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24 July 2007
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 University.

While earning a double major at JSU in English and history, she was recommended to Jacksonville Public Library Director Barbara Rowell to fill a vacancy.

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 her husband.

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

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