Staffing the reference desk has had its ups and downs over the last 25 years, but for Brenda Jacques it has been more than interesting. It’s been a love.
“It’s been wonderful,” Jacques said. “People come in and want to know where something is, how to do something and I get to help them. Reference is really fun. My husband says I get to play Trivial Pursuit every day.”
Jacques is calling an end to all of the research fun and retiring to chase other dreams.
“I have plans to travel to Machu Picchu and fly over the Nazca Lines,” she explained. “I want to fly over those; it’s someplace I’ve always wanted to go.”
Jacques, who grew up in Brookings, took over the children’s section of the library as a substitute when the children’s librarian departed suddenly. She then applied for and got the job three months later when it opened up.
According to Jacques, after a number of years the reference librarian position opened and she took that job and has been there ever since.
“She’s been the librarian as long as I can remember,” Brookings native Doris Marks White said of Jacques. “She was always there and very friendly. I frequented the library a lot and she was a very good librarian.”
Working as a reference librarian in this town was always a little different, Jacques said. People were bringing in star fish they found or wanting to know something about a plant or animal they saw at the beach.
“My favorite was one guy who described a duck — a dead duck — he found on the beach and we were able to identify it,” she said. “A few hours later he came in with a baggy with the head and feet in it to make sure I had identified it correctly. I had.”
Library Director Susana Fernandez said that Jacques’ knowledge of the local area has been a huge boon to the library and its patrons.
“It’s been great to have her because she knows so much about the local community and grew up here,” Fernandez said. “She has been great. She’s been a great person to work with and has been a big help to me. We’re going to miss her.”
Jacques’ co-worker and children’s librarian Dori Blodgett agreed.
“She is very resourceful and amazing with the kids,” Blodgett said. “Anytime a youth comes in with a research project from the school, she’d know exactly where to go to help them.”
“She could handle any question that came her way,” she added.
Jacques explained that she always went to the books first and then if needed she would go to the Internet, but she always made sure to visit trusted sites that would provide accurate information.
She also said that when the Internet became really popular there was a big drop in the number of patrons coming in to research things, but now there has been a resurgence of people coming in and looking for books on how to raise chickens and car repair and other hands-on type projects.
All of the research she has done over the years has paid off for Jacques, except when it comes to fun and games with the family.
“When the family plays Trivial Pursuit,” sister-in-law Debbie Dressen explained, “Brenda has to answer two questions to everyone else’s one because she is so up on everything.”
That requirement didn’t seem to bother Jacques and she just keeps on looking up information.
“The library has always been a super interesting place to work,” Jacques said. “There was always something new to learn.”