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Sue Crites Szostak: “As I grew up, I found out that books were my passion because they took me anywhere I wanted to go.”

Caoilinn Goss

Sue Crites Szostak spoke with the Missouri on Mic team at the Poplar Bluff Municipal Library in July. She's the director there and spoke about how books have shaped her life.

Missouri on Mic is an oral history and journalism project documenting stories from around the state in its 200th year.

Sue Crites Szostak: I believe in reading, and I think reading is what got me where I am today. When I was growing up, I lived on the Black River, and on the Black River, there weren't many neighbors.

And so, the only friends that I had where my books, and also our animals and things like that we had on the farm, but as I grew up, I found out that books were my passion because they took me anywhere I wanted to go and allowed me to imagine almost anything.

This is a story that someone might think is negative when you start out with it, but it's not – it has a wonderful ending for me. When I went to college, I thought when I wanted to be an accountant, and I found out when I was a student that I didn't really care for accounting too much.

My second semester of my junior year, we did an assignment, and I wasn't doing very well in college at that moment – usually that tells you that if you're not in your passion, you may not be doing as well as you need to be – but the professor at the end of the class said that “I hope you appreciated the assignment you did last night because this is what you'll be doing for the rest of your life,” and then I took a breath and I thought, “No way.”

"I thought, 'Well, I don't want to be a minister and I don't want to be a social worker, but I love books. So, I think I'll be a librarian.'"
Sue Crites Szostak

So, I went to counseling center, and the counseling center helped me out, and there was a fellow there that gave me a Strong-Campbell Interest Inventory, and it turned out I could have been a minister, a social worker, or a librarian.

I thought, “Well, I don't want to be a minister and I don't want to be a social worker, but I love books. So, I think I'll be a librarian.”

Now that doesn't sound like a very grounded answer because I just did it because I love books, but it turns out maybe that was the very thing it was – that I love books and what books do for people, what it did for me, and maybe I can help other people enter into the book world and let them enjoy it, as well.

So, that particular moment changed my life, and I've never regretted it since

I just finished like “A fish in a tree,” and I, in fact, read part of it to a group of students at the Wheatley school here, and that book was wonderful in that it unmistakably was able to evoke all the emotions and all the things that I remembered growing up and being a grade school student.

Two of the pupils who were listening to the reading, and they had read the book, and they both looked at me and said, “I love the book, too.” So, that's been a most recent experience.

The other thing is growing up, I always liked fables. I liked fairy tales, and I liked stories of fantasy. And as I got older, I didn't know that there were such things as the “Lord of the Rings” until – because it wasn't taught when I was in school, or it wasn't exposed to it.

So, now I want everybody to be exposed to or know about things like JRR Tolkien's “Lord of the Rings,” or the Narnia tales, or Madeleine L'Engle, or some of the other fantasy writers that kind of take you – that take you into another world and let you let your imagination grow.

Rebecca Smith is a reporter and producer for the KBIA Health & Wealth desk. She was born and raised in Rolla, Missouri, and graduated with degrees in Journalism and Chemistry from Truman State University in May 2014. Rebecca comes to KBIA from St. Louis Public Radio, where she worked as the news intern and covered religion, neighborhood growth and the continued unrest in Ferguson, MO.
Caoilinn left KBIA in December of 2022.
Caoilinn Goss is the Audio Convergence Editor at KBIA. She trains and oversees student reporters, editors and anchors to produce daily afternoon newscasts. She's also a Missouri Journalism School alum.