By Leighah Beausoleil
Millie González recalls, as a little girl, roaming the aisles of her neighborhood’s public library.
Soaking in the building’s atmosphere, González relished in the feeling of all the literature available at her fingertips as she made her way through the maze of towering shelves.
Once she made it to the end of the library, González said she would start all over again, guided only by the driving forces of her imagination and curiosity.
“Libraries are a sacred place,” she said. “When I was younger, information was sort of behind a paywall. But for me, I can enter a library and I can access anything on my own.”
González said libraries granted her “the serendipity of discovery. And I loved it. I really did.”
However, now the dean of the Henry Whittemore Library, González admits not all libraries were as welcoming for her as she wished they were.
“I love libraries, but libraries didn’t necessarily love me,” she said.
González described the intimidation she felt in some libraries.
“I didn’t feel like there was any material that sort of spoke to me,” she said. “I felt like I couldn’t
necessarily approach librarians, and when I did, they weren’t warm and fuzzy.”
Acknowledging the value of a library’s atmosphere, González said she has made it her mission to ensure students feel welcome at the Whittemore Library and that she creates an environment that is warm and inclusive.
She said when someone first enters a library, “you can tell – it’s in the air, it’s in the spirit – if it is a welcoming space.
“There was one particular library,” she added. “It wasn’t well resourced. It was a small library, but everywhere you turned, it was like the little things that sent out a message that it is a welcoming space. I’ll never forget that feeling of walking into that library. And that’s kind of the library I want to replicate here.”
González said she earned her bachelor’s in comparative literature from Hamilton College and then went to Simmons College to pursue her master’s in business administration.
“I had all the intention of being this high-power consultant and traveling all over the place, but then I ended up starting a family,” she said.
As a result, González said she wanted a career that would not take too much time away from her family and in this new search, she noticed many jobs she was interested in required a master’s in library science.
“The funny thing was that while I was getting my MBA, I would spend so much time in the library, so much so that the librarian was like, ‘I’ve never met anybody who is more interested in the library than you. You should be a librarian,’” she said.
“I was so surprised that my first reaction was visceral,” she added. “I was like, ‘Why would I want to be a librarian?’”
However, González said she did some research into the career and decided to explore it a bit more, which led to her enrolling in a reference course.
Upon taking that first class, “I was hooked,” she said.
She then completed her M.L.S. at Simmons College.
Originally from New York, González said she’s “Nuyorican.”
“I was born in New York. My parents are from Puerto Rico. And I lived right above the Cloisters – right above Washington Heights, so a very diverse neighborhood,” she said.
González added she and her husband moved to Framingham when he got a job in Massachusetts.
All she knew she wanted when they moved to Massachusetts was a diverse population and a mall, she said.
She added being from the city, it was difficult adjusting to driving everywhere when she was so used to just taking the train, but “Framingham is just such an amazing place. It’s large enough, very diverse, with wonderful families.
“It’s really a great place to raise your kids,” she said. Framingham is where González and her husband raised their two children – Sophia, 25, who works as a clinician, and Ben, 21, who is a sophomore in college.
González reflected on the times she shared with her family in attending Ben’s baseball games, adding they met a lot of their good friends that way.
Prior to working at Framingham State, González said she worked at various libraries, including a pharmaceutical library, Harvard, a consortium (where she traveled to different libraries), and
Framingham Public Library.
But in 2006, González started part time at Framingham State as a reference and electronic resources librarian. She held this position for four years until a full-time position opened up. She has been working at FSU as a full-time employee for 14 years.
González has accumulated a range of job titles throughout those 14 years, but in August 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, she became interim dean of the library.
Upon accepting the position, González said she knew the library had “a really terrific staff,” adding they “felt that it was really important to stay open and have those doors open” during the pandemic.
Along with being open, she said the library already had many of the structures in place in order to pivot to a more online-focused support for students.
“We’re very service oriented,” she added, explaining how they developed the chat feature for students to easily seek help online.
González said recently, the library was able to hire five new librarians – two of whom are brand-new positions.
The first position is a librarian of scholarly communications, whose role it is to help faculty develop open education resources (OERs), according to González.
She said she recently co-wrote a grant that earned the library $500,000 toward supporting OERs.
The second is the student engagement coordinator, whose role is to develop activities and aspects of the library that are student focused.
Another grant González obtained for the library was for the “Big Read,” for which Native American Poet Joy Harjo presented her work. González developed other activities for the community to participate in during Native American Heritage Month.
She said the library has been planning for National Library Week April 4 to 8, during which they will host a number of events, including Reiki in the Rams Renew Room, a cake decorating contest, and student workers’ appreciation day.
González said it’s getting to the difficult part of the semester and “I think it’s wonderful for us to lift up the community.”
González highlighted the library’s new Rams Renew Room that is aimed at promoting wellness for students on campus. The room is packed full of activities for those seeking a way to de-stress.
She said the library is also working on getting more “poofs” for students to put their feet up on so they do not have to use the tables as well as adding menstrual hygiene products to the bathrooms.
She said as interim dean, she was limited in how much strategic planning she can do, but now that she has named library dean, she is able to start thinking more broadly about the library’s future.
González was announced dean of the library in a March 29 community-wide email from the Dean of Students Office.
Librarians shared their excitement for what is to come now that González is officially in the position.
Suzanne Meunier, head of technology services, said, “I think it’s nice that we finally have a decision and a sense of permanence here and it’s great.
Meunier added, “I think we need some continuity because everything has been in upheaval for the last couple years with COVID, and I trust she will do a good job.”
Kathleen Barnard, student engagement coordinator, said, “I’m very happy for her. I think that she will do very well in this position. She’s really very enthusiastic about the library and has a deep love for the library. And I think that really comes through with everything she does.”
Kate Burt, the library dean administrative assistant, said, “I think it’s very good. She had a lot of great ideas and programs that she wanted to work on, so it’s nice to know that they can continue.
Burt added with González as library dean, “All these ideas will come to fruition.”
González is constantly looking at ways to improve the library experience for students.
She said she is “always looking through the eyes of the people that enter the library, and then making sure that they have a good time.”
Just as she did as a little girl, González still walks throughout the library on a regular basis, and as she soaks in the atmosphere, she is asking herself, “Is there that buzz?
“I’m always excited about pushing the limits or the stereotypes away and really customizing the services and the space that we provide to the community that we serve,” she said.