Getting to know...Tim Brown
Like many a student, future Wofford librarian Tim Brown was unsure of his future as his college days neared an end.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do in the way of a profession,” he says. “I had a couple of mentors from college who said ‘You need to get into a library on a college campus and be around young, engaged minds, and be where you can dabble in this, that and the other thing.’
“I had never perceived myself as a librarian, but one thing I have come to realize about this job is that you discover things and pick up on other people’s interests. You can’t help it. You’re working with people who are passionate about certain topics, and in working with them their passions or interests draw you in.”
Brown was in graduate school at the University of North Carolina Greensboro studying library and information science, sweating it out because library jobs were scarce.
“I was on the verge of accepting a job at a public library, which I didn’t want, when someone asked if I knew about a vacancy at Wofford,” he recalls. “Well, my brother went to Wofford, so that same afternoon I applied. I was a resident advisor at the time, so I’m doing my interview from my dorm room on the last day of the semester, and resident rascals are pounding on the door and yelling all sorts of affectionate obscenities at me. I guess the interview went well enough, though.”
It was serendipitous, to say the least. Not the part about conducting an interview with one’s hand covering the phone, but rather getting to have one with a place of such familiarity.
“I happened upon Wofford by luck,” he says. “I had been here maybe a half dozen times to visit my brother, and once for his graduation ceremony.”
And that’s how he arrived at Wofford 16 years ago. Or, as he likes to put it, “About the same time the Dave Matthews Band became wildly popular.” According to the college’s archivist, Dr. Phillip Stone (whose memory Brown relies on in a pinch), that translates into the summer of 1993. He’s been here long enough to claim the campus as his own.
“I find that I never leave work the same person as when I arrived,” says Brown of his job. “I find myself continually shaken, challenged and opened up in some way via my contact with students, faculty staff and even townspeople. There’s this one man who is a feed mill operator who reads voraciously. He calls from his feed mill and asks questions of me regularly. He’s one of my favorite customers.
“Another thing I appreciate about my job is the opportunity it provides me to go back and do things I missed out on as a student. When I was in college I always wanted to sing, but it always conflicted with my schedule. There were a good many topics I didn’t get to delve into as a student.”
He does now. He also sings with the Wofford Singers and the glee club, often devoting his lunch hour to do so (or to audit a course).
“Everything I do seems to touch everything else I do,” he says. “I interact with students as fellow learners so that when they come to the library there’s no librarian-student gulf that has to be bridged. I find that makes for a smoother transition when they seek my assistance.”
That’s just half his life. The other half, the half away from campus, is even more diversified. His passions include writing (essays), drawing (Japanese ink), playing the electric bass or the mandolin, riding (horses and bicycles), sailing, gardening (organic), swimming, fly fishing, bird watching and yoga. He also has pet hens.
“I’ve got to do these things regularly to keep my head straight,” he reasons. “So often in my job I am dealing with abstract thought. I ache for “concreteness” when I get home. I’ll want to dig in my garden or ride my bicycle or cast a fly fishing rod. It keeps me nimble. It keeps me quick. I no longer distinguish between body and mind or mind and spirit.”
Obviously there aren’t enough hours in a day or even a week to do all of these things. But he treats his passions the way men treat old shirts…he hangs onto them as long as possible. And in so doing, some of the wonder of life comes out through each one.
“When you sample so many passions or interests as I do, it makes you appreciate even more people who do them extraordinarily well,” says Brown. “I was watching the film Chariots of Fire several years ago, and there is one character in the film who isn’t the best athlete or the best singer, but he participates in everything. It struck a chord with me.
"My curiosity encourages me to participate in a wide variety of things. I aim to give everything the best I can – to give the present engagement my all – and therein lies the joy.”