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Member Profile: Clara Williams – Organizing Brown Bags for 20 Years


by Ernie Evangelista, SLA Georgia 2014 President-Elect

Clara Williams

Clara Williams

SLA has been one constant in Dr. Clara Williams’s career. Besides the Georgia Chapter, Clara is or has been active in SLA’s Education, Leadership and Management and Science-Technology Divisions. Twenty years ago, she led the chapter’s marketing committee with former member Karalyn Cavanaugh. Together, they visited local high schools on Career Days to introduce the library profession and they launched the Brown Bag series in which members would bring lunch to a host library to learn about its collections and services, while also enjoying a tour of the facilities.

With so many of today’s information centers offering virtual and online resources and services, there has been a shift away from libraries as a place. In keeping up with this change and based on focus group feedback received last fall from chapter members, Clara and the SLA Georgia Board revised the format of this program series – participants will still bring their lunch and gather together. However, now it is less about a tour of a physical space and more about discussing topics of professional interest, relevance to our chapter, and member development. Clara was instrumental in moving us to this new Lunch and Learn format.

 Librarianship is and has been a lifelong career for Clara. While attending Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University), she worked as a student assistant at Trevor Arnett Library. She complemented her English major with a minor in library science. She headed north to her father’s business school alma mater, the University of Michigan, and was awarded a scholarship and stipend to pursue her graduate degree in library science. (Her father, William T. Robie, was one of the first African-Americans to graduate from the U of M Ross Business School). She returned to Atlanta and briefly worked as an administrative assistant at Trust Company Bank (now SunTrust) before joining the library at Clark College. Her career progressed as she worked in various positions (e.g. bibliographic instruction, inter-library lending, online searching and management, to name a few) at these institutions: Georgia Tech, Mercer University, Clark College, DeVry University and Argosy University.

 Besides starting a family, she completed her doctorate at Argosy in higher education, with a concentration in instructional leadership in 2012.  She and husband Clarence (They’ve been married for 37 years!) are very proud parents of Bryan, Julie, and Jennifer, all very accomplished in their respective fields of film media, osteopathic medicine, and urban and regional planning in South Africa, respectively.

 Clara’s energy is not only reflected in balancing her family and work lives, but also in her other passions – her church (West Hunter Street Baptist) and the Girl Scouts. In fact, she started a troop at the church and they (all sixteen) are affectionately known as “her girls.” In the way that she mentored her scouts, Clara fondly recalled the guidance she received from Dr. Frances Hogan, Barbara Walker, Mary Evelyn Gibert, Tattie Roan, and Frances Kaiser early in her career as well as support from her mother, Odelle Robie. These role models, supplemented by Clara’s SLA membership, were major influences in her professional life. She valued the friendships made through SLA, many as a result of networking at the annual SLA and IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations) conferences.

 With her busy schedule and work in the Perimeter area, Clara is not able to attend as many chapter events as she’d like. But, she continues to diligently plan our Lunch and Learn programs. So, if you hear from her about possibly hosting a program, consider accepting and be sure to thank her for her years of service to SLA Georgia. She’s a chapter treasure and we are so glad to count her in our ranks.

 Clara has lined up an interesting list of Lunch and Learns to begin 2014, so be sure to check out our next blog post!

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