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Photo of Raymond Neal Raymond Neal ’94 

This is part 16 in our weekly summer blog series in which we highlight some of the amazing Furman alumni who have gone on to work in library and information professions. Click here to view all posts in this series. This week we are pleased to introduce you to Raymond Neal ’94.

Neal graduated from Furman University in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in art. Then in 2000, he completed his master’s in library and information science from the University of South Carolina. After spending several years in both the public and academic library worlds, Neal is currently the continuing education coordinator for the Northeast Florida Library Information Network.

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

“After years of working in bookstores and as a researcher, I realized I was basically doing the work of a librarian. I had worked in the local library in high school and at Furman (cataloging and serials departments) so I knew something of the library world.”

What has been your professional path to your current position?

“My path has been equal parts planning and pure luck. I started as a reference librarian at Jacksonville Public Library. I was with JPL for over 15 years in various roles (primarily Special Collections manager, and Branch Manager). I accepted a job offer at Jacksonville University in early 2016 working with their Special Collections and University Archives. As part of a university reorganization, my position was eliminated and I was laid off. Fortunately, a friend was leaving her job as Continuing Education Coordinator for a regional multitype library cooperative and I ended up taking her old position. I’ve been here since July 2017 and it’s a great fit.”

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

“Florida Collection, Jacksonville Public Library Special Collections. In addition to reference material on local and state history, this is where their rare books, maps and other ephemera are housed. At times I worked with 300 year old books on a daily basis. Part of my job there also involved digitizing the material, so I became well acquainted with their large postcard and photograph collections. I discovered some new, forgotten treasure almost every day on the job for the better part of a decade.”

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

“How much I was able to pull in various things from my background as an Art major at Furman. Some of the book and document repair and restoration techniques are very similar to things we did in Printmaking. My Design classes came in handy for designing flyers, displays and web pages. I had no idea that so many concepts would be applicable outside of the art world.”

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

“I don’t have a specific memory to share, but a feeling: Furman was home. I know many alumni share this feeling about FU, but remembering the people and places around campus always gives me the warm fuzzies. I felt like I belonged from the first campus visit. Furman was the best community I’ve ever been a part of.”