OUR COMMUNITY: Smitty Miller – So Much More Than Books

Smitty Miller is killing librarian stereotypes with her jazzed up style of running Chilliwack Library.

'If you haven't been to the library in awhile

'If you haven't been to the library in awhile

Smitty Miller is not your typical librarian.

With her spiked, platinum blonde hair and beloved knee high red boots, she is not one to shush patrons. In fact, some days, it’s her voice that’s gregariously reverberating off the downtown library’s walls.

Just the way she likes it.

Since taking over the community library position last year, Miller has been akin to a bull in a china shop.

She’s opened the library up, had a laptop bar installed, brought in new café-style furniture, and has pointedly made the place more welcoming for all – children, at-risk teens, adults, seniors, and the downtown’s homeless.

“If you haven’t been to the library in awhile, you need to come down – this is not your granddaddy’s library,” she said.

“The one stereotype I’d like to break about libraries is that they’re stale and boring.”

With Miller at the helm, it won’t take long to achieve.

Miller, American born, used to be a professional musician, specializing in 1930s and ’40s jazz. She played coffee houses, cruise ships, and three of her own world tours. But after 20 years traveling the world, some years, only spending four days at home, she said goodbye to the biz and headed for the Great White North where she got a degree in library information studies.

Miller has worked her way up through the Fraser Valley Regional Library ranks and has become known as a mover and a shaker in the industry.

She brought the valley its first mobile library with Library Live and on Tour (LiLi), a library set up in a souped up Nissan Cube that she took to marginalized communities – an initiative that, to date, has reached more than 50,000 people. She also developed FVRL’s first listening station at the Chilliwack Library.

“Libraries are so much more than books,” she said. “Books are a very, very small part of what we do, they’re the most obvious part, but by far, they are not the biggest thing.

“The one stereotype I’d like to break is that libraries are stayed and boring.”

Still, Miller doesn’t turn her nose up at traditional librarians, the ones with their index finger practically glued to their lips shushing anyone who makes so much as a peep in their library. There’s a place for those librarians, she said.

But there’s also a place for personalities like hers – especially in the modern world.

“I’m showy, I’m quirky, and I’m loud,” she said. “I don’t downplay that; those qualities are nothing but an advantage.”

Miller has worked in several positions throughout FVRL. She’s worked in children’s sections, adult sections, administration, etc., but it was the community librarian position in Chilliwack Library that she chose.

When the position came up, there was another for Sardis Library. Given Miller’s background, and soft spot for both the homeless and at-risk youth, she knew Chilliwack was her library.

Some of Miller’s music friends are still gobsmacked with her decision to leave concerts for libraries, but for Miller, it was the most natural decision.

“From the moment I first walked into the library, as an employee, I felt at home,” she said.

kbartel@theprogress.com

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