Librarian trots the globe

“This is going to be the most ridiculous interview,” said Los Medanos College reference librarian Christine Kromer, regarding her plans for visiting Tokyo next spring. Her agenda for her trip includes Animal cafes.

“There are a lot of animal cafes in Tokyo, like cat cafes and owl cafes, so you go and get a cup of coffee and you can pet a cat, or get a cup of coffee and …” She searches for a word to use to describe an interaction between a human and a bird of prey, “… pat an owl.”

Globetrotting is one of Kromer’s passions. The LMC librarian has been to all seven continents and a host of countries from Australia to Zanzibar. A winter excursion took her to Antarctica, where she saw penguins and leopard seals. She described the unoccupied research bases she saw, left as a sort of national “dibs” on land rights if the Madrid Protocol — which prohibits mining and other exploitation on the continent– — ever lifts.

“It’s so pristine and beautiful,” she said,  “if people come in and start mining, it’s going to be like the Arctic.”

A trip to the coolly named Deception Island, led to a holiday experience most people might prefer to avoid.

“I did a polar plunge on Christmas Day. I wasn’t planning on it, but there was a bunch of college students on the trip and they were all doing it, and there was a 70-year-old guy doing it as well. I was like ‘If he can do it, and they can do it, I can do it too.’ So I did it.” Jumping in the Southern Ocean, its waters typically hovering around 28 degrees Fahrenheit, was “very, very cold,” she reported emphatically.

Over the summer Kromer went to Scotland to visit friends, the Jersey Shore to visit family and the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary in Southern Alaska to visit grizzly bears.

“Everyday we’d go out hiking and observe them. We were sitting on a bank in front of a waterfall and bears would walk by us, four feet in front of us, it was crazy! They’d just walk right by,” she said.

In addition to the program having a clean safety record, armed Alaska Fish & Game employees accompany visitors and the bears are used to visitors.

“I thought I was going to be scared, totally scared, but I felt safe the whole time,” she said

Kromer grew up in Woodstock, Conn., a small New England town of 7,900 people.

“It was a really small town. Until I was about 15, we had more cows than people,” she said. She explained that her wanderlust started early.

“I saved up my babysitting money to go to Spain when I was in high school. That was my first big international travel,” she says, speaking of an exchange program that sent her to Spain for three weeks and a Spanish student to her family’s home in Woodstock.

Wisconsin’s Beloit College and its tradition of sending students abroad attracted Kromer, where she decided to major in anthropology.

“I think it’s because I’m nosey,” she said, “I’m very curious about people.”

She spent her junior year studying in Glasgow, Scotland, where she returned this summer to visit old friends.

Kromer knew early on that she didn’t want to pursue a career in anthropology.

”My mom always told me “when you go to college, it doesn’t really matter what you major in, just make sure you like it: You’re going there to learn how to think.”

She got her start in the library industry at the Beloit library as her work-study job. After graduating from Beloit, she worked in a museum in Massachusetts, but soon encountered a problem: “I realized the pay was really low.”

She took another library job at the Boston Architectural Center Library and then dabbled in graphic design at an architectural firm before moving to California and enrolling at San Jose State University.

“I realized I wanted to be back in academia, and all my friends that were librarians, loved being librarians,” she said. “They loved their jobs. I thought I would probably love being a librarian. So I decided to go to school [for her Masters in Library and Information Science], and I’m so glad I did, because I love my job.”

She was hired by Touro University in Vallejo after graduating from SJSU, and worked there for three and a half years before coming to LMC in 2011.

Her experience with librarians was positive from the beginning, and she remembers a favorite librarian, Mrs. Cady, from her early years.

“Library day was always my very favorite day of the week. She was just so nurturing. When we were little, we had story time and when we were older she would help us find biographies and stuff for book reports,” she said. “She was just really caring and really nice, I just felt at home in the library.”

Kromer also pointed to her mom— who went back to college and became a CPA when Kromer was growing up‑— as an empowering figure.

“She was a good role model for me to see that you can go back to school, you can get a job, and you can grow in that job.”

Kromer is ebullient about her job at LMC.

“I love connecting people to the information they’re looking for — that is one of my favorite things,” she said. “Being at the reference desk and helping people find what they’re looking for papers, finding the right article or right book, is probably the most satisfying thing.”

When she’s not helping students find a keystone resource for a paper or visiting other hemispheres in her time off, Kromer can be found running all over the Bay Area. The veteran jogger has run the Nike Women’s Half Marathon three times, along with the Bay to Breakers and the Berkeley Half Marathon.

“I do enjoy running my road races in San Francisco because it’s so pretty,” she said.

She also enjoys going to concerts and other live performances, including the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this summer in Scotland, which ran for 25 days and featured thousands of performers in venues ranging from bars to churches.

“When a band I really like is playing I try to go,” she said. She had recently seen Belle & Sebastian and They Might Be Giants. “I just saw the Replacements,” she added, “They piled into a tent before the encore.”

What’s next for this wayfarer? She’s planning a trip to Australia to visit friends she met in Antarctica. Of particular interest is Rottnest Island, home of the quokka, which Huffington Post named the happiest creature on the planet.

“The quokkas are little marsupials,” she says before pausing. “Quokkas? Qwakkahs? I’ll need to learn how to pronounce it correctly before I get there.”