The transition from the classroom to the workforce was an easy one for Emory & Henry alumna Tonia Totten. "I knew I wanted to give back to the community and to make my home a better place to live," said Totten, who graduated in 2001 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Policy and Community Service (PPCS) with a focus in human services and a minor in English.
Totten is fulfilling her goals as librarian of the Glade Spring Branch of the Washington County Public Library, the same branch she visited as a child, albeit in a new location on the town square. The Glade Spring native describes her librarian position as her "dream job," one that allows her to serve a community that has become like family.
"I am in love with books, and enjoy getting to see my library patrons," said Totten. "I love being able to make people smile by finding a book or information they've been looking for. As a librarian, I open the world of information to the public free of charge, and that is absolutely priceless.”
The personal connections with people offer her the greatest rewards. “One of my elderly patrons has been diagnosed with cancer. When she called to renew her books, I told her not worry. I would take care of it. She thanked me for helping her and told me she loves me. That's what makes my job so rewarding."
Totten said the PPCS program just felt right to her. "It's a program with integrity and merit. When I was at E&H, I wanted to do something that had meaning and felt important, and PPCS was a good fit. My idea of a good citizen is someone who cares about their neighbors and works for and with members of the community to make it a better place to live. The PPCS program consisted of professors and students who felt the same way. Emory & Henry became a home to me because of the PPCS program.”
The librarian is certain the PPCS program helped shape her goals and values. "It's hard to put into words what I learned. I can only say that I experienced life lessons which helped create the person I am today. I didn't memorize theories or facts that I can spout off. Instead, I learned from doing and interacting with other people. I learned from volunteering and networking with other non-profit organizations in the community.
"I learned to listen. I learned to open my mind, and I learned that my voice was just as important as anyone else's. The PPCS program empowered me to do what I love---help people."
After graduating from E&H, Totten worked at Bristol Public Library for nine years before relocating to the Glade Spring Branch. Her duties include purchasing books, and planning and preparing programs for the library branch. She helps facilitate the Glade Spring Library Book Club, "Passawatami," which meets once a month. Totten attends conferences and workshops for professional development, and partners with schools and other librarians to make sure the needs of the community are met.
The Emory Serves newsletter periodically will feature profiles on Emory & Henry graduates in a column," Where Are They Now?"