A song book: Librarian sings on the side

November 15, 2010 

Reference librarian Amanda Brewer sets up a Wii game for schoolchildren Friday at the Beaufort branch of the Beaufort County Library.

BOB SOFALY | THE BEAUFORT GAZETT

Like a musician loves her fans, Amanda Brewer, Beaufort's own rock 'n ' roll reference librarian," adores the patrons of the Beaufort Branch of the Beaufort County Library. And although she may not be the musical superstar she once dreamed of being, she plays her music and finds satisfaction working in the world of words.

Brewer spent her early years in Raleigh, N.C., but when she was in the middle of sixth grade, her parents moved to rural Lee County.

"I went from the big city to literally living in a house surrounded by corn and cotton fields," Brewer said, but she adjusted, cropping and curing tobacco on her grandfather's farm in the summers and helping him peddle boiled peanuts.

Growing up, Brewer dreamed of fame and fortune as "an ultra-famous, super-glamorous" -- and incredibly rich -- country music singer.

"I've always wanted to tour the country ... waving ecstatically to adoring fans, sign autographs and record hit songs," she said.

But for a day job, Brewer felt less decisive, drawn to careers in teaching, psychology or ministry. She earned a BA in religion and speech communication from Charleston Southern University, where she valedictorian.

Working as a music teacher after graduation, she wanted to attend graduate school and realized that she read storybooks to her students and engaged them through entertainment. High school students asked her for help with term papers; other teachers sought her help with technology.

"I asked myself, what kind of job allows you to help people with a wide range of questions AND lets you tell stories and sing songs?" Brewer said. "Next thing you know, I'm a librarian."

HELPING PEOPLE

In April 2007, Brewer moved to Beaufort after receiving a job offer from the Beaufort library, the first job she applied for after receiving a Masters of Library and Information Science from the University of South Carolina.

As a reference librarian, Brewer explained, she is trained to help people find answers to their questions, from consumer reviews on washing machines to a biography of George Washington to an obituary printed in the Gazette in 1960 and everything in between.

But only half of her day is spent staffing the reference desk.

"You might see me helping a person use the computer," she said. "You may see me repairing or ordering books, purchasing books and DVDs, teaching a class or planning and marketing events for library visitors."

WSAV reporter Holly Bounds is a close friend and regular collaborator with Brewer. "Amanda has helped take my (television) show, 'My Lowcountry 3,' to a whole new level," Bounds said. "Every Monday she Skypes in to discuss our latest read in the My Lowcountry 3 Book Club."

Bounds calls Brewer "an innovator. She takes a job that has connotations of (hair) buns, old books and people saying, 'Shh!' and turns it into one that we all envy. What I treasure most about Amanda is she's always thinking. She truly wants to reach all types of people and is always forming new ways to get them interested."

"Beaufort branch library is a place for community.," Brewer said. "You'll find lots of socializing going on, and our library is always bustling with activity. And you'll be hard-pressed to find a librarian in plaid these days. We don't just shelve the fashion magazines; we glance at them, too."

Among those activities are free events for kids, teens and adults. Brewer plans adult programming and has hosted movie showings, dance lessons, "Lunch and Learn" programs, book clubs, "how-to" workshops, computer classes, "Whodunit?" mystery parties, guitar lessons and even speed dating. That event, attended mostly by retirees, led a couple to start dating, and Brewer said they included the library as "a regular stop along their date. It was so cute."

In spite of that match-making success, the single 28-year-old claims dating isn't her strong suit: "I read about romances more than I take the opportunity to experience one of my own."

But she loves her work, largely because of the "wide variety of people that walk through the doors, from those we see every day to those who are touring the city on vacation. Most people think books are what make a library ... but it's the people who inhabitant it that make it a truly, special place."

LOVE OF PEOPLE

Though she admits she is "not a morning person," Brewer counts on the smiles and greetings of each morning's library regulars to get her going, including a man who always shares a joke with her.

"I adore the ladies in my book club," she continued. "There are college students that we've helped through each semester of their classes. Each time they get an 'A,' we rejoice right along with them. Kids draw pictures to thank us for helping them with their homework.

"When I stop to think about it, there are more precious characters that come into the library than perhaps fill up the books on our shelves."

When she's not at work, Brewer can be found at a coffee shop, hanging out with friends or playing music. On weekends, she and her not-yet-named band play around the county, wherever and whenever they can, covering country, folk, blues and rock.

Asked about future plans, Brewer said she's content to remain a rock 'n' roll librarian, but she's not letting go of that lifelong dream of the glamorous life.

"I'm not sure what the future holds for me," she said. "Unless I miraculously develop a gift for writing songs and a Nashville recording contract comes calling, I'll be a librarian for sure."

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