WA Secretary of State Blogs

Spotlight on Staff: Judy Pitchford

Monday, June 16th, 2014 Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For Libraries, For the Public | 3 Comments »

“Judy is my bulldog. She’ll sink her teeth into a project and finish it!” These are the words of Judy’s supervisor Marlys Rudeen, Deputy State Librarian.

JudyandMurphy What a great picture this paints of a woman with a long and varied career with the Washington State Library. Judy started in 1998 at WSL as a prison librarian working at Washington Corrections in Shelton. She loved this job because she felt that it was like all libraries rolled into one. Depending on the patron she could be called upon, in any given day, to be a medical librarian, a school librarian or a public librarian. Before moving to Washington, Judy had worked as a school librarian at some tough inner city schools in Virginia and said the transition to working in the prisons was really not that hard.

In 2002 Judy left the Prison library and came to work in Digital Collections for WSL and has been there ever since. Judy sees her work as building on itself over time. Her work as a school librarian made her a better prison librarian. Her experiences at both libraries made her understand the importance of the digital collections; how they could be used by school children for research and how the prisoners could use state agency information.

Marlys also said that with the turnover in the last few years that Judy has been invaluable as she has completed many projects which other people have started and left.   Their department is considerably smaller than when Judy first came to work in Digital Collections but it hasn’t slowed her down. In addition to the work she completes on her own, Judy also works with volunteers to help with the digitization projects. She has worked on the Emma Smith DeVoe papers, the Josephine Corliss scrapbook, the digitization of Washington Newspapers, has digitized Historical Maps and oversees the Classics in Washington History. Then there is her pet project, digitizing the Washington State Voter’s pamphlets which she does when she needs a relaxation break. Judy sees these as full of a rich history that would be fascinating and informative for school projects. One example she gave is the sorts of initiatives that were being proposed during prohibition. Speaking of interesting initiatives Judy discovered a gem from 1952 – Initiative 180 – a proposal to the voters to allow yellow coloring to be added to margarine. You can read the arguments for and against on pages 6+7 of “A Pamphlet containing…”   As you can imagine these voter’s pamphlets contain a snapshot of history and what was important to people of the time. In 1952 apparently margarine was high on that list!

One of Judy’s main jobs is to run herd on the State Agencies digital publications. It is the law as well as the mission of the State Library to collect all documents that are published by Washington State agencies, no small task. She accomplishes this in a variety of ways. If she is lucky the agency sends her a copy of a newly published document, sometimes electronically through email or FTP, sometimes on a CD or DVD. But she also has a special tool, a “Page Checker’ built for this specific purpose. Whenever a state agency makes a change to their page Judy will receive a notification through the checker. She then is able to go in, download the document and begin the process of adding it to the State Library’s collection. After a weekend there can be as many as 50 pages to check. Imagine what it’s like after a vacation! All this hard work creates a rich resource in our catalog for researchers to learn about the work of the Washington State agencies.

Outside of work Judy has many other things to keep her busy. She has two children, now grown, two dogs and four cats. In addition to her full time job at the WSL Judy and her husband, along with good friends, run their own t-shirt printing business, a true labor of love as Judy loves t-shirts and personally owns over 100 of them. Most days she leaves her job at the library to head over to their warehouse for an evening of work. judy's socksA mild mannered librarian on the outside, take a look at her crazy socks and you’ll catch a glimpse of what lurks beneath the surface.

The State library as well as the researchers of Washington are fortunate to have this “bulldog” librarian on our staff. Thank you Judy for all that you do.