Alumna Martha Crockett Sneed: Trademarks of a great career
Like many librarians, alumna Martha Crockett Sneed was introduced to the profession when she took a part-time job at the local library as a teenager. At 16, and at the urging of her mother, she applied for a page position and was hired at the Chaney Branch of the Detroit Public Library.
She enjoyed the work but didn’t think of it as a career. “It was fun to do, but I was focused on art,” she said. Art was Sneed’s first love and she imagined that she would eventually become an artist, or at the very least, an art curator. After graduating from the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in art history she struggled to find a job and wasn’t sure she wanted to pursue the heavy academic career that would be required to advance in that field.
“I was strapped for cash and worked in various jobs for a few years,” she said. “I had two friends who had gone on to become school librarians, so I decided to look into art librarianship.” Sneed found her way to Wayne State’s newly accredited master of library and information science program in 1972.
Wayne State was a natural fit for Sneed, whose family history and roots run deep at the university. Her grandfather, Ernest Drake, founded the College of Engineering in 1933 and her parents met as students at the university. And although they lived in Washington, D.C. at the time, Sneed and her husband got married at the McGregor Memorial Conference Center on Wayne State’s campus. They rounded out their wedding day by going to see a game of their beloved Detroit Tigers (who pulled out a win in the bottom of the ninth inning with a grand slam home run).
Sneed graduated in 1973 and applied for a position at the Detroit Public Library, hoping to work in the fine arts department. “When I applied for the position, the hiring manager looked at my resume and focused on the fact that I’d worked as a waitress to get through college,” said Sneed. “He said, ‘So, you’re a waitress – you must have good people skills.’” She was offered a starting position in the general information department and worked her way up to subject matter librarian after a couple of years. Once again, fate had unexpected plans for Sneed. “I really wanted to get into fine arts, but I was moved to the science and technology department,” she said. “I had no interest in working with patents, but to my surprise, I fell in love with them almost immediately – they came with great drawings that were attached to the specifications and it won me over.”
Sneed found an outlet for her artistic passion in the unique and interesting artwork that accompanied the patents. She became a patent specialist and worked in the department for 11 years before moving on to the position that would define her career. Sneed worked in the Patent and Trademark Depository Library (PTDL) Program at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for more than 30 years.
One of the accomplishments she is most proud of in her career is becoming manager of the PTDL program and seeing the designation of a depository library in all 50 states. She also was able to continue a relationship with the Detroit Public Library by starting and fostering a successful partnership between the library and the patent and trademark office for more than a decade. The library continues to offer the Patent and Trademark Resource Center that provides free resources to patrons looking for information about patents, trademarks and copyright.
Although she retired in 2015, Sneed continues her service to the profession. “The two years of experience as a page imprinted on me in ways I wasn’t fully aware of. It was such a wonderful foundation,” she said. “And now that I’m retired, I volunteer at my local library doing what I did at 16 and I still love every minute of it. I have loved my career and I’m very grateful to Wayne State.”
Sneed encourages those who are new to the profession to keep an open mind and realize that sometimes following an unexpected path can lead to a long and fulfilling career.
“Librarianship gives you access to incredible colleagues – librarians are curious by nature and their interests are broad. They are politically astute, stand up for what’s right, and most of all they help people,” she said. “I’ve always been proud to say that I’m a librarian.”