Staff ID - Meet Pam Skinner

Learn more about the libraries’ head of collection development and dog agility enthusiast.

Pam Skinner, Head of Collection Development, (413) 585-2961


As Head of Collection Development, Pam coordinates the selection of electronic and print resources that the library offers to Smith’s students, faculty, and staff.  She gets a lot of help in this endeavor from the library’s liaisons to academic departments and from our very active faculty selectors. Additionally, as a member of the Teaching, Learning, and Research group, Pam helps staff the reference desk, teaches information literacy classes for students, and provides one-on-one research assistance.

Pam has an academic background in Russian studies, and has a graduate certificate from Columbia University’s Harriman Institute. Her knowledge of the Russian language has been very handy in her library work! Pam also works closely with the Afro-American Studies, American Studies, and History departments, as well as, of course, the Russian Department.

A native of Long Island, New York, Pam has, in her words, “gradually crept northward”, holding her first professional job at SUNY-Binghamton (now Binghamton University), then moving to the University of Connecticut. She has been at Smith for nearly 27 years.

Pam works mainly Monday-Friday, 9:00 am-5:00 pm, but also works the occasional weekend shift. Her office is in Neilson 1/51. 

We asked Pam to tell us a little more about herself.

What is the best part of your job?

Having worked at two large state universities prior to coming to Smith College, the best part of the job is being back in the liberal arts environment.  (My undergraduate degree is from a liberal arts college.) I love the size and scale of Smith and the fact that it feels like a community. In particular, I enjoy working with Smith students on their research projects. They’re unfailingly smart, nice, and intellectually curious—and totally engaged in their work.

What inspired you to work in a library?

I applied to library school without ever having worked in a library. As a student, I loved the research process and much preferred that to the actual writing of a paper. I’ve always been drawn to “sleuthing” type occupations. As a kid, I wanted to be an archaeologist (think Howard Carter and the pyramids) and as teenager, I wanted to be a forensic anthropologist. Rather than excavating tombs or digging up bones, I help users solve research problems.

Got any funny reference questions or weird library incidents to share?

Despite the myriad hardware and software questions at the reference desk, we still get interesting questions that stretch the brain. Some recent examples from our faculty:

  • What was the address for post office "Station D" in New York City in 1931?
  • Did Tiger Woods graduate from Stanford University? I know he was admitted, but did he get his degree?
  • I just read in a 19th century newspaper that on March 6, 1839, a report of the Massachusetts Legislature discussed the issue of people of color being identified as runaway slaves and kidnapped from Massachusetts. How do I find this report?
  • I am writing an op-ed on corporate crooks, including those busted for price-fixing. Where can I get information on the educational backgrounds of: Diana "DeDe" Brooks--former CEO of Sotheby's? Albert Taubman--ex-chairman of Sotheby's? Michael Andreas--former Vice Chairman of Archer Daniels?

What do you like to do the most when you are not at work?

My two main “extra-curricular” activities are the viola and dog agility. I’ve played with the Pioneer Valley Symphony since moving to the area in 1987. It’s one of the oldest community orchestras in the country, performing 5-6 concerts each season full of challenging repertoire; in recent years, the symphony has won two ASCAP awards for adventuresome programming. Last season’s highlight for me was our performance of the Philip Glass Violin Concerto with soloist Johnny Gandelsman (of Brooklyn Rider and Silk Road Ensemble fame). Check out our website and come to a concert!

My other passion is training and competing in dog agility – think doggie steeplechase. I’ve won a championship title with our quirky mixed-breed rescue Casey (now happily retired at 15) and am in the process of training Oskar, our Australian Cattle Dog cross, who’s a rescue from Louisiana. Beyond work, home, and family, those two activities pretty much take up the slack, but I also love to read (no surprise for a librarian), eat well (at home or in favorite local restaurants), walk, bird-watch, kayak in the summer, and snowshoe in the winter.

When you’re in Neilson, stop by and say “hi” to Pam!