Name: Amanda Jackson
Where were you born and raised?
“I was born in Talladega, but we moved to Gadsden when I was three.”
What is your occupation?
“I am the Director of the Gadsden Public Library.”
What made you decide to work in your field?
“It was really more of a happy accident. I have my Bachelor’s in English which qualified me to do exactly nothing after graduation, so I had to go to grad school. My mom said I should go into Library Science because there were grants available to do so. My overall goal was to get a Ph.D. in English and be Robin Williams in Dead Poets’ Society, so I figured that degree would be a stop on my way. Once I got here, I realized how much fun it can be, so I never went on to pursue that Ph.D.”
Tell us about your family and pets.
“I have two amazing daughters, Draven who is 20 and studying at Troy and Eden who is 10 and finishing up elementary school. We’ve had one dog, Monet, for a decade, but we recently decided to add to our pet family with a husky puppy that we named Sinatra because she has one extremely blue eye.”
Describe an average day in your life.
“Ha! Chaos now that we added the puppy. My husband gets up first and hits the gym about 4 a.m. Eden and I get up around 6:30. Jeremy and Eden head off to school and I get to the library. My days there are hard to describe. It’s different every day. Some days I’m speaking to groups; other days I’m putting out fires (hopefully not literally), and some days I’m planning parties to raise money for our programs. What I love about my job is how unpredictable it can be. You would be sorely mistaken if you thought the library was a boring place to work. We all get home and take the dog for a long walk at the Falls or around the neighborhood. Eden practices her piano and finishes homework while I cook dinner, and eventually we sit down to watch one of our superhero television shows or to play a video game. After Eden gets to bed, I turn on ESPN and fall asleep.”
What school or schools have you attended?
“I went to Mitchell Elementary, Forrest Middle School and Emma Sansom High School. For college, I got my undergrad at JSU and my graduate degree from the University of Alabama.”
What do you like to do in your free time?
“During the week, I read or play games or do crossword puzzles. During the weekends, you can usually find us hanging out with our friends, grilling and enjoying someone’s backyard or going to listen to my husband play.”
What would you say is your greatest accomplishment?
“Besides raising two incredible daughters, my greatest achievement would be how far the GPL team has taken outreach in our community. In 2005 the library did 85 events. Last year we did 1065! We take programs into the schools, mental hospitals, detention centers, local neighborhoods, downtown, anywhere you can imagine. We work really hard to appeal to a variety of audiences and reach as many people as possible. I think we have definitely expanded what Gadsden expects from libraries.”
Name the one person that has been the most influential in your life. Why?
“That’s really hard. I’ve been blessed to know a lot of amazing individuals who constantly influence me. The first person that comes to mind is my college Spanish professor. Senora Suco changed the trajectory of my life. I was supposed to have her for two classes to get my degree, but after one class, I changed my minor to Spanish in order to spend more time with her. She immigrated from Cuba during the 60’s and her strength and dedication to making a full life in the U.S. after unimaginable circumstances in Cuba gave me a new perspective on what people face when trying to get here. It gave me a heart for people new to this country and taught me not to judge a book by its cover. She is one of the most brilliant and interesting people I have ever met, and I touch base with her every couple of years to let her know how things are going. I try to make her proud with the work we do in regards to diversity and inclusion.”
To what do you credit your success?
“Stubbornness is the key. I’ve made some really “interesting” choices in my life that could have resulted in a very different life for me. But my husband and I work together to make sure our dreams become realities, and we never give up and we never stop dreaming. My mom told me to pick my battles when I was younger, but I’ve just never figured out how to do that.”
Are you involved in any service organizations?
“I have been involved with Kiwanis Club for many years. I was previously a member of Altrusa.”
What is your favorite thing about this community?
“I love how people work together. This community has the biggest heart. If there’s a need, there is never a shortage of people willing to work to find a solution. Our nonprofit community is one of a kind, and our business community has to be the most supportive in all of Alabama.”
What would you like to see change in the community?
“This really pertains to the country as a whole. I wish we were less divisive and worked harder to understand each other. I wish we remembered that everyone is a person with hopes, dreams, a family, and we are all more alike than we are different. I think we spend too much time judging each other, defending our side and not enough time coming together.”
What are three words that describe you?
“This makes me smile. It all depends on who you ask. I am caring. I like to think I’m funny. And I know I’m abrasive.”
What is something surprising that many do not know about you?
“I have a ton of fears. I’m afraid of animals (especially large ones like cows), rollercoasters, heights, singing in public, scary movies, all kinds of things.
What is your favorite quote?
“Either Dr. Seuss’ “Why fit in when you were born to stand out” or Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Because one reminds me to be my weird self and the other reminds me to never stop fighting for what is right.”
What is on your bucket list?
“I desperately want to go to Ireland. I’m convinced I’ll find my people there and we will have the best time!”
What is your hidden talent?
“Is reading aloud a talent? I’m really good at reading out loud. I’m also a pretty mean trivia game player.”
If a movie were made about your life, who would you want to play you?
“I’m fairly certain that would be the most boring movie ever, but Ellen could definitely nail my awkwardness or Lena Headey if we are going for my facial expressions.”
What advice would you give yourself as a child?
“Work really hard and be unapologetic in regards to your choices. Never settle for less than a life full of laughter, adventure and meaning.”
If you would like to nominate someone for the People of Etowah column, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 256-547-1049.