A new chapter: Foundation scholarships help LFPL staff achieve master's degrees

For 17 years, Sean Warwick has worked behind the scenes at the Louisville Free Public Library in the computer services department. But his passion for the library started much earlier — and will continue to grow, as Warwick is a Library Foundation scholarship recipient working to complete his master’s in library science.

“From a very early age, the library has been one of the most important places in my life,” he said.

As a child, Warwick was fascinated by libraries. His father, an ardent reader, took him to the library regularly. In middle school, Warwick’s parents decided to homeschool him and the Southwest Branch became, quite literally, his school.

“The staff at Southwest always made visiting the library extra-special,” he said, citing librarians Theresa Lukas — still at Southwest — and Marci Reed, branch manager at the Fairdale Library, as two who helped him find the resources he needed and uncover new topics.

“I learned very quickly the value of the library,” Warwick said. “I had the seed planted in my mind that the library was the place to go for education."

In fact, the library has influenced his career several times. The library was — not surprisingly — his first job. 

As a teen, Warwick applied at Southwest, and a Meijer. Meijer called first but Warwick delayed — and started as a page in 1999.

“Once I go into the system, I could see how the library was progressing in (information technology),” Warwick said.

Warwick had started exploring the information technology section at age 13 and was interested in the growing field. Using only books he checked out from the library, Warwick later earned his CompTIA A+ certification, a highly-respected starting point for an IT career.

That certification opened the door for Warwick to apply for a job in computer services at LFPL.

“The key to the whole system was a library card!” Warwick said. 

Meanwhile, Warwick was continuing his education. He completed an associate’s degree at Jefferson Community and Technical College before completing his bachelor’s at the University of Louisville. 

“There are a lot of people in the library system who really encouraged me,” he said. “I started thinking even back then about getting my (master’s in library science) as a way to get even more involved."

First, though, he completed a dual master's in business administration and in managing information technology degrees at Sullivan. He also moved to a more senior position in computer services, as a PC Analyst II.

Warwick can help patrons retrieve documents they thought were lost on the computer, which can have a huge impact. “That resume they were working on could be the difference between someone being homeless or that person skyrocketing,” Warwick said. 

But he still wants to give more back to LFPL. “I look around and thought, ‘something’s missing,’” Warwick said. “I want to be on the other side, to help get the message across, to help get things done."

Warwick continued to feel earning his MLS would be a better way for him to serve LFPL and his community. “It would allow me to use my love of the library to further the cause,” he said.

And The Library Foundation — thanks to donor support — was able to help Warwick pursue his dream. He is one of five current scholarship recipients. Each is an LFPL employee looking to further their career with the library, and all are enrolled in the University of Kentucky’s program.

“I feel more impassioned than when I started the MBA,” Warwick said. “I  know I’m getting closer to where I want to be."

Since 1999, The Library Foundation has sponsored 76 Louisville Free Public Library students in their pursuit of their master’s degrees in library science. These scholarships have totaled nearly $865,000, including the five students currently receiving scholarship funds.

Warwick hopes to move into a position where can use both his professional and personal library experiences to make a difference in patron’s lives and in the system itself.

“You can make such  big change just by talking to someone,” he said. “A few words of encouragement can make a huge difference.”

After 17 years of working at LFPL, Warwick said his goal is to stay at LFPL “as long as they’ll have” him.

“I want to be part of planning the library’s future,” he said. “I think I’ve got a lot to give."

Help staff pursue their dreams and develop the next generation of library leaders — donate to The Library Foundation online now.

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