JSU Grad Pursues Career as a Librarian
in South Australia
By Jennifer Bacchus
News Staff Writer
Reprinted here in its entirety.
Former Resident Works in Australia
|Melissa O’Kelley recently visited her former
co-workers at the Jacksonville Public Library. Melissa couldn’t help but check
out some of the new books. Photo: Anita Kilgore
Being a librarian wasn’t always what Melissa O’Kelley wanted to do, but she has
built the foundation of a budding career out of a series of small choices.
“When I was at Kitty Stone I started out as a library aid or library helper,
just shelving books and it just seemed like something I fell into,” she said.
Her experience there led to a year as a library aid at Jacksonville High
School, then as a student worker in the library at Jacksonville State
While earning a double major at JSU in English and history, she was
recommended to Jacksonville Public Library Director Barbara Rowell to fill a
That’s where she really fell in love with libraries.
Since the Jacksonville library is small, all of its employees learn every
job, so Melissa was able to work in every area from the circulation desk, her
favorite since she was able to work with the public, to the history room where
she alone was in charge of seeing the artifacts were properly cared for and to
help patrons find what they needed.
“I started off doing simple processing of books just to get them ready to go
on the shelves,” she said. “I got to do a lot of things and it really helped me
for my library career.”
While a student at JSU she also took another step toward her future – she met
Melissa met Vic DiPasquale, a native Italian living in Australia, on a pen
pal website. Patrons of the site are given profiles of prospective pen pals and
choose the one they feel most compatible with. Vic chose Melissa.
“They have little bios about who you are going to write to and I wrote to
Melissa and she wrote back,” said Vic.
She graduated JSU in May of 2003 and went on to the University of Alabama.
Rowell urged her to pursue a Master’s degree in library studies and she did,
graduating in May 2005.
While at Alabama, Melissa’s relationship with Vic deepened. They had their
first face-to-face meeting in March of 2004 in Hawaii. They traded visits back
and forth whenever possible from then on.
When she received her Master’s, he was in the audience. They then began the
months-long process of getting a visa for her to move to Australia where they
were married in June 2006.
Now residing in Adelaide in South Australia, she works for the State Library
of South Australia, a very different type of library from those in Jacksonville.
“Their main goal there is to preserve anything that has to do with South
Australia,” said Melissa. “It’s a research institute, so you can’t borrow any
materials from the library.”
She works in the reading room there where she watches patrons to make sure
they don’t misuse the material as well as research services where she finds
information for customers.
“There are a lot of family history questions that come through,” she said,
adding the library has extensive genealogy resources.
Melissa hasn’t had any difficulties adjusting to life down under. Her only
trouble so far is learning to drive, but even that isn’t an issue, since she and
Vic, who works as a postman, live so close to the bus stop.
“I won’t say that I love taking the bus every day, but it’s very convenient
for me,” said Melissa.
She and Vic are also only fifteen minutes from the beach and enjoy going for
walks with their dog, Bama, and they are avid fans of the local Australian
football team, the Adelaide Crows.
“I played basketball and softball in high school, so I’m a big sports
fanatic,” said Melissa. “They have Australian-rules football which is really
fast-paced and action-packed.”
She still stays in touch with friends and family through e-mail and instant
messaging and the occasional phone calls and was in town recently to visit
before moving on to Tuscaloosa and to see her mother in South Carolina.
About Jennifer Bachus
Jennifer Bacchus is a staff writer at The Jacksonville
News. She can be reached at 256-435-5021 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
See story at The Jacksonville News's website: www.jaxnews.com
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