Our students out at the Southampton Branch of Stony Brook University (or #EasternSeawolves as they’re now being referred to on social media) are starting to see a new face behind the desk at the Library and out and about on campus. In late April, William Blydenburgh was hired as the Evening and Weekend Manager of the Southampton Library and his impact is already being felt within the library itself and around campus. William brings an extremely energetic and positive attitude to the Library, along with a wealth of experience in libraries and English Literature. We were able to sit down with William (call him Will!) and learn a little bit more about his background and his take on working at SBU Libraries.
Q) You have a very impressive background in Literature and Creative Writing, can you tell us more about your experience in this area? Have you always enjoyed reading and writing?
A) Reading and writing are two things that somehow never got along in my life. I go through periods of reading, and I go through periods of writing. They never overlap. I was a hungry reader when I was young, ever since an English teacher slipped me copies of books such as Wizard of Earthsea. A science teacher fed me science fiction such as Dune and Ringworld. There is no better bookworm feeling than passing on a life-changing novel to someone else. I’ve been lucky like that.
I formalized my relationship with literature with a B.A. from Dowling College and a M.A. from the University of Auckland. My thesis is named The Magic of Humour: Comic Effects in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. It was tough work, but I was in a great place. If you are going to study Lord of the Rings, New Zealand is one of the top places in the world to do so.
Creative writing is a personal quest and a way to maximize the potential of my free time. Returning home to the USA, having written paper after paper, I decided that I would write for myself. When you are used to pumping out 10,000 word papers like they’re breaths of air, why not put that productivity into a book? So I’ve been writing books as an indie author. My first projects have, of course, been in the fantasy genre.
I am an adjunct instructor of English at SUNY Suffolk County Community College. I teach technical writing, composition, and developmental writing. I promote literacy and communication – being able to express ourselves is a supreme skill and gift.
Q) What factors led you to look for work in a library? What specifically appealed to you about working at Stony Brook?
A) Over the course of my academics, I became accustomed to researching in academic libraries. The peaceful environment, the books, even the silent tapping of a keyboard. I can’t help but love research – curiosity is my engine. Libraries promote curiosity, they promote literacy, and they promote and support community. Did I mention the books? Books are nice (in any format). Databases; don’t get me started on databases. I lived on Jstor for a long time. SBU is a top-tier institution that balances innovation with stability. I love the new brand message about exceeding expectations.
Q) You got your Masters from the University of Auckland in New Zealand, what was that experience like? Any advice for students looking to study abroad?
A) I am a proud, proud alumni of UOA. It’s a top 50 school in the world and I full-heartedly support that claim. I met great friends and had many conversations and thoughtful debates. I just found out that the University of Auckland is an official affiliate of Stony Brook University, so it is certainly a place to consider going #FarBeyond.
My advice to students going abroad is to do it with someone, a friend or partner, if possible. If not, make friends as soon as you get to where you are going. Learn generalities about the place before striking out on your own. There is no better learning to be had than to live in another society for an extended period of time. Question your convictions and don’t hesitate to question the convictions of the place you visit. Keeping your head down is important, as being an American does tend to attract a lot of attention. Attention can be an unpredictable thing. Soak up the experience, every nuance. And keep a better journal than I did.
Q) You attended, graduated from and worked at Dowling College. What are your feelings/thoughts about the school possibly closing?
A) I may not have recently had the luster of yesteryear, but Dowling College is/was a gem. This is a sad loss for Long Island. I feel for the students, but the Dowling College Community is doing its best to support them, and so is Stony Brook University and other institutions in the area. I wish that Dowling was more flexible and innovative in their fundraising efforts, though I know that the closing is also a result of mistakes made long ago by people long gone. My concern now is for the property. Maybe I’m biased, but it would be nice to see the mansion turned into a museum and/or a library, and perhaps even connected to the gorgeous state-owned Bayard Cutting Arboretum across the Connetquot River. Or an SBU Campus, ha ha!
Q) With your background in writing, how will you be able to help the library connect with the outstanding MFA Creative Writing Program at the Southampton Campus? If you could offer the students in that program some advice, what would it be?
A) For CWMFA Students I would say: I know you have a lot on your plate, but consider tackling multiple projects. It helps with writer’s block, switching back and forth. Write one project for business, and another for pleasure. Also you may want to think about setting a word limit per day, something reasonable. Don’t take too much on yourself at once. If you are feeling overwhelmed, there is nothing wrong with writing a few hundred words describing a room, or a special object.
I’m working with Matthew Still, the Head of Southampton Library, on a revamped Creative Writing Libguide page along with other initiatives to help with all your research needs. Follow our progress on Twitter @SBSHamptonLib and Facebook, where we share helpful and interesting stuff. We also have an Instagram account and appreciate your feedback as we develop a new library to suit your needs.
A library job supporting Creative Writing students? I’m happy as a clam to be here.
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