BUCKHANNON – Throughout the world, it’s not uncommon for folks who are in the same profession to be married.
However, in the state of West Virginia, there is only one pair of library directors in the same town who are married to one another – and that duo happens to live and work in Buckhannon.
Heather Campbell-Shock, director of Library and Development Services at the West Virginia Library Commission, verified that that Paul and Cathy Norko are indeed the only two library directors in the state who are directors of libraries in the same town.
Paul serves as the director of the Upshur County Public Library in Tennerton, while Cathy is the director of the Charles W. Gibson Library in Buckhannon.
Paul Norko said he started as the assistant director at the Upshur County Public Library in June 2017 and was made interim director in February 2018. Soon after, he assumed the position as director in June 2018.
He explained how he worked his way up to serving as a director of the Upshur County Public Library.
“My first job was working in a Walden Books, where I worked for six years,” he said. “I thought I would study to be a networking tech support guy with computers, but after obtaining a two-year degree, I found out I didn’t like the field.”
Paul said he had worked in libraries during high school and college and really liked that.
“So, I finished my degree to become a librarian,” he explained. “I grew up in Maryland and got my first library job in Suffolk, Virginia when I got out of grad school. I was a cataloger there for a few years.”
Following his stint in Virginia, Paul said he interviewed at a library in Clarksburg – which is what brought him to West Virginia.
Cathy Norko began working at the Charles W. Gibson Library at the end of August 2019, starting as the cataloger before accepting the position as director, effective Jan. 1, 2020. She’s originally from Connecticut but moved near Bridgeport, West Virginia in 1993.
“I studied history for my undergraduate degree in college and was not sure what I wanted to do when I graduated,” Cathy said. “My friends called me one day during the summer and said they were going to check out a school and asked me to join them, which I did.”
Cathy said it turned out the college they visited was the University of Pittsburgh, and the program of interest was the university’s Library of Science Master’s Degree Program.
“Coincidently, I was the one who enrolled and went to the school – my friends are actually living in Japan,” she said. “I find it very funny that I was the one who actually enrolled and earned my degree.”
She said her degree is in Archives and Records Management.
“We were the gawky kids on the other side of the hall who looked at the library science majors and thought they were very tidy and clean,” she said laughing. “Archivists are dirty – we have a dirty profession and should be featured on ‘Dirty Jobs.’”
After graduating in 2009, Cathy started working at the Clarksburg/Harrison Public Library as a part-time helper at the reference desk. From there, she said she took over as the reference librarian in 2011. In 2015, she assumed the role as the Director of the Waldomore, their historic building and their archives and records.
One they were both in Clarksburg at the library, you might say the ‘rest was history.’
“She claims she fell in love with me during my interview,” Paul said.
“I still stand by that,” Cathy said, giggling.
“I got the job in Clarksburg at the library in October of 2014,” Paul said.
Cathy said it took a few months to convince Paul to join her for activities.
“I started asking him to join us for activities in December – although he would not go out for New Year’s Eve,” she recalled. “Finally, I struck on something he really liked. Paul likes classical music, and I like opera. After that we started dating and were married in April 2018.”
One may think that library directors would have homes stuffed with books. While the Norkos say they enjoy books, they do not feel they own too many books.
“I have every Star Trek book – all 600 plus of them,” Paul said. “I enjoy reading science fiction, but there are not many people around here who enjoy science fiction books.”
Cathy said she enjoys science fiction books but also likes “reading a little bit of everything else” as well.
“He owns most of the books we have,” she said. “I don’t keep books unless they are near and dear to me. I have four or five series I cannot part with.”
The Norkos moved to Buckhannon in April of 2019 – on their first wedding anniversary.
“If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is,” joked Cathy.
When asked what it’s like to be married to someone who does the same job in the same town as your spouse, Cathy laughed.
“I have learned to be a sounding board without becoming a megaphone,” Cathy said. “I hear about his problems and he hears about mine.”
Paul said one big plus is the cooperation between the two.
“We are planning the summer reading program for 2020,” he said, “and we share the same patrons and we have somewhat the same collection, and we can see how we can best share that between the two libraries. This isn’t a competition – it’s a collaboration,” Paul said.
And one of the negative aspects of library directors being married?
“You never get away from work,” Cathy said. “Because we are in the same profession and we have similar personalities, we both tend to think of things randomly and share them – even at 2 a.m. in the morning.”
Paul said it’s nice to be married to someone who shares so many of his interests.
“I have someone who understands what I am going through at work,” Paul said.
“Sometimes, trying to explain library things to nonlibrary people is difficult,” Cathy said.
When asked if she ever thought she would marry a librarian, Cathy quickly answered, “no.”
“I didn’t think I would ever get married ever,” she said. “They had a library action figure when I was in school who pushed a book cart around. I thought that would be me. It was so cool when I met Paul. It is really nice to have an ally in your own backyard.”