CONWAY — Tina Murdock, the new regional director of the Faulkner-Van Buren County Library System, said it’s still hard for her to believe how she got the job in Conway.
It started with a book.
Murdock, 55, who was manager of the Fine Arts and Humanities divisions at the Dallas Public Library, said, “I thought I’d be there till retirement.”
She said her mother’s favorite book growing up was Christy, about a woman at the turn of the century who goes to teach in the Appalachians.
One of Murdock’s jobs on the way to the Dallas Public Library was teaching English and music at a college in the Appalachians.
“When I moved to the Appalachians, [my mother] gave me a copy of the book. While I was living there, they were filming the TV series there. That’s something we’ve shared and enjoyed over the years,” Murdock said.
She said that in June, she was watching DVDs of the Christy series, and she got homesick for the mountains.
“I said, ‘I miss the mountains, but I don’t want to be that isolated again,’” she said. Nor did she want to be that far from her parents, who live in Pine Bluff.
“There aren’t a lot of library positions in Arkansas,” she said. “I said, ‘If I were going to live near the mountains again, it would have to be Arkansas mountains. I’d want to live a little north of Little Rock. Conway … Conway, that would be good. Yeah, if I were ever going to move to Arkansas again, it would be Conway,’” she said.
“I went online to see if there was anything in Arkansas, just out of curiosity, and this position was listed in Conway.
“I said, ‘OK, God, I get it,’” Murdock said, laughing. “I guess I can’t really not apply now. I loved my job. I wasn’t thinking about moving seriously.”
She was hired Dec. 2 to replace longtime director Ruth Voss, who retired at the end of 2012.
Murdock said she has bought a house in Conway, close to the Faulkner County Library.
Arkansas was home for a while when Murdock was a child, too.
Born in California, her parents moved to Arkansas when she was 7. They lived in Little Rock, then moved to Sheridan, where she attended junior and senior high schools. The family then landed in Pine Bluff.
Murdock played alto saxophone and oboe in her high school band. She’s also a pianist.
And, of course, she loved to read.
“Mom used to have to call me five or six times when I was reading, and I was so engrossed I didn’t even hear what she was saying,” Murdock said.
She has not one, but three master’s degrees: English, piano pedagogy and library information science.
She graduated from Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia with an education degree and a dual major in music and English. She taught English for grades seven through 12 at a private school in Pine Bluff.
Her love of learning led her to a teaching career.
After teaching in Pine Bluff, Murdock went to Singapore on a Journeyman Program with International Baptist Church and was there for two years.
The program International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention was for college graduates under the age of 26 to go to support career missionaries in the field, she said.
“I was assigned to International Baptist Church of Singapore. It was fascinating, and it’s such an amazing culture. It was one of the formative experiences of my lifetime,” she said. “It taught me to appreciate all kinds of cultures and language and traditions and music. I appreciate my own culture more for having learned to see it more objectively, to see folk traditions, not just country.”
When she came back, she lived in Pine Bluff for four years before going to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, to get her master’s degree in music to teach at the college level.
“I could have done that anywhere, but I knew I would always be involved in church music programs,” she said.
Then Murdock was off to Kentucky, where she fell in love with the mountains. She also got her master’s degree in English during that time.
“From there I went to New Orleans to teach English and music at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and run the music library,” she said.
While she was there, she got her master’s degree in library and information science from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.
Murdock packed her bags again and headed for Dallas to become the music librarian at the Dallas Public Library and was promoted to manager.
“Dallas has such a huge and vibrant music community,” she said.
She worked with community organizations, such as the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.
“That was the favorite part of my job,” she said. “I loved the community interaction.”
Murdock is expecting the same experience in Conway.
“People have been so friendly and supportive,” she said.
“It was clear that this was a community-centered library, and that’s what I think we need to be.
“So far, everybody seems to be enthusiastic. I love the way the board stays in touch with what’s going on; the Friends [of the Library] are so enthusiastic.”
Rhonda Davis of Clinton, chairwoman of the Faulkner-Van Buren Regional Library Board of Directors, said Murdock has several attributes that made her the right candidate.
“She has a very vast knowledge of different genres of libraries; she’s very genuine and sincere,” Davis said.
“She takes the initiative to get things done — and she had ties to Arkansas.”
Murdock will oversee seven library branches in addition to Conway: Greenbrier,
Mayflower, Mount Vernon, Twin Groves and Vilonia; and Van Buren’s main library in Clinton with a branch in Damascus.
Murdock said she has some goals for the libraries, but it will be a process.
“I didn’t come planning to make overnight changes,” she said. “The emphasis will be on upgrading technologies over the first year or so.
“There are so many resources out there, and the board and the Friends and the staff and I will be looking at how to make the best use of new technologies to serve our community.”
Murdock said libraries are as relevant as ever.
“The basic mission of libraries hasn’t changed,” she said.
“To move our society forward, we need creative thinkers, and libraries help level the playing field so everyone gets to get that education, regardless of their background,” she said.
“A couple of years ago in Dallas, a young man who had to lay out of college for a year came to the library looking for books to help him stay in touch with his field while he was out. He said, ‘Wow, there’s a whole education right here.’ I said, ‘Yes, that’s why we exist,’” Murdock said.
“We do programs; we do have some entertaining things, but I think sometimes … as a whole, we’re so engrossed by all the things that libraries do that we forget what they’re all about is providing equal opportunities to build a creative-thinking population,” she said.
“Books are part of how you do that. Books can be e-books, … videos can provide kinds of knowledge books cannot, and we need all of it,” she said,
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.