Vocation: Evans Millican
***This is the first installment of Vocation, a project exploring the relationship between people and their professions. Specifically, those people whose job is so closely intertwined with their identity that it seems to be a part of their DNA. Those people who seem as though they were born to do that particular job. It comes so natural, it would be hard to even conceive of them doing anything else. This is Evans’ story.
Photos and text by Kevin Liles.
Evans Millican is a librarian, through and through. He loves libraries. He loves how they smell. He loves what they offer. He’s even married to a librarian.
And though he has been a librarian at the Flint River Regional Library (FRRL) in Griffin, Ga., for nearly 19 years, it is not something he has always wanted to do. In fact, he didn’t even consider the occupation until his mid-30s.
Evans worked as a pay officer in the U.S. Army from 1977 until 1986, when he was honorably discharged after being “passed over.” This happens when a soldier fails to make a promotion for second time or within a specified time frame.
The military is an up-or-out organization, so they have little wiggle room when it comes to making rank. Evans was a captain and was slated to become a major. He was released when he did not do so on his second attempt.
“That was a tough one,” he said. “I was very embarrassed. I wasn’t very organized after leaving the Army and I didn’t know what I wanted to do. But I enjoyed my time in the service … I have no regrets.”
He decided he would go after a master’s degree in business. After all, he already held a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of North Georgia (then called North Georgia College).
But his heart wasn’t in it. “I went to Georgia State for an MBA, but my enthusiasm just petered out after a couple semesters,” he said.
That’s when his parents suggested library school. He hadn’t considered being a librarian before, but it made sense. It’s obvious libraries have been calling Evans for a long time. To hear him talk about what they mean to him to growing up is like listening to a pastor explain his first experiences in a church. This was his sanctuary.
“As a boy, I was always enchanted by the old Hawkes Library,” he said, of the old structure that is now part of the Griffin-Spalding Board of Education buildings. “The wooden floor, the compact spaces, the smell of the books, seeing all the bookcases. There was just something very comforting and reassuring about it … I was just enthralled by the whole thing. You never had to push me into that building.”
So six years after he left the Army, at 38 years old, he enrolled at the University of Tennessee in their library sciences master’s program. It was a vastly different experience than his undergraduate years.
“I’ve always been a good student, but after having been away from school for 10 years, I realized that graduate school has slightly different standards,” he said with a laugh. “Before I knew it, that first semester had me, it was like cold water in my face.”
It didn’t take him long though, to adjust, both to the academic standards and student life. In an effort to keep his mind on his studies, Evans decided to live on campus — in the dorms. He loved it.
“The younger students accepted me,” he said. “Some of the younger guys sort of took me under their wing.”
And like any college student worth his salt, he went to a few football games. Evans said he had to experience Neyland Stadium, the home stadium for the University of Tennessee Volunteers.
“We would sit in the nosebleed section, and I remember just sitting up there, looking over the wall and down at the Tennessee River, at all the people down there enjoying themselves. I loved all of that.”
But he wasn’t there to have a good time. He was there to get a degree, which he did in two years flat. After graduation, he moved back to Griffin and was working at the library within two months.
Just like many occupations, librarians vary greatly in their job descriptions. There are medical librarians, academic librarians, corporate librarians. The list goes on. Working at the FRRL (also known as the Griffin-Spalding County Library), Evans wondered if he had made the right choice. Should he have gone into the academic side? Shy as a boy, Evans wasn’t sure if he was the right fit for working directly with the public.
It took a few years, but Evans concluded that he made the right choice. Working with the public had become his favorite part of the job. That was important, considering “public” is in his title.
“My title is public services librarian, and I take that very seriously,” he said.
So serious that he often wears a look of intense concentration when working. Some might call it a scowl. But don’t let that fool you into thinking he’s not enjoying his job.
Spend just a few minutes with him at the information desk, the hot spot when it comes to dealing with the public, and it’s easy to see that he’s in his element when he’s helping someone navigate the library. Evans actually looks for ways to be helpful, showing patrons how to use the computer, copier, or find books or other resources on any subject.
“When I see him, I just notice how serious he is about his job, “ said Sue Johnson, a lifelong Griffin resident and longtime library patron. “When you ask him a question, you know you are gong to get an answer. He definitely knows the library.”
And Evans’ knowledge of the library certainly didn’t hurt when he found himself on Match.com about 10 years ago, talking to Lisa, a librarian from Macon.
“I didn’t know she was a librarian when we first started talking, I just loved her picture and her smile,” Evans said. “She was working at Mercer in their medical library. We talked about for six-to-seven months before we met, and I was just head over heels when I met her.”
Lisa now works at the Gordon State College library. And yes, the couple does talk shop.
“It’s not uncommon for us, in the morning while enjoying coffee, to talk about what has happened recently (in their respective library worlds) or what is ahead,” Evans said. “We do laugh about this sometimes, about how this came to be. I don’t know if script writers could written this.”
The couple has been married nine years.
This November, Evans will reach his 19-year mark with the library. He says he may work another six or seven years, but that’s still up in the air.
“I just can’t envision retiring,” he said, while sorting children’s books to be re-shelved. “I’m still so enthusiastic about things. I certainly haven’t done things the easy way. But I believe this was meant to be. That’s why, after all these years, I still love my job.”
One of the things he loves most about his job is when someone simply thanks him.
“My greatest satisfaction is when someone will come up to me, at a gas station or around town, and say that I helped them,” he said. “They will say ‘you helped me with a paper when I was in school and I got an A.’ They may not know my name, and that’s alright.”
“This is the best thing that has ever happened to me.”