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Susan Dicey ’78

This is part 1 in our weekly summer blog series in which we will be highlighting some of the amazing Furman University alumni who have pursued careers in library and information science professions.

This week we are highlighting Susan Dicey; she is a local librarian dedicated to serving the students in the Greenville County Schools. Dicey graduated from Furman in 1978 with a bachelor’s degree in English. In 1987 she graduated from the University of South Carolina with her master’s in library and information science. Since then she has worked as a media specialist for a variety of local schools at all levels in the k-12 system.

Tell us a little bit about how you chose to work as a library and information professional?

As an English major, I love literature of all varieties. I worked in retail for several years before I began my graduate degree. Bookstore jobs do not pay well nor do they have family-friendly hours.  I volunteered at my church with the youth groups and enjoyed that work.  When the option for a distance learning degree in library science opened up, I applied for the program. The MLIS let me mingle my love of literature and the excitement of working with teenagers.

What has been your professional path to your current position?

I managed bookstores after I graduated from Furman. An employee of mine was in the program at USC which was beginning its distance learning a M.L.I.S. degree, I obtained my degree and teacher certification at the same time. I began working for Greenville County Schools and have worked for that county my entire career, I have transferred schools throughout my career and have been a school librarian at all grade levels.  I live near Hillcrest Middle School and transferred to that school when the previous person retired.

What is the most interesting library in which you’ve worked?

I worked at the smallest elementary school in the county for 5 years, Fork Shoals Elementary. The school was in a rural area and had many students who lived on farms. One student brought his pet pig to school for show and tell the day it was being sent to auction. We housed 180 students with only first grade having two classes. All other grades only had one teacher per grade. Many of the students were related and ended up being in the same class as their cousins or neighbors. When I got the job at Fork Shoals, I was the newest teacher in 9 years. Teachers did not leave the school until they retired. They knew all of the students, plus had taught many of the children’s’ parents. Fork Shoals was a true family school.   A volunteer firefighter torched the school the first year I worked there. The middle third, the previous high school auditorium, burnt down. Windows were scorched on the other buildings. We were out of school for two days then resumed classes.   Fork Shoals was my first experience in an elementary school. I had to teach myself about elementary students as I had no experience with them. My students made crafts to go along with the lessons, baked cakes when we learned how to follow directions and experienced books through actions. A great place to learn my trade.

What is something you have been surprised by during your career?

I am constantly surprised how I am never bored at my job.  After 33 years in one career, I think I would be coasting at this point. However, changing grade levels and schools has meant I learn new skills and work with new staff and students. I am naturally shy but at ease in my own venue. Literature continues to change with different genres emerging all of the time. And, of course, technology changes. I would never have become so proficient at hardware and software if I were in a different job.

Is there a particularly fond memory from your time at Furman that you would be willing to share?

I went on a study abroad program to England in the fall of my junior year. That experience instilled a confidence in me that has never left. I am able to travel and be comfortable at new experiences. Dr. Pate required us to attend operas ballets and plays that I would not have attended on my own initiative. I learned to appreciate more varieties of art that fall.

Be sure to check back next week for part two in this 20-week series!