The Meet Britannica blog series takes you behind the scenes to the Britannica colleagues who have made a significant impact on how we create and deliver products for all ages. The inaugural Meet Britannica blog featured Pam Renfrow, our Curriculum Specialist whose unique background as a library media specialist and classroom teacher eventually took a different route that led her here. With school officially back in session, it seems fitting to introduce you to Britannica’s very own head librarian. Meet Henry Bolzon!
Henry has been with the company since 2001. He attended Dominican University, where he earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the American Conservatory Theatre and a Master of Library and Information Science.
When did you decide to become a librarian and why? I had been working in a corporate library setting as a library assistant at an international management consulting firm. I was doing library work in addition to helping provide research for clients, which were some of the biggest companies in the world. This was a time before the Internet, and librarians had to telnet to get to a library catalog. Most of the research required elaborate search queries to subscription-based databases. The type of research for these corporate clients was both fascinating and intriguing: demographic breakdowns, mergers and acquisitions, labor statistics, cost of living; the kind of data to which I had not been previously exposed. The firm provided money for educational advancement, which presented a great opportunity for me. I subsequently went to library school and worked full time; a challenge in itself.
If you didn’t become a librarian, what would you have done instead? With my conservatory training in acting along with my love of Shakespeare and other dramatic literature, I would love to work in a repertory acting company.
What do you like best about your job as a librarian? What is the most rewarding? When I can suggest a resource or publication to someone that they had not considered or heard of, I find that rewarding. When I can ignite a spark in someone about some topic, I find that the most satisfying.
I take great pride in helping to maintain and conserve our company’s history and legacy with our archive of old encyclopædia print sets and other archival materials from 1768 to the present!
What do you find the most challenging as a librarian? Because the Internet is so pervasive and integral to our lives, I find squaring the idea of information, in general, and the idea of what is truly useful knowledge to be the most challenging component. Keeping up with the incessant stream of information can also be challenging; basically, sorting the chaff from the grain.
Tell us briefly about a Day in the Life of the Britannica librarian… It’s a busy day: fielding questions from Editorial staff and assisting them by looking for a publication or doing interlibrary loan requests, fact-checking articles, answering outside queries, managing our subscriptions for publications and other services, handling requests for ISBN numbers, and the list goes on…
What are you currently reading? I have several books going at once. I am currently reading Waking Up by Sam Harris, A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599 by James Shapiro, and Six Easy Pieces by Richard P. Feydmann.
What is one of the most interesting requests you have received as a librarian? In 2001, the library got an outside call asking if we had a map of the caves of Tora Bora. (We do not.)
What has been your largest late fee at your local library? Not returning a book on time slays me. I remember borrowing some kids’ books from the public library at the maximum limit of 10 books a time. Some of them are so thin, it’s hard to keep track. One of them must have slipped away under my child’s bed into the “you will never find this book in a million years” world. I ended up having to pay to replace one of the books. Not so bad, in the grand scheme of my borrowing privileges.
If you could have dinner with one person (dead or alive) who would it be? William Shakespeare.
We hope you have enjoyed meeting Henry! If there are other members of the Britannica team that you would like to hear from, please reach out to us on Facebook and Twitter using #meetblearn. Also, check back often as I will be introducing other key Britannica editors and team members.