Valerie Bell was raised in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey where she attended Atlantic City Friends School and Absegami High School. She first attended Buena Vista University in Iowa and later to William Penn in Oskaloosa, Iowa. She earned a bachelor’s degree in history and political science, with a minor in philosophy and a master’s degree in library science from St. John’s University in New York. Valerie is the Director of the Athens Regional Library System, a job she’s held since 2015 when she moved to Athens to take the position. She lives in the Villages at Jennings Mill.
What inspired you or led you to your current career?
What inspired me was that I wanted to be a researcher for 60 Minutes. I used to love 60 Minutes, I still do. You would see all of these fabulous stories, and I thought wow who does the research for this. I thought that would be so cool to just be able to research all of these things and let people know about it. When I was looking into what you need to be a researcher, it led me to a library science degree. So, I decided if I am going to work for 60 Minutes, then I should do that, and I should probably go to school in New York. I had an aunt who lived in Queens so I ended up going to St. John’s to get a master’s degree in library science and my focus was on reference research.
What is your favorite restaurant in Athens, and what do you love there?
I have a number of them. So, I like to go to The Table, Home.made, The Last Resort is always good and one of the best ones is Little City Diner out in Winterville. The breakfast is really good, but so is their blue plate special. You have to go early because they sell out. I take any friends of mine that come to visit. I say, you have to try this restaurant, it is really good. Don’t worry about it. Just get the blue plate special, don’t even think about anything else. I also like Food for the Soul. The fried chicken is amazing, and the greens are really good.
If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?
You know, I have always wanted to go to Alaska or Australia. Because they are beautiful from everything that I hear, the scenery is just breathtaking. Just to be able to walk out and see beautiful surroundings.
What is your favorite movie, or what is the first movie you remember seeing in a theatre?
The first movie I remember seeing in a theatre was probably Star Wars. Although, I kind of remember seeing Mary Poppins, but I was really young then. I have a lot of favorite movies. Right now, my favorite movie is probably It’s Complicated. It is just hilarious, it is laugh out loud funny. When I am trying to relax and not think, that’s what I want in a movie.
If you could have anything printed on a billboard around town, what would it say?
“Use your library card, it’s free!”
What advice would you give your younger self?
Not to take everything so personally, lighten up. There is more to life than work and so just lighten up and enjoy the moment.
If you could see any band or show, anywhere, dead or alive, who would it be and where?
Prince! There is a short video where Prince is playing with Tom Petty and Steve Winwood and some other artists and Prince does a solo that is just fantastic. They are all doing guitar solos and it is just fabulous. I would love to go back to be at that.
What is your favorite thing to do in Athens on your day off?
One of my favorite things to do, and I get people to come with me, is taking a walk through the Botanical Gardens.
What is something interesting that most people don’t know about you?
That I am a twin! I have a fraternal twin sister and we are very, very close. She is a poverty attorney in Camden, New Jersey. We finish each other’s sentences sometimes. We think alike, but we are very different. I would be the more wild one no doubt. She is the sweet one. Everyone likes her.
What three words or phrases come to mind when you think of the word “home”?
My mother who has passed away, my twin and New Jersey.