A Librarian with a “Fervent Love” for
A lifelong love for books steered Mary Zaccaria ‘11MLS to St.
John’s University’s graduate program in Library and Information
Science. A desire to serve led her to mentor
those who use libraries as a resource for conquering mental
Mary is the Patient Librarian at Greystone Park Psychiatric
Hospital in Morris Plains, NJ. It is, she says, “a sizable
facility,” with 450 patients and 1,700 employees. For the
hospital's diverse patients, the library is a vital tool. Print and
online resources inform patients about medical, legal and
employment issues affecting their rehabilitation.
In some ways, Mary’s work is similar to that of other librarians.
She has expanded the library’s collections and helps patrons to
access information in print and online. At Greystone, she also is
part of a clinical rehabilitation team that uses the arts,
technology and physical education to prepare patients to return to
stable, productive lives.
A Librarian and More
“It’s very rewarding,” said Mary. “In this environment, I’m much
more than a librarian. I’m also a teacher and a clinician.” In
fact, a teaching degree was one of the requirements for the
position. “I spend a lot of time assisting patients with academic
research,” she said.
One patient is completing an online master’s degree in business.
Another is a medical doctor conducting research on recidivism and
prison reform. There also is an established author writing a memoir
about his battles with mental illness and racism.
Many patients entered the hospital voluntarily. Others were placed
there — including those deemed “Krol/NGRI,” criminal defendants
found not guilty by reason of insanity. “We’ve had lockdowns,” she
said. “It was daunting at first, but now it’s just part of the day,
along with announcements about events, webinars and guest
Mary began her career as a teacher at the middle-school and
university levels. A New Jersey native, she earned her bachelor’s
degree at Montclair State University in 1986 and her master’s
degree in education at William Patterson University in 1992. Mary
later moved to Queens, NY, where she taught at a local middle
Challenging and Gratifying
Mary also enrolled in the doctoral English program at St. John’s. A
graduate assistantship allowed her to become an instructor at the
University. After moving back to New Jersey, she worked in a public
library for five years while teaching the G.E.D. at Passaic County
Community College in Paterson, NJ. In 2005, she had her son,
Michael, and started teaching in both elementary and public schools
as a media specialist.
The change convinced her to switch from the doctoral to the MLS
program. Towards the end of the program, Mary accepted a position
as part-time director at a small public library. She earned the
degree last May, five months before securing her position at
While challenging, she said, working with the patients “is
interesting and intrinsically rewarding.” In addition, employees
share “a fervent belief in helping and educating the less fortunate
— values I found in the MLS program and at St. John’s.”