Colleen Kearney: The Applications of Literature

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Colleen Kearney pictured in her office at Piedmont University’s Arrendale Library. // Photo Courtesy of Colleen Kearney.

Hannah Osborne, Managing Editor

A firm believer that there is a book for everyone, Colleen Kearney, uses literature and dance to manage her chronic illness.

“It has been an honor, and a privilege, to meet some of the student workers over the years that have come to us,” Kearney says, “Truly, it has opened my eyes and I have learned a lot more grace and a lot better communication.”

Kearney serves as the Evening Acquisitions and Public Services Specialist at Piedmont University’s Arrendale Library. The Piedmont alumna handles many of the orders to fill the library’s collections. In addition, she oversees the interviewing, hiring, training and scheduling of student workers.

Kearney had a late start into her college career. She was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in high school, and pursuing a degree felt unattainable after graduation due to financial demands. Fortunately, at 28 she was able to return to school after discovering a scholarship program relating to her illness.

Before finding a home at Piedmont, she received her associate’s degree at Gainesville State College. Her journey as a nontraditional student continued at Piedmont where she earned her bachelor’s degree in English. Kearney’s first experience of working in the library was as a student-worker herself.

“My heart was with Piedmont…really, truly, I wanted to be here,” she said.

Bob Glass, Dean of Libraries and College Librarian, brought Kearney back to Piedmont after her graduation in 2015. Now, overseeing student workers herself, Kearney promotes the school to students based on her own positive experiences. She notes the exemplary faculty members in every department and the beautiful campus. As a non-traditional student, Kearney found herself aligned more so with professors than with students, and the smaller classes allowed her the perfect opportunity to truly get a gauge of their passions and interests in what they are teaching. With such a supportive environment, Kearney describes Piedmont as the perfect place to “fail safely.”

Outside of work, Kearney enjoys reading, spending time with her cat, practicing yoga, and is a member of a local dance troupe. She found that her love of dancing, along with yoga, could serve as both a pleasure and a means of managing her struggles with diabetes.

The illness established a permanent presence in her life, and it took her some time to learn to manage it. Eventually, she found that being conscious of her activities, eating habits and managing her stress, was critical to handle her symptoms. While it took almost 25 years to master, she credits much of the success to educating herself through books, so working at a library is a natural fit.

“I am convinced that there’s something out there that anyone would enjoy reading,” Kearney says, “These things all make constellations and patterns in your mind and then when you’re trying to make choices for yourself, and you’re trying to make decisions in real life. You just have such a better, informed vision of who and what you are, and who and what you want to include.”