Geisel Library to say goodbye to longtime Circulation Head


Courtesy / Saint Anselm College

Martha Dickerson, Head of Circulation, to retire after over 20 years at the college

Flannery Moore, Culture Editor

After over 20 years as the Head of Circulation Services at Geisel Library, Martha Dickerson is retiring at the beginning of the new year. Dickerson’s career before coming to Saint Anselm College included her time as a public library director and the time that she “(sort of) worked with Phineas Gage,” as she said. (His skull was outside her office in a display case when she worked at a medical school.) 

Dickerson, whose last day at Geisel will be at the beginning of January 2023, said that her favorite part of her job at the College is her position working with students. She described them as “brilliant and funny and thoughtful” and said that “they make me more optimistic about the future.”

In keeping with the College’s strong emphasis on the Benedictine value of community, people took precedence over specific experiences when Dickerson considered the memorable aspects of her career. 

She said, “My colleagues, without exception, have been wonderful. There are also several people throughout the College whom I hold in very high esteem, in every department, all doing important work. I have been fortunate to know them. I especially miss Fr. Daniel Dempski and Fr. Peter Guerin, gone but never forgotten.” 

While stating she has “no deep wisdom to impart, alas,” Dickerson has “worked with a lot of people, as will you.”

She said, “I’ve worked with Holocaust survivors, a woman who somehow survived the fire-bombing of Dresden,  another who as a child was in a Japanese relocation camp in California.  And a woman who survived the Blitz in London as a kid (they made them wear gas masks with Mickey Mouse ears on them in school and hide under their desks).  She went on to become one of the first female police officers working for Scotland Yard, where she faced a great deal of discrimination.”

Dickerson noted that “All these people had cause for PTSD, but I observed them expressing it differently.  Some were bitter.  Some were not.  Everybody is interesting;  everyone has their story to tell, or their family’s story, which shapes each one of us. I became interested in the people who somehow managed to not be bitter because of what transpired in the past.  To turn the page. So, if you encounter someone who has a chip on their shoulder, try to consider what put it there, and don’t take their behavior or comments personally.”
Such an interest in the way that our stories shape us and in the significance of being able to “turn the page” to a new future seems fitting given Dickerson’s years of work in libraries. In light of this, it would be remiss to not ask her the question, “what is your favorite book?” Rather than naming one, she said, “There are a million books I love, both adult and children’s, and I am not even a big reader.” 

One of the million that came to mind was Frog and Toad are Friends. Dickerson said, “You can’t beat Frog and Toad.” She also said, “I have always had a thing for Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, where Dorian has a portrait of his soul, a rather unflattering one, tucked away in the attic;  and once in a while he plucks up the courage to take a peek at it and see how it’s morphing. I always wonder, if someone offered me a chance to see a picture of my soul, would I have the courage to look at it?” (“Probably not!” she decided.) 

Dickerson said, “I certainly can’t complain about my job!” and while she was referring to her time working with Phineas Gage, “considered one of the greatest medical curiosities of all time,” that sentiment seems to apply to many other aspects of her time at the College. She will certainly be missed, and the College community, from students to faculty to members of the monastery, wishes her the best of luck on her retirement.