am. I joke that I’m a cataloger trapped inside a reference librarian’s body. When I got my job here at Simmons, at the same time I was offered a job as a cataloger, so my first job as a professional I had to make a decision
which direction I was going to go in.
It’s funny how much they inform each other. The work that we do in reference intersects closely with that kind of metadata, knowledge, and it has always been true that the better you know how information is put together, the easier time you’ll have taking it out and finding it. And vice versa. If you understand how people are accessing information, it will inform how you put it together and organize it. It’s a continuity. That’s why we’re all in the same field. Especially now that so many people are creating and organizing their own information. It’s important to understand that these things are not that far apart.
Being a generalist seems to have worked for you.
I think it’s great if you know exactly what you want to do and you can specialize while still in the program, but I don’t think it’s a deal-breaker if you don’t. There is much you can do, even beyond librarianship. It’s a great thing to be open to what that might bring. I have seen people do exciting things with this degree, and often it’s not what they expected.
What exactly do you do at the Simmons library?
Until recently I was the reference services librarian, the head of reference. At this point I manage reference and instruction, and that unit includes collection development. Also, the access services area reports to me, so that’s circulation, reserves, interlibrary loan. And interestingly, right now archives and records management actually report to me as well. The library is going through a staff reorganization and this is how it landed, at least for now. It’s exciting. I’m also intersecting closely with technical services, because the selection and de-selection of materials in a collection development way leans heavily on the work of technical services. That’s where I thought I might end up, and in a way I have.
It's great if you know exactly what you want to do . . . but it's not a deal-breaker if you don't. I've seen people do exciting things with this degree, and often it's not what they expected.
How does GSLIS affect the library?
GSLIS students are big users. We see them as traditional library users and as GSLIS students. So that impacts our collection. For example, if we were not supporting students of library science, we might not have specific things in our reference collection. But we do, because we want the students to experience a more contentdiverse collection.
It also impacts how we give service. If a student in a reference class asks a question, we’re going to deal with that a little differently. It’s going to become a teachable moment. We’re going to carry them through how we are thinking about that, how we might go about it. We’re going to guide them to figuring out how to find the answer. It allows us to stay sharp as practitioners. We also have a number of GSLIS students who work for the reference desk. They bring a lot of ideas and enthusiasm and cutting-edge thinking. They’re questioning and challenging us at every turn. I just love that! There are days when it’s like, “Just because, trust me!” But most of the time it makes you think about everything you do. It keeps you aware of the literature and makes us a better library for all of our users.
Did you always know you’d go into library science?
More and more students entering the program tell me they knew they wanted to be a librarian since they were eight, and I’m not that person at all. I don’t think in a million years I would have imagined this is what my career would be. I was an English major as an undergraduate, and I worked for the reference department in the library as a workstudy job. By the time I left that position they were actually having me be the dinnertime reference librarian, which is a little unusual. But I didn’t think much about it as a career choice. A few years after college I became interested in preservation, especially film preservation. I had a film studies concentration as an English major. Once here I quickly realized that was not what I wanted at all.
And outside of the library world?
I am an avid gardener. I am interested in farming, agriculture, and food in general. So most of my free time is growing and cultivating. I’m excited about the notion of how much I can do on my own, in my city plot, the whole idea of urban self-sustaining agriculture. I tap the maple tree in my backyard — haven’t gotten more than a drop, but I’m working on it! I have a hoop house so I can do season extension. I start my own seeds. I’m interested in heirloom seeds.
That’s my passion; that’s what drives me. Librarianship is my profession but agriculture and farming are my vocation. I’m sitting in a city but I’m doing what I can. There’s a lot of activism around that, people doing urban agriculture. It’s something I’ve always been interested in, and being able to connect with a whole network and community of people doing that nationwide is exciting. I’m learning from what other folks are doing.
What’s your favorite thing to grow?
I try to do something new and exciting to me every year. This year I wanted to try sweet potatoes. I try to source my seeds from farmers, or seed exchanges, as opposed to big conglomerations. But this particular farm I was trying to get them from, it was a cold spring, so the farmer didn’t produce enough to distribute. Although, I had some cardoons I’d planted a year ago that had overwintered. They shot up their flowers because they’re biannual. They’re just gorgeous. The cardoon flowers are beautiful. They looked like artichokes for three weeks and then they bloomed, this gorgeous blue color, and of course the bees and the butterflies loved them. That was a happy accident.
I grow hops and this weekend I’ll be harvesting them. I have a couple of friends who are good brewers, and I was thinking, maybe I want to brew! Then I thought, I’m going to grow the hops and they can use my hops to brew the beer.
And you can get the beer.
Exactly, you got it!
I can’t explain it, but growing hops is such a blast! It’s kind of like squash, where there are days in the summer where vines will grow several feet in a day. The problem is, I’m growing more all the time, and there’s only so many hops you can use. They’re sort of shaped like little pine cones, except they are a chartreuse green color, and they’re papery when they’re dried, not hard. The vines are long. The leaves look like squash vines but they’re harder, more leathery.
What is your plot like?
My whole plot is smaller than a quarter of an acre, but it’s big for a city plot. Because the house was built in the 1850s it has a fieldstone foundation, so it’s custom-made for a root cellar. My wife and I can tomatoes and pickles. We have a food dehydrator, so we dry things. I’m pulling carrots and leeks out year ’round, kale, and lettuces and greens in raised beds in the hoop house. There’s about a month where I’m not getting things out of the ground. We put up a lot of food. We call it money in the bank.
I like that this is more than just library science!
That’s the thing. Rarely in our profession are people all about that. Many people are passionate about librarianship, but most people are doing something else. Not to say they aren’t passionate about it, but it isn’t all they do. That’s one of the cool things, how people are doing a lot of other things, really cool things.