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Denise Petrik

Class of 2011
Major/Minor: English, Creative Writing, Psychology

Denise Petrik ‘11 practically grew up in her local library, cultivating her love of reading and writing. So it seems natural that after her journey through Washington College, majoring in English with minors in creative writing and psychology, she’s now pursuing a Master of Arts in Library and Information Science at the University of Pittsburgh.

In the college selection process, Washington College was Denise’s first campus visit. That first impression brought her back. “I felt comfortable on campus,” she says. “I loved that the school was so writing-oriented and the idea of the Lit House in particular.”

She also found a second home in Miller Library. After three years on staff as a student employee, Denise collaborated with Michele Santamaria, Miller’s reference librarian, on an article about using popular culture to help students understand what the library has to offer them.

Denise credits Dr. Kate Moncrief, associate professor of English, with supporting her goals as they leaned toward librarianship. Her senior thesis advisor, Dr. Sean Meehan, also urged her to research more deeply the interconnectivity of libraries. That process in itself helped crystallize her wish to help others embrace all that libraries have to offer.

Her thesis, “Not the Same Old Story: Becoming Classic through Retellings,” focused on direct retelling of stories such as King Arthur and Robin Hood—whereby old stories are woven into new tales. Denise argues “that specific works cannot really be classic because the label is subjective, and neither the label nor the individual works may last forever; the stories that they tell, however, can last forever as long as they are being retold.”

Just as stories are reimagined and recast, so too are libraries. Denise says: “As the nature and form of information evolves, we are moving beyond the traditional notion of libraries as buildings full of stacks of variously bound collections of thought and invention. Libraries now have to incorporate all forms of digital information.”

Although she affirms, “books aren’t going anywhere,” in order to keep pace with information technology, she says “libraries will have to change what’s available to people and adjust the way they make that information available.” Indeed, where some may perceive e-readers, smart phones, MP3 players, video cameras, and other handheld electronic devices as threats to libraries, Denise sees a future “where all of these media interact with one another to provide greater depth and opportunities to learn.”

Because of this evolution, Denise notes, “the most valuable resources for the people who use libraries will be those individuals who are working there as their guides and teachers, helping them teach themselves.”