Assistant Professor, Instructional and Reference LibrarianMaybe Thomas Wolff was wrong. Maybe you can go home again. But even if so, Amy Stewart-Mailhiot will attest that the pathway back may not be either direct or easy.
A fifth-generation Oregon native, Amy was working at Vanderbilt University in Nashville when she realized she wanted to return to the Northwest. She recalls the excitement of then seeing a librarian position at PLU that was a good match for her, and how she began writing her application cover letter even while in the Detroit airport enroute home following a conference. The timing turned out to be great for all parties -- Amy, her husband Ross, her family . . . and of course PLU.
Now Amy is one of our instruction and reference librarians, and instruction program coordinator. But she came to this point in her career only after several college stops and work in a variety of library types.
The road to there and back again began as a student at Western Oregon University. Having grown up in a small town near Salem with early stops in Burns, Oregon and Winchester, England -- “It was pretty much a Brady Bunch experience,” she remarks -- WOU wasn’t such a good fit. She left after a year, then became a parent at age 22. Amy was deeply affected by the need to be responsible for another life at a relatively young age; it took a couple more years, but eventually Amy returned to school with expectation of becoming a nurse. That path, too, included an unexpected turn. When nursing turned out not to be where she wanted to go after all, she came to realize that her work as a student in the college’s library provided a vision for a more satisfying career -- one in which she could still draw on the empathy and compassion that earlier drew her to nursing.
After graduating from WOU, she and her daughter, Morgan, headed to Seattle for a degree in information science from the University of Washington in 1999. The family grew to include Ross later that year and they had their first child together a couple months before Amy graduated. From there it was on to Ross’s native Nashville where Amy became a government documents librarian for Nashville Public Library, knowing she wanted in time to move into academic librarianship -- an aspiration that was realized a couple years later when she joined the Vanderbilt University corps of librarians.
One child later -- she now has husband Ross, son Nate (8 years old), and son Will (10) at home, with daughter Morgan (21) in Tennessee -- Amy has now returned to her native Northwest. Amy would be the first to acknowledge it has been a meandering path with more than a couple surprise turns, but it has been as enriching as it has been challenging. She feels her PLU experience is making her a better librarian and she is thriving on the sense of community that she has found here. And, we might add, PLU is all the better for it.