Career path leads home — eventually
Adult Services Librarian Janet Lynch Forde helps a patron at the Franklin Park Public Library. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 19, 2013 9:38AM
FRANKLIN PARK — Janet Lynch Forde is as local as one could ask for.
She attended St. John Vianney school in Northlake — where she grew up — then Immaculate Heart of Mary High School in Westchester and Rosary College (now Dominican University) in River Forest.
For the last seven years, she’s worked as adult services librarian at the Franklin Park Library.
But between college and her current job, she spent years working in the Caribbean, taught teachers, earned a Ph.D and annoyed Nobel laureates.
Q: When did you graduate from Rosary College?
A: In 1969. In the middle of the Vietnam War. All the guys were going into teaching. It was looking like it was going to be a fairly competitive job market. Then a Peace Corps recruiter came through campus.
Q: So you joined up?
A: I had studied Spanish. But because of the difference in seasons (in South American) I would have had to wait nine months for training. The Peace Corps said they were mounting a program in the Caribbean. I ended up staying in St. Lucia.
Q: Had you ever traveled outside the U.S. before then?
A: Montreal for the World’s Fair.
Q: What was St. Lucia like then?
A: It was a British colony at the time. To the north is Martinique, a mainstay of the French colonies. From the heights of St Lucia, you could watch British or French fleet movements. The harbor is breathtaking. It has rugged geography and a mix of French and English culture. When I went, there were fewer than 4,000 cars. People were known by their license plates.
Q: What did you do?
A: I taught West Indian history and English and geography. In the morning I would teach secondary school students. In the evenings I would teach people who were teachers.
Q: What else did you do?
A: During the summers a Peace Corps volunteer was starting a library at the teacher’s training college. I worked with him. He encouraged me to consider going to library school when I came back to the U.S.
Q: You also met your future husband there?
A: He was an educator and was involved in the Peace Corps training we received in Trinidad.
Q: What did you do when your Peace Corps stint was over?
A: I earned a master’s in library science at Rosary. By the time I was ready to graduate, the volunteer who was putting together the teacher-training library was re-upping for Malaysia. I asked the ministry of education if they be interested in my coming down and (taking over).
Q: What did it look like?
A former military fort, Morne Fortune, which means “hill of good luck.” There had been a major battle there where the British came up the steepest side of the hill.
Q: What did you do?
A: Cataloguing, book ordering, computer help desk. I started with me and an assistant. By the time I retired, we had a staff of 21.
Q: What then?
A: After 10 years, the library moved to another building and added A-levels and agricultural and technical college and nursing school. It later became (part of) Sir Arthur Lewis Community College.
Q: And you were there for another ten years. Did you ever miss the Chicago area?
A: Italian beef sandwiches a great deal (laughs). Even pizza.
Q: You earned a Ph.D. in Library and Information Studies at Florida State University?
A: I went in 1993 and returned to St. Lucia in 1995. Then back to work and I worked on my dissertation as I could.
Q: What was your dissertation on?
A: Reading and library use of Nobel laureates. Two Nobel laureates — Derek Walcott in literature and Sir Arthur Lewis in economics — were from St. Lucia. They grew up as library rats.
Q: You wrote in your LinkedIn profile that you “subjected 241 Nobel laureates to an inexcusably long survey instrument.” How long was it?
A: It was over 200 questions. I sent out 241 and got fewer then 50 responses. Mother Teresa sent me a prayer. No response to the survey but “I’ll pray for you child.” (Laughs)
Q: You returned to the U.S. in 1999. Why?
A: My oldest son had gotten as far as he could get (in school). My middle son was going to the best boy’s school on the island. The last month of classes were cancelled because of a centipede infestation. They were falling from the timbers and on the kids. The local school board brought in a flock of chickens, which ate the centipedes but distributed fleas. Also, the government had changed and it was offering senior civil servants retirement packages to bring up the younger folks.
Q: What next?
A: Then a job with the Erikson Institute, a graduate school for child development. I worked there for ten years.
Q: Then you transitioned to the Franklin Park library over a three-year period?
A: I knew this was the job I wanted to retire to. I don’t have to attend management meetings or deal with budget issues. It’s real relaxing. I get to mentor a lot of the young librarians and make them think about the old ways.