A Boston Public Library Love Story

Between tourism, typing, and the shuffling of books that goes on the in the dynamic Boston Public Library (BPL), there doesn’t seem to be much time to think about romance. Especially if that romance sparks between two librarians. But then there’s John and Katie, two librarians at the main branch in Boston’s Copley Square. They met at the library 20 years ago, and have nurtured their 12-year marriage there as well.

“One day, I came to work for social sciences, and my boss took me down to introduce people,” Katie giddly recalls the first time she met her future husband. “I went to microtext, and there was this cute guy sitting at the computer. Didn’t look up once. And I thought, “Oh, he seems nice!”

“I don’t know if I absolutely paid no attention,” John playfully disputed, “but I was probably busy working over there. Her department used to work a lot for my department. We had a decent break room at the time, and so it was going down to the break room for lunch. There were a lot of instances of flirting.”

The details of the start of their relationship seem rocky in their own memory. They had three informal first dates. One of them sparked by a startling situation for Katie.

“Katie had a patron stalking her,” John said. “It was a scary time, but I would walk her home to Forest Hills and we ended up going on three informal dates before we actually had a real first date. We went for a drink at the Dogwood Cafe right across the street from Forest Hills and the patron stalking gave me an excuse to be around each other more.”

They laugh at each other’s jokes quite a bit. They have a quirky energy about themselves that works smoothly for them. The two even joke about their quirky energy themselves.

“I’m really bad at flirting, so I don’t think he realized I was flirting with him and I don’t know when he was flirting with me because we’re both so subtle about it,” Katie laughed.

John is the prankster in the relationship, and he’s been joking with Katie even in the early stages of their relationship. “One of the classics is that we used to read the Metro, and she would say ‘what’s your [zodiac] sign?’ And every day, I would change the sign. It’s our version of flirting.” he laughed.

The two say their flirting is so awkward, that even the staff around them had no idea they were dating. Even when they became engaged, the flirting habits seemed so friendly that it wasn’t well-known around the library that they were together.

“This is why he and I hooked up,” Katie said, “because we’re both miserable when it comes to this kind of stuff. Anybody who is adept at this sort of thing would have been completely lost. Because I would have been like ‘I don’t know what to say to this guy.’”

John and Katie met in 2000 and were married in 2007. But now, if you go the library, you won’t even see them in the same place as they were 12 years ago. For one, they’re never together. John works in the Elliot Room and Katie is in a separate hall in the research department. Sometimes they rotate positions, but they are never at the same station. But they take the Orange Line home to Forest Hills on nights they work together. While they enjoy working together, they do say it comes with its challenges.

“It’s good working together. We go home and we talk about it.” Then Katie whispered, “Don’t tell anyone we said this, but we talk about some of the patrons. The patrons are quirky in their own way, to put that nicely. So, we have a lot to share. Sometimes we get on each other’s nerves.”

John concurred. “When you have issues with your coworker, it can come home. But we try our best to keep work life and home life separate.”

As they have worked together for nearly 20 years, they’ve said that though the downside of it can possibly result in arguments at home, they found they appreciate how much they have been able to learn from each other.

“He lights up like a kid in a candy store when it comes to government,” Katie said about her husband. “I really didn’t know how government worked until I started talking to John about his job more. And I think that goes into his quirks.”

With equal admiration, John said he finds Katie’s most recent passion project to be inspiring. “Katie’s been very adamant about adults with autism. The research [she’s] been doing regarding reaching out to special needs people is fascinating.”

“It just feels like a forgotten demographic, adults with autism,” Katie explained. “There’s so much going on with kids, but not much with adults. 85% of people with Asperger’s are unemployed. So, I’m doing a lot more with that and organizations to see what we can do here at the BPL. I have a job-hunting workshop for free and a book club for adults on the spectrum.”

With the marriage that formed in the Boston Public Library, they added a baby to their family as well. Their six-year-old, John Devine III, according to Katie, is much like John.

“Oh, he’s just like his father. JUST like his father! He’s stubborn and there’s bits of both of us. He’s very active and very curious.He definitely has a strong will, and is very strong minded. Very opinionated,” Katie said.

After the microphones shut off, John & Katie talked about how they realized they haven’t had a date in a long time. So, they went back to the Dogwood after work. The same place they had one of their first dates.