Jenny Walsh: Purveyor of Unlikely Treasures

Jenny Walsh

It’s kind of a coincidence that I was asked to tell my story at this particular moment in time, because as a newly minted empty-nester, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about things–the past, the future, roles, dreams, goals, legacy (basically, the whole enchilada). That said, I’ll spare you the tortuous-introspection parts and keep it to a few (hopefully interesting) tidbits about my life.

I was born in Washington, D.C. and grew up, the second of three sisters, in an old house just across the District line in Maryland. My parents were collectors of many things — antiques and books, primarily — and enthusiasts of many more. My father, a sometime potter and consummate DIY-er, worked for the Smithsonian Institution at the Freer Gallery of Art, which housed the Asian collections. My mother was an ardent reader of mysteries whose anglophile tendencies meant that there were always books by the likes of Dorothy Sayers, Josephine Tey and Georgette Heyer lying about. A favorite piece of family lore recounts the time that Dad chauffeured Agatha Christie and her archaeologist husband from the airport to the Freer for a private tour of the museum’s Persian antiquities. Mom treasured the personally inscribed copy of Curtain she received on that day.

We were lucky to have family friends who lived on a farm in south central Pennsylvania, and some of the best days of my childhood were spent trekking through the fields among the cows and horses and conducting amateur archaeological digs among the ruins of an old stone house on the property.

I studied English literature at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania (not far from my beloved farm) and fell in with a bunch of history majors whose favorite pastime was walking the battlefields at all hours of the day and night in search of respite, relaxation, and, occasionally, good-natured mischief. I highly recommend living adjacent to a national park, if you can manage it.

After graduation, I worked for a legal services firm in D.C. for a few years before pulling up stakes and moving to New York to join friends from college. I was a copy and features editor for a weekly trade publication for a while, then got married and decided to completely change things up by simultaneously enrolling in library school and taking a role at my husband Kendall’s start-up software company.

Just about ten years, one recession, and four kids later, we found ourselves pursuing a new job opportunity for Kendall in greater Cincinnati. We built a home in Walton, and I focused mainly on getting the children fed and where they needed to be for the next few years.I started working at BCPL in 2011, when our youngest entered middle school. I was a page at the Main Library for five weeks before moving to the book sale room (now the Book Cellar), where I’ve been ever since and never intend to leave. In June of this year, coinciding nicely with my youngest’s graduation from high school, I became a full-time employee when interlibrary loan duties were added to my job description. Thus, I have two official titles: Circulation Assistant – Book Sale Room and Collection Development/ILL Assistant.

What I love most about my job is filling the often very specific needs of patrons and customers while at the same time extending and expanding the life and purpose of the library’s collection. I call myself the Purveyor of Unlikely Treasures.  Another plus is getting to live out the fantasy of running a little used book store in a friendly, helpful, generous, tight-knit community–which is basically what I consider Boone County Public Library to be.

With all four kids out of the house, I talk to our long-suffering cat, Charlie, way too much, but I’ve also started gearing up to act on some of the armchair plans and dreams of the past couple decades: gardening more, traveling more, reading more, restoring an Irish cottage…

Just about anyone who knows me is aware of two obvious passions: Music (especially Bruce Springsteen) and Ireland. I have been to almost 50 Bruce shows in the past 40 years and visited Ireland twice; I fully expect that both of those numbers will go up in the not-too-distant future.

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