Librarian keeps busy with dream job, baby

By DALE SHORT, Daily Mountain Eagle
Posted 12/3/17

Facebook posts from librarians tend to be more informative than the average.

“In other news,” Alaina Mickis Browning writes this week from her home in Anniston, “I caught a lizard. It is currently residing on a leash in my mint plant.” And she adds, “Tomorrow I’ll relocate it to the library where it can be roommates with our turtles, Tudley and Pumpkin.”

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Librarian keeps busy with dream job, baby

Posted

Editor’s note: This is the first installment of “Letters Home,” a series on Walker County natives who have settled in other parts of the country. The series will continue each Sunday in December.

Facebook posts from librarians tend to be more informative than the average.

“In other news,” Alaina Mickis Browning writes this week from her home in Anniston, “I caught a lizard. It is currently residing on a leash in my mint plant.” And she adds, “Tomorrow I’ll relocate it to the library where it can be roommates with our turtles, Tudley and Pumpkin.”

If you were a patron of Carl Elliott Regional Library 10 years or so ago, you probably knew Browning, even if not by name. Working part-time in the Summer Reading Program, she was a serious-looking teenager always ready to help (despite “being such an introvert back then,” she says) and she had initiative too. When Walker High ended its creative writing classes, Browning and others were “so bummed out” that she organized their own meeting, in the reference room of the library, “and the library supported us and backed us. First we grew to 10, and then 20.”

Browning went on to attend Bevill State, but the week before graduation her father passed away. “I looked at Tuscaloosa as a change of scene,” she recalls, “but I found myself grieving the loss mixed with nearly unbearable homesickness that first year. As much as it had hurt to be surrounded by reminders of my dad, his absence in a place he’d never been hurt worse.”

But she persevered at the University (during which she met her now husband Dalton Browning, a resident of Oakman) and graduated with a Master’s in Library Science. Walker County still called to her, though, and they married at Town Creek Bridge behind Maddox, which is where her grandfather proposed to her grandmother.

Browning had a secret fear career-wise, however: “I’d loved working part-time in the library. The quiet, the occasional chaos that came with busy programs, and the surprising and unpredictable patrons who came in for the services. But as much as I loved it, I was sure that once I was full-time the magic would be gone and library life would become a grind.”

But her fears proved baseless. “I still loved it, and I knew I had found my calling.” Barely a month after graduation she got a job offer from the public library at Anniston-Calhoun County, and two weeks later the couple were packing up and moving across the state where she became Head of Youth Services and Children’s Librarian.

But becoming a department head brought reservations of its own. “I thought I’d never wanted to manage, that I’d be miserable. But when I moved to Anniston I found I loved that aspect too. I still perform storytime and love the programs, but I also get to create and enforce policies for the children and caregivers. I also get to get to have a hand in the occasional adult program, such as ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show.’”

The task of managing the library is a sizeable one. It serves all of Calhoun County, with a population of almost 116,000, and operates a Carver Branch across town. “We have a pretty diverse community,” Browning says, with a range of incomes and backgrounds.”

More recently, she’s embarked on a new non-library adventure, parenthood: a seven-month old girl named Athena. Raising an infant has been everything she thought it would be and more.

“It’s been nerve-wracking and chaotic and all the cliches they warn you about,” she says, “but the thing that surprised me is that babies set their own pace. She’s more active than I realized a pre-walking baby could be. She climbs all over us and pulls up on furniture to stand for a few wobbly seconds before moving on to her next task.” 

Browning still makes time to write when she can —”often with a baby snuggled into a wrap on my chest,” she says. “But I find myself telling stories for Athena instead of a someday audience. Our family is a bit nontraditional in that my husband is the stay-at-home parent and I work full-time as the breadwinner. But my daughter is happy and intelligent, our family is close, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

And the aforementioned lizard? “The lizard, now released,” she writes, “narrowly escaped becoming turtle dinner.” Its name is Lucky.

Dale Short’s email address is dale.short@gmail.com.