Laura is an Information Specialist with the Elisabeth C. Miller Library. She works half-time, dividing her time between reference services, working on Leaflet newsletters, taking care of the library’s offerings for children and teachers (including monthly story programs), as well as choosing new curriculum and children’s books.
Laura is from Coeur d’Alene, ID. Her parents (retired from public library work with children, and teaching high school Latin and English) grew up in Seattle. Laura came here in 1992 to study Arabic at UW.
In her free time she enjoys hiking, swimming, photography, and beach rambles all around Puget Sound and the Olympic Peninsula. Reading, graphic design, cooking, and gardening keep her busy at home. Her family garden is just big enough to grow plums, blackberries, grapes, and herbs, along with a few favorite shrubs and perennials.
Although Laura’s major field of study was Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, her favorite class was Plant Identification – a series of two courses taught at the Washington Park Arboretum; in those days by Professors Clement Hamilton and Matsuo Tsukada. Laura states the chance to explore the green world and learn plant recognition characteristics from these experts was well worth the rushed commute from the main campus across the Montlake Bridge to the Arboretum.
Laura comes from a family that values libraries and learning, as well as gardening. While she was a UW student, she worked at Suzzallo Library. After her Plant Identification and Plant Propagation courses, she volunteered with the Arboretum, Plant Propagation Unit, helping to keep starts watered during the summer of 1995. When summer was over, her supervisor, Barbara Selemon, suggested she look into volunteering with the library, since they needed year-round help. Brian Thompson, Martha Ferguson, and the rest of the library staff were amazing teachers and mentors for her, right from the start. Over the years, volunteering turned into part-time and then half-time employment as her skills and responsibilities grew.
Because Laura’s duties are so varied, no day is typical, and she loves that! She said that on a given workday she is likely to answer a few telephone and email reference questions, assist several researchers in finding materials on their topic, lead students on a tour, and/or set up a display of books. She helps process donated books, edits newsletter articles, and answers questions about the collections and exhibits. She especially enjoys the families and school groups who visit the library to hear stories and do craft projects, and loves selecting a few new items to add to the Children’s and Parent/Teacher Resource collections each month. Her absolute favorite task, though, is “working one-on-one with readers of all ages to find the information they are seeking, especially when they don’t know exactly what they’re looking for.”
Laura’s favorite place at UW Botanic Gardens is the Pinetum in the Arboretum, which has a special place in her heart. She has happy memories of rushing across the footbridge to get to her Plant ID section only a little late. Now that she is not in such a rush, Laura treasures meditative time spent in the grove of Sequoiadendron giganteum and Sequoia sempervirens.
Laura thinks her favorite plant may be Arbutus menziesii. “It’s hard to choose; there are so many plants I love, and our native plants seem to me to be a community that is more than the sum of its parts.” She said she loves the colors of madrona, with its peeling bark and dramatic silouette; it reminds her of her grandmother’s garden. “Grandma grew up in Bellingham. She had a keen eye for design along with a love for Northwest native plants, and she and Grandpa kept a stand of madronas near the house where my mother grew up, in Burien. As a small child I remember playing with the strips of bark and the tough leaves, and being fascinated by the interesting red seeds peeking out of their brown cases.”