GLENWOOD SPRINGS — As comfortable as Sue Schnitzer is strumming her ukulele while organizing books in the children’s section at the Glenwood Springs Branch Library, one would have a hard time venturing a guess as to what she once did for a living.
Shortly into an interview about her new job as branch manager in Glenwood for the Garfield County Public Library District, Schnitzer briefly stops talking about her dual work these days as a librarian and children’s musician and offers, “I suppose I should tell you about my previous career.”
Not exactly the traditional path into library management, Schnitzer earned undergraduate degrees in political science and economics at Drew University in New Jersey before obtaining a master’s in public administration at the University of Alabama.
That led to a 13-year career as an FBI agent, including stints as a national media spokesperson in Washington, D.C., and several years as a division manager and special agent in New York and San Francisco.
Oh, and she has a law degree, though she never has actually practiced as an attorney.
“I decided to pursue it when I was working for the FBI,” Schnitzer explained. “I was always interested in law and just wanted to prove that I could get the degree and pass the bar, and I did.”
When her first daughter, Jamie, now 21, was born, she took some time off and decided to rekindle her love for music, playing her guitar and singing with her new baby.
She soon decided to turn in her FBI badge and moved to Colorado, where she began her children’s music business and founded the Community Music School in Boulder, a nonprofit organization offering classes, concerts and other programs for children.
Schnitzer also performed in libraries across Colorado, including in the Garfield County libraries in 2006. So, when she moved to Carbondale two years ago, she was naturally drawn to the local library in search of a job.
She started as a youth services librarian in June of 2012 at what was then known as the Gordon Cooper Branch in Carbondale, and quickly moved up to assistant manager/circulation coordinator before the brand new Carbondale Branch Library opened last summer.
“Library work fit in really well with what I had been doing, teaching music and movement classes and performing in different venues including libraries,” Schnitzer said.
Her previous managerial experience led her to apply for the Glenwood Springs branch manager’s position when longtime branch manager Pat Conway announced her retirement last fall after 20 years with the county library system.
“I figured it was the right time and I was ready for a new challenge,” Schnitzer said. “The new libraries in Glenwood Springs and Carbondale are great, and I kind of like jumping into something that’s slightly above my head, just for the challenge of it.”
Garfield County Public Libraries Director Amelia Shelley said Schnitzer was considered among 20 applicants and four finalists for the Glenwood job, and quickly rose to the top of the list.
“Sue’s experience in the public sector and education impressed us, but it was also her energy, drive and passion that led us to her,” Shelley said. “I’m very excited to see where Sue will take this library.”
Schnitzer is also excited to add her touch to the new library facility at the corner of Eighth and Cooper, which has become part of the renewed pride and joy for downtown Glenwood Springs.
“There is so much we can do in here with displays and programs that we haven’t even begun to think about,” she said. “It’s also just fun to get to know the people, and to see what they want in their library. We always like to hear what it is the community wants and needs.”
Schnitzer plans to bring some of her own passion into the library with a new musical story time for children starting in May, and is brainstorming some ideas to introduce music for all ages. Other ideas include maybe starting an adult book club and offering more programs for seniors.
“I’m open to any ideas,” she said.
Schnitzer oversees a staff of four full-time and four part-time employees at the Glenwood branch, as well as two high school pages and a dedicated group of volunteers.
The area libraries are also busy gearing up for the Summer Reading Program, which kicks off May 31 and takes on a science and technology theme this year. Specific age-oriented themes are “Fizz, Boom, Read!” for children, “Spark a Reaction” for teens and “Literary Elements” for adults.