March 20, 2018

Carol Sinwell | Movers & Shakers 2003

Boundary Hopping


Carol Sinwell doesn’t like arbitrary boundaries. She has been a teacher, in both a public and a parochial school, a reference librarian and a branch manager in a public library, and a librarian and manager in a community college, but all those roles have a way of overlapping.

In 1991, when a branch she was managing had to close for renovation, displacing many users, she reached out to the public schools and county parks board to come up with a way to keep providing library service to the area. She sent some of her staff to the nearest high school library, where evening and Saturday service was offered, and set up a temporary library in a double-wide trailer in the nearby park.

Though she’s now in a community college environment, Sinwell continues to cross the divide to work with the library community at large. She’s the advisor to the Fairfax County Public Library Foundation Scholarship Committee. She also works with the Fairfax County Library System on grant development and marketing and presents staff development workshops for librarians at both her own library and at nearby George Mason University.

Sinwell has helped to establish the new live chat library service that’s distributed across all 23 of Virginia’s community colleges. On campus, where she turned the volunteer program she originally started in the library into a campuswide volunteer program, she is in demand as a committee member. Gen Sen Chu, learning resources services director, attributes that to Sinwell’s “ability to communicate and collaborate with diverse groups” and to her good humor and easygoing style.

Sinwell loves being a librarian, because learning new things energizes her, but she’s never stopped being a teacher; the essence of reference work in a community college, after all, is teaching people how to find the information they need. She also teaches students and staff, directly in workshops and indirectly as a mentor who encourages and honors their professional development. Patricia Szarek, a library assistant now working on her library science degree, calls Sinwell, “The best manager I’ve ever had during my 23-year career….”

In her spare time, Sinwell serves on the Board of Directors of the Connelly School of the Holy Child and raises money for her church, where she also – surprise! – works on its library development committee. Oh, yes, she’s also completing work on her doctorate in education administration. Her thesis topic – what is it that makes some faculty enthusiastic and productive – excites her because if there are common factors that can be taught, she could use that information to nurture and develop the talents and professionalism of her staff.

Sinwell sees no reason why artificial boundaries should get in the way of the greatest of human enterprises – following our curiosity, learning all we can, and working together to pass it on.




Current Position:
Associate Director Learning Resource Services, Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale Campus

Degrees: MSLS, Catholic University, 1984; M.Ed., Social Foundations of Education, University of Virginia, 2000

Unofficial Title:
Committee member extraordinaire