It is highly probable that no one was more surprised than Thomas Lynch to hear that he had been hired by the USMA Library to work as a reference librarian, given that he had interviewed and presented for an entirely different position within the Library. On the other hand, those of us who had met with Tom on the day of his interview were not overly surprised by the news, as he appeared well-suited for the reference position.
Prior to coming to West Point, Tom worked as a technical information specialist for the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. and the National Ground Intelligence Center in Charlottesville, VA. He has also worked as both librarian and technician for the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, as well as the Marine Corps University in Quantico, Virginia.
Tom hails from the great state of Michigan, where as an undergraduate he studied German Language and Literature at Michigan State University. While serving in the United States Air Force he completed the Russian Basic Course at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey. He then went on to the Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, where he worked as an Airborne Cryptologic Linguist. After leaving the Air Force Tom took advanced Russian language courses at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, graduate courses in Theatre History/Dramatic Literature/Theatre Arts at Michigan State, and Library & Information Science at Drexel University.
Now that Tom is here, we can confirm that our first observations about him were correct: smart and funny, he is a welcome addition to the USMA Library team. Look for him at the Reference Desk, and when you do be sure to say welcome OR,
in Russian, добро пожаловать!
Some questions for Tom:
What motivated you to learn German and Russian?
I had a great teacher for German in high school, and continued my studies at MSU. Eventually, I realized I was pretty good with languages, so stuck with it. My uncle tried to get me to go to the Air Force Academy, but when I was 15, I just couldn’t imagine it. Hehe! Then, to the surprise of EVERYONE in my life, I enlisted in the Air Force towards the end of college to go be a linguist. If you study foreign languages, then you know all about Monterey, CA and the Defense Language Institute. Like most things military, you make selections for which languages you’d be interested in learning, but the needs of the service decide what you will get. Hence, the Russian language experience.
Why did you become a librarian? What do you like best about the occupation?
Like many folks I stumbled into the library and Information profession backwards. After graduate studies, I started to look for work. I realized the jobs that interested me, and to which I was applying, were all in libraries, archives, and museums. I didn’t realize this, but with some stepping back a bit, and looking at it, I realized I love helping people, I like to be a smarty-pants know-it-all and love the challenge of finding information, and helping people find what they are looking for. The best aspect of librarianship and working with information is that no two days of work are exactly alike, while at the same time, the underlying mechanisms for research, searching databases, the hunt for information are continuous throughout what we do to help the Cadets, faculty, and staff.
You’ve lived abroad in a number of different places. Do you have a favorite?
I’m extremely fascinated by cultural identity and languages, and travel to see what other cultures are like. Living in Germany and working at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies Research Library was a pretty amazing opportunity to both serve the mission of the U.S. to promote democracy and peace and stability, but also allowed me to observe the Germans at work and play daily, and a great opportunity to improve my language skills. Living in Japan was pretty amazing, though, as well.
Any interesting experiences as a Linguist?
I’d tell you, but then I’d have to kill you. And I like you, so I wouldn’t want to have to do that.
What do you like to do when you are not at work?
I spend lots of time walking, some gym and exercise classes, but mostly love to read nonfiction books about human behavior, motivation, cultural identity, and some history. The deeper I’ve gotten into these areas, the more it comes back to the brain, the mind, mindfulness, and the reality of how much power we have over our own happiness and contentment. Ommmmmmmmm…………