Southwell keeps SJGC’s library humming along

SJGC librarian Karen Southwell. Photo courtesy: Samuel Williams

Karen Southwell is the only librarian employed by the School of Journalism & Graphic Communication at Florida A&M University. Southwell has worked with SJGC for over ten years and thoroughly enjoys her position at FAMU.

Southwell is from rural Calhoun County, about an hour west of Tallahassee. Around age 5, Southwell began traveling to various locations due to her father’s position in the Army. Southwell lived in Washington, Georgia, Germany, and Alabama while growing up. 

“I grew up as an Army brat,” Southwell said. “My dad had us moved from one place to another.”

Around 15, Southwell’s finally moved back to Calhoun County, where she continued her high school experience. As the oldest of four sisters, Southwell said it was an adaptation process to be attending high school at home after her experiences. 

“It was a bit of a culture shock because I didn’t think there was anything special about us. It was so country, and we didn’t, you know, feel country.”

Southwell attended junior college in her 20s and transferred to Florida State University to finish her undergraduate degree. She started to work as a reference librarian there, and she said she found her calling.

“I was in a temporary position and wanted a more full-time occupation that was better suited for me,” Southwell said. “ I had been there for five years, and the job they created for me disappeared. I was glad to find this [job] because I thought it would be fun.”

Gainesville native Nigeria Robinson, a senior broadcast major at FAMU, works part-time at the SJGC library. Robinson said that Southwell’s efforts are appreciated every day.

“She has a lot of people counting on her, and she’s always reaching out to try to enhance the library,” Robinson said.

Deju Johnson is a fourth-year public relations major from Bradenton. She said Southwell is a valued employee at SJGC.

“The library is always open and available, and [Southwell] does a good job maintaining it,” Johnson said.

Southwell, 63, said she plans to retire within the next four years.

“I have got two options,” Southwell said. “ I can stay here because my condo will be paid off or move to the county where I own land.”

Regardless of her next move, Southwell said she will remain a staple of the SJGC community for as long as she is available.