Heldebrandt brings experience to Booth

Ryan Meyer, Staff Reporter

Beth Heldebrandt’s office, tucked away in the far corner of Booth Library’s top floor, appears sparse on first glance, with a family photo here and there. It is the office of someone with work to be done.

Heldebrandt has been at work since graduating from Southern Illinois University Carbondale in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She went on to earn a master’s in English at Eastern in 1999.

Heldebrandt grew up an hour and a half west of Charleston and went to school in Nokomis, right off of Route 16.

“I loved growing up in the country, I loved growing up in the farm, but I knew I didn’t want to live there the rest of my life,” Heldebrandt said.

Journalism may have turned out to be what Heldebrandt was destined to do, because she never swayed from her course of study during her time at SIUC.

“I was very odd, because of all my friends I was the only one who did not change my major,” Heldebrandt said.

In January of 1990 saw Heldebrandt get her first job in her field at Journal Gazette & Times-Courrier as the Features Editor, a job she held until July of 2012. She’s also been teaching classes for the journalism department at Eastern since 2003.

Heldebrandt has been writing freelance since 2012 and was also named the Public Relations Director for Eastern’s Booth Library the same year.

Most recently, she became a media analyst for Ad Fontes Media in 2019.

Arlene Brown, a close friend and associate at the library, described her as a “wonderful person” and a friend outside the workplace since Heldebrandt joined the library staff in 2012.

“She’s just down-to-earth, she’s got good common sense, she’s the kind of person that keeps you balanced, keeps you on a good level,” Brown said.

Their friendship formed through everyday work interactions, and the two got to know each other over the years spent working together.

“We used to work in cubicles in here so we were just right over the wall from each other, you know, talking, chatting throughout the day,” Brown said. “And you can’t help but to get to know someone pretty well.”

Their friendship has led to a quest to find the finest burger in Charleston, and while the COVID-19 pandemic has derailed this mission, both Brown and Heldebrandt are determined to resume it in the future.

Heldebrandt’s abilities as a writer have helped Booth Library receive multiple grants, Brown said.

“If there’s a grant that we could apply for, then she is the wordsmith. She comes up with all the right words in the right places, and that’s really helped us a lot,” Brown said. “We’ve had quite a few grants since she’s been here that we’ve received because of her ability to put the right words in the right place.”

Allen Lanham, former dean of library services, hired Heldebrandt for a job that over 22 years of journalism prepared her for.

“We hired her to compile and compose, write, publications for the library,” Lanham said.

Heldebrandt’s experience not only in the field but also in the surrounding area made her a top candidate for the job of Booth’s public relations director.

“Having worked for the Times-Courier made her an excellent candidate because she knew the terrain, she knew our area, and she was a quick learn,” Lanham said. “You tell her something or ask her to find something… and she can put her finger right on it very quickly.”

Heldebrandt’s productivity can be attributed to her preparation and dedication to efficiency in the workplace, Lanham added.

“She enjoyed a good laugh, but she was dedicated to getting the job done,” Lanham said. “She’s very much driven to stay on deadline, to make sure she’s prepared for whatever project is coming up.”

Part of the reason for Heldebrandt’s shift to a job in a newsroom to a job in a library is the decrease in pressure and the feeling of being rushed.

“It is less stressful when you’re not supervising people. It’s also less stressful that you don’t have the daily deadline,” Heldebrandt said. “One of the reasons I decided to leave there to come here, you know, (after) 22 years, it’s just a little bit of a slower pace, not that I’m not busy here, because I’m busy from the time I get here to the time I leave, that it’s not quite the same as knowing that if I don’t get my work done, this isn’t going to get delivered to people’s houses the next day,” she said, pulling out a newspaper from one of her desk drawers and rustling it.

Lanham also said that Heldebrandt’s presence in the workplace keeps things moving in a way that is courteous and respectful of coworkers.

“I always thought of her as having a non-threatening efficiency,” Lanham said. “Some people can be so efficient that they put you on edge because maybe you’re behind or something, but in a non-threatening way she can make sure that everything is getting done as it should be.”

My interview with Heldebrandt ended succinctly and politely, and I left her office on the top floor of Booth Library knowing considerably more about her than I did upon entering.

And if there’s one thing I knew for sure, it’s that she had work to do.

 

Ryan Meyer can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]