At various points in her life, Adela Justice has spent her days working as a librarian and her evenings playing electric bass in bands and volunteering as a Texas reserve deputy. Sometimes she’s also juggled full- and part-time jobs in different libraries.
Justice, a senior librarian at The Learning Center, has a simple explanation for why she’s often kept such a hectic schedule.
“I learned it from my mom. She was a nurse, and she always worked lots of nursing jobs – in an ER, a prison ... even at Astroworld,” she recalls.
One of a kind librarian
Many health care professionals also are musicians on the side. But when you add in the stint as a reserve deputy, Justice’s combination of pursuits seems unusual.
“At one time, I think I was the only librarian/cop/bass player in the world,” she laughs.
A music lover from childhood, Justice attended Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and graduated from the University of North Texas in Denton with a bachelor’s degree in music. But when she suffered a hand injury while playing viola in the college symphony, it was time to rethink her career plans.
That’s when library science captured her attention.
“I’ve always loved to read and loved libraries. And the University of North Texas in Denton has one of three accredited library science programs in Texas, so I could even stay at the same school.”
After completing her master’s in library science, Justice moved back home to Houston and started her first professional job. She also revisited music on a part-time basis.
“Houston is a great music city, so I started playing electric bass, mainly blues, and singing in bands.”
Her path to becoming a licensed reserve deputy was a case of turning a negative into a positive.
“I was robbed in my neighborhood, and it made me really angry. I decided I wanted to be part of the solution, so I applied to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Academy.”
Reserve candidates must complete a year of training and pass the same state licensing exam as regular police officers. Once she met those requirements, Justice spent 10 years working as a deputy for 20 hours each month.
“I went on patrols, did investigations, served warrants – the same things cops do, but on a volunteer basis,” she explains.
Have skills, will travel
Justice’s professional career has included full-time jobs as a reference librarian at the Moody Medical Library in Galveston and a children’s librarian at the Houston Public Library, and part-time librarian positions at the Vet Tech Institute of Houston and the Pasadena Public Library.
“That’s one of the great things about being a librarian,” she says. “Much like a nurse, your skills transfer to different jobs in different places.”
Before coming to The Learning Center in December, Justice spent 13 years at the Houston Academy of Medicine - Texas Medical Center Library, where the patrons she served were students and other health care professionals.
Helping patients and family members who visit The Learning Center’s three locations has brought a new dimension to her career, Justice says.
“To know you can support someone in their most acute time of information-seeking is really powerful and so rewarding,” she says.
Justice also values the The Learning Center’s employees’ diverse backgrounds.
“We have four librarians and four patient educators. That’s an unusual combination, and we have a wonderful synergy,” she says.
Justice’s other passions are teaching and sharing her knowledge with both patients and peers.
“I enjoy teaching our new patient/family orientation classes, and I love to present at conferences,” she says.
When she’s not focusing her time and energy on her career, Justice stays busy as mom to 3-year-old son Laurenzo.
“When he was born, I had five different jobs. But he’s like 18 different jobs that you can’t quit,” she laughs.
Justice is taking a break from performing for now to spend time with Laurenzo. She loves to share her passion for music with him, and the two enjoy attending performances together. The toddler already loves to pound on his drums at home.
“Who knows? Maybe someday he and I will play in a band together.”
This story originally appeared in Messenger, MD Anderson’s bimonthly employee publication.