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    • Faye Prendergast retires after serving as Head Librarian since 2000.

    • Prendergast at the annual Celebration of Poetry event with Li-Young Lee.

Legendary Head Librarian Retires

Anushree Vashist '21 Lead News Editor Emeritus
After a laudable 23 years on The Hill, Head Librarian Faye Prendergast is retiring this Spring.
Originally from Louisiana, Prendergast earned an undergraduate degree in Linguistics from SUNY Stony Brook and an MBA from the University of Connecticut. After becoming a full-time mother, Prendergast discovered her love for the school library–eventually leading her to pursue a Master of Library Science (MLS) from Southern Connecticut State University. After her supervising teacher recommended she consider Hopkins, Prendergast started working on The Hill in 1998 and subsequently became Head Librarian in 2000.

Among Prendergast’s most significant accomplishments is overseeing the construction and renovation of Calarco Library, which was completed in 2008. Prior to the project, the library was less glamorous than the workspace students know today, with Assistant Head of School John Roberts saying “it was moldy, it was stinky, [and] it was rotten,” even going as far as to call it “the most God-awful library.” Prendergast was instrumental in designing the library’s comfortable and convenient layout, a process she describes as “incredibly exciting.” She sat on committee meetings to discuss plans and visited other libraries for ideas regarding maximally efficient spatial use. As independent schools and colleges be- gan replacing all their print materials with electronic devices, Prendergast fought the momentum for Hopkins to do the same.

Roberts affirms, “They were really fierce debates, and [Prendergast] was strong, and she was clear, and she really was the driving force behind what this library is and what it can offer students and teachers.” Roberts believes that “time has worn out that [Prendergast] was a genius,” adding, “that [the] library remains such a vital resource for the school is a testament to the fact that she nailed it.” Likewise, English teacher Renee Harlow acknowledges Prendergast’s impact on transforming the library: “She wants people to be
comfortable in that space, and that’s what it has become.” Doug Wardlaw ’17, Prendergast’s former advisee, agrees: “I think one thing that’s unique about her contribution [to Hopkins] is that she was in charge of a space that everyone ha[s] to spend a fair amount of time in throughout their Hopkins experience. With her knowing this, she made sure the library was a welcoming space, but also somewhere...people felt comfortable to study and prepare for their next test.”

As Head Librarian, Prendergast is responsible for managing the library’s departmental operating budget, which Chief Financial and Operating Officer David Baxter notes is one of the largest at Hopkins. Prendergast explains that her “MBA came in very handy” in directing named endowed funds–especially given that, despite the prevalence of unrestricted gifts, some donors are “very specific about what they would like their money used [for].” Prendergast’s responsibility “does involve making sure that we spend our money in an efficient way.” Baxter highlights “the support donors have shown for [Prendergast’s] work,” including the Marilyn G. and Joseph B. Schwartz Library Acquisition Fund to Support the Visual and Performing Arts in Honor of Faye Prendergast.

A key aspect of Prendergast’s job is organizing Hopkins’ annual Celebration of Poetry–which features keynote speakers, such as Li-Young Lee, Tracy K. Smith, and, just this past April, Claudia Rankine. Harlow, a member of the Poetry Committee, notes that Prendergast “is very organized, so she thinks of details,” adding that she “does a lot of dealing with the agency we’ve used for years [which is] adept for working with high school students.” Physics teacher and Poetry Committee member Octavio Sotelo elaborates: “She organizes everything, and she always has this wonderful simple spreadsheet and all of us who are part of the committee know what to do [...] She was instrumental. She gets the books. She publicizes and markets [to] the entire community.”

This past spring, Prendergast–along with the remainder of the library staff–completed a comprehensive Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Audit of the library’s fiction collection. Classics teacher Kate Horsley called this work “groundbreaking” and “deserv[ing] of incredible acclaim and attention,” especially given that the library was the first academic department to begin an audit. Prendergast notes the importance of this concentrated effort: “Our collection has improved over the 23 years that I’ve been here–we do have more voices in it– but it’s different when you go looking to see and to measure.” Prendergast and her team have worked to become “really cognizant of different voices and making sure that [we] have [...] authentic voices” in the library’s collection.

Prendergast has first and foremost–been a knowledgeable teacher, adviser, and dedicated colleague who made the library a welcoming resource. Librarian Debbie DuBois, who has worked with Prendergast since 2000, explains that Prendergast is “always a friend” who is “very supportive and understanding” and “always promote[s] the love of learning and reading.”

Knowing Prendergast is “one of the most meaningful experiences I’ve had at Hopkins,” states Spanish teacher Susan Bennitt. “She’s taught me countless lessons in strategic thinking, critical problem solving, but also in graciousness and kindness.” Harlow calls Prendergast “incredibly well-informed” and “amazingly gifted at what she does.” She “listens to both students and faculty about what they want to see on the shelves” and “knows what different people want to read.” Prairie Resch ’21 agrees: “There have been numerous occasions when she has recommended a book to me or asked me how [I thought] a particular book was.” Harlow concludes that “[it’s] a phenomenal thing for readers to know their scholarship is so appreciated.”

Understanding the value of interdisciplinary study, Prendergast made an active effort to work with each academic department. Math teacher David McCord asserts that she “has been tireless in promoting the library as a central resource for the entire academic community, across all disciplines–even math!” Chemistry teacher Jen Stauffer feels similarly, saying that she is “impressed with how [Prendergast] advocate[s] for the library and work[s] to foster connections with individual teachers to incorporate all that our library and librarians have to offer in their classes.” Stauffer credits Prendergast with helping design “several science projects that incorporate effective research skills.” Horsley adds that Prendergast helped her “as a teacher with [her] classes, but also as a department chair to think about how to make more use of the library.” She continues, “She’s always been very clear in her conviction that the library really is an important center for learning, contemporary skills, digital literacy, [and] research.”

Prendergast has worked extensively with the History Department, in particular. Tisha Hooks states that Prendergast “has been indispensable in fostering a strong relationship between the History Department and the Calarco Library, which at our school is the epicenter of research in the Humanities.” Hooks elaborates: “She has fashioned an institution that supports a curriculum that extends from the birth of human history to the present day.” Zoe Resch concurs: “It’s hard to imagine doing the research project without the foundation that she has provided in terms of library skills and learning [...] how to conduct research in a very sophisticated manner using very sophisticated resources.” Prendergast’s adaptability– especially through virtual and hybrid learning models this year–was all the more impressive to Resch: “She’s always working on [...] how to let students know about the resources in a way that’s most familiar to them. During the pandemic, instead of relying on face-to-face meetings, she made videos that could introduce subjects before students came to class so that we could be more efficient and that students could [...] replay it easily. That really facilitated, for example, research during the pandemic.” Roberts similarly emphasizes Prendergast’s crucial role in guiding students through research: “If you’re a student at Hopkins School and you haven’t made friends with [Prendergast], I’d have to question how deep your intelligence is.”

Praise for Prendergast is equally abundant among her advisees, both former and current. Prendergast is “welcoming and approachable,” says advisee Connor Davis ’21. “I always felt safe reaching out to her if I had any questions or concerns, and she always gave me the support and advice that I needed. She has done so much to make these past four the best they could possibly be [and] I could not have asked for a better advisor.” Sergio Olmedo-Ramirez ’13, who has known Prendergast since the summer of 2008, salutes her “advocacy, unconditional love, never-ending support, and contagious smile.” He is “one of many indebted with gratitude.” Wardlaw agrees: “She was [...] an advisor in every sense of my life. She didn’t just care about my grades and school but asked about my family, came to games, and always tried to be as involved as possible.” Similarly, Chloé Glass ’17 refers to Prendergast as “a formative mentor” who made her “feel heard and understood” while also “creat[ing] a community in advisor group.”

As Prendergast leaves behind an immeasurable legacy, she is “looking forward to, for a while, just let[ting] life happen:” Her “plan is to not really have a detailed plan” but “to enjoy, to read, [and] to catch up with friends.”
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