By Ashley Mackin
For La Jolla Riford Library’s new head librarian, Shaun Briley, books have been a part of his life and career, in some form or another, every step of the way. Having taken the reins on June 30 from the retiring Catherine Greene, the London native said being a librarian is a natural fit and he is happy to be in La Jolla.
“I walk into this beautiful building every day and just feel so grateful,” he said. “It’s a real gift to get to work here. The patrons are smart, interesting people. The collection is excellent, especially the fiction collection, which is one of the biggest in the city.”
The bibliophile is himself a writer — a former journalist and author of “How Not To Live Abroad,” published in 2004. “I lived in a remote part of Spain for a while and wrote a book about it,” he said. “It’s kind of like ‘Under The Tuscan Sun’ or ‘A Year in Provence’ gone wrong. The whole thing is tongue-in-cheek.”
When he returned to England, he worked in a bookstore. “I loved it, but I thought the only thing that would make it perfect was if I wasn’t selling something. I didn’t want to push things on people. I wanted to be around people who were interested in reading, and that’s where I got the idea of working in libraries.” He obtained a degree in library sciences.
However, after living in sunny Spain, he found it difficult to endure the cloudy London weather. “I first went to Florida because it’s heralded as the Sunshine State and a lot of English people go there on vacation because it’s only a five-hour flight,” he explained. “The whole idea was to live with my doors and windows open and have the climate I had in Spain. But there were bugs and humidity, so I left. Someone suggested Arizona because it was warmer and inexpensive.”
When he arrived in Arizona, which he recalls was in a January or February, “it was freezing cold until 11 in the morning and then it was boiling hot the rest of the day. When I asked someone how long it would be like this, they said to wait another month, and it would just be hot all the time.”
So he hopped in the car — which he drove from Florida to Arizona — and got on the I-8 freeway. “I drove until the road ran out,” he said. “When I came over the hills into San Diego, I realized this is what I was looking for and had in mind at the beginning.”
When he arrived in 2004, he worked at a discount bookstore before moving to Barnes & Noble in Mission Valley. While there, he met Bill Mallory, the now Youth Services Librarian at the La Jolla branch. “We worked well together then and I’m sure we’ll work well together now,” Mallory joked.
Their employment together was short-lived as Briley moved on to a marketing internship with the city library system in 2007.
In the midst of his internship, he heard about a tour of the Central Library downtown, led by former La Jolla librarian Catherine Greene. “She gave me her card at the end of the tour. I was so impressed with her and thought there were such smart, witty people working there, I wanted to work there.” He obtained his master’s degree in library sciences and became a librarian.
His first jobs were as substitute librarian in Chula Vista and National City. Then he became a manager at the Paradise Hill branch, and next circulation manager at the downtown office.
Excited to transition to the La Jolla branch, Briley said he hopes to enhance the programs here.
“I want to, with my service, bring in events that are suitable for and reflect the community. I’m going to keep up the quality that I see here,” he said. “Libraries are more than just books, they are a venue. We get pigeonholed as being an old public building for children’s resources. But we have a lot of adult programming and high quality stuff here.”
A La Jolla resident, Briley has two children, Keira, 4, and Liam, 2, with his wife Shannon, whom he met at a bookstore.