Joseph B. Maiville, Evening Circulation


Maria Turner, Photo Editor

Joseph B. Maiville, OC ’07, poses behind the circulation desk in Mudd library.

Joseph Maiville, OC ’07, is the evening circulation desk supervisor at the Mary Church Terrell library. He first visited Oberlin as a prospective student in the spring of 2003 and has lived here ever since. Around Terrell, Maiville is known for his consistent, easygoing presence and love of puns. Off campus, he is involved in local politics around Lorain County and has dabbled in music as well, fronting a heavy-metal band for three years. He credits Oberlin with helping him to discover his passions, and views his job as an opportunity to give back to the community.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Nathan Carpenter, Editor-in-Chief

What are some of your duties or responsibilities as circulation desk supervisor?

I’m primarily responsible for training the student employees that work here. Additionally, I resolve any issues that come up at the desk as part of that. My job is to know everything that the students know, plus how to deal with all of the things I can’t train the students to know. But most of my job is when something doesn’t work exactly the way it’s supposed to in an interaction, I’m there to know how to handle it or figure out how to handle it.

Are you an Oberlin alumnus?

I graduated in ’07, or ’08, or ’09, actually you can pick any one of those years and you’re technically correct.

Why is that?

So my second semester, senior year, I got diverticulosis and it turned into diverticulitis. That’s an intestinal infection and it very nearly killed me. And I ended up having to take medical incompletes for two of my four classes. They let me walk in ’07. I was not able to complete my coursework until fall of 2008, so more than a year later. That just happened for a bunch of different reasons, but primarily I needed to refigure out my finances, because I had to pay for another semester of Oberlin. Then I didn’t actually receive my diploma until Jan. 20, 2009. And correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that was the same day Barry Obama was inaugurated as president of the United States of America.

Did you have a sense when you were a student here that you were going to stay in Oberlin and have a family here?

Basically, I came to prospie here and it must’ve been ’03 because it must’ve been my senior year of high school. I was all set to go to University of Michigan and I actually was going to U of M with a free ride, and they were terrible to me. I went to a follow up interview to audition for the musical theater school at U of M and I have literally never been more eviscerated by another human being in my entire life than in that follow up interview. At the end of 10 minutes of this person telling me how unqualified I was, they asked me to go and audition for the just the acting school — not the musical theater school, just the acting school. I was like, you know, “you could have just said that at the start of the interview and not followed up with the rest of this.”

What did you study at Oberlin?

History, which totally doesn’t make any sense, but I feel like that’s kind of how Oberlin is. There are two kinds of people who come to Oberlin: those who absolutely know what they’re going to do and those who think they know what they’re going to do and they’re just wrong.

Have you stayed in Oberlin since you graduated?

I mean, I never moved anywhere else. Obviously I’ve been to other places. It’s not like, you know, “I can never leave the city limits, the outside world might get me!”

And you just had a child?

Yes, in April.

How’s that been?

I’ve been working on my dad jokes for like 20 years, so I was 100 percent prepared for this.

What’s your best one?

How long does a dad joke last?

I don’t know.

A paternity. That’s an original. That’s my joke. Like I worked on that.

People who come to Terrell know that you try these jokes out on students who come by. I’m kind of curious how you built that persona.

I think that’s kind of — I don’t want to say always been me, but I’ve always been a very outgoing, sociable person and I feel like I generally have a good read on social interactions. So if someone is in a very good mood and I think a joke will land, I’ll engage them in that way. Sometimes I take risks, you know, [if] someone’s in a bad mood and it’s like, well, they’re already in a bad mood, it’s not like I’m gonna make it worse. So I’ll just joke around with them a little bit and see if it sticks. Usually it does. It’s supposed to be a good-faith interaction.

What’s your favorite part of working at the circulation desk?

Working with Oberlin College students. I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s absolutely true. When I was in that in-between year where I hadn’t finished my coursework — I wasn’t technically a student, but I was [a student] — I realized that just to get me to where I was, all of these people had gone out of their way to take care of me and help me. I really wanted to be able to pay that back and I figured the best way to do that would be to stay in Oberlin and look for those opportunities, and eventually that led me to this job.

You’ve also been very politically involved in the area, right?

Yeah, yeah. I worked on [Congressional candidate] Janet Garrett’s campaign. I did some phone calls for [Senator] Sherrod Brown. I donated way too much money this election cycle. I think I have never been more politically involved than I was this year and I have been politically involved in the past. I just have a lot of Obie friends who are politically involved and dragged me into things here and there. I think it’s a really important part of the Oberlin College experience to figure out what you’re passionate about, what you care about. I think that’s even more important politically than just about anything else.

I’m curious also if you have a particular funny story from your time working at Terrell that stands out in your memory.

Does it have to be from my time working at Mudd ? I mean, I have tons of great stories.


This is a great story. So, I was in a heavy metal band for three years. I was actually the front man for it. I did all the vocals and I wrote a lot of the music as well. That’s another thing too, I [was] very, very deep into music growing up, so it was like a lot of that. But, are you familiar with the band Mushroomhead?


They’re like industrial metal. If you have ever seen any band ever that is wearing creepy old school World War I gas masks and growling into the microphones, Mushroomhead started that in the eighties in Cleveland, they’re actually a local Cleveland band. But they do a lot of Cleveland shows and they look for Cleveland bands to open for them. And we opened for Mushroomhead. Our band wasn’t quite as edgy as their crowd normally is, but we put on a great show. We got a positive audience response. As we were leaving, one of their fans had a total meltdown at me and accused me of trying to steal their friend’s car. I disengaged from that because it was a weird interaction. He actually followed us back to my car and then snuck up behind me and punched me so hard in the face that my face actually broke in five places. I then drove my guitarist and one of our friends almost all the way back to Oberlin before getting violently ill and starting to lose consciousness. It was my car that we were driving and they took me to the hospital and we found out my face was broken. And did I mention this was six days before my wedding?

So what’d you do about the wedding?

I just Wolverined and healed up super quickly. Actually the plastic surgeon said it was one of the weirdest things that he had ever seen.

So it was not visible at all?

I had to wear makeup, but it was a wedding, so no one said anything.

 Do you still play music?

The guitarist for that band and I were very good friends and he literally just moved away. We had some casual side stuff going on. We weren’t playing gigs, but we’d hang out and play music together. He’s also an Obie. I just like that story because there’s so many bizarre components to it, it doesn’t feel real. … It just feels like a very Oberlin story. Because, you look at me and you don’t immediately think, ‘ah yes, that guy’s in a heavy metal band.’ You look at me and you’re like, “aww, young Santa Claus.”

Would you be a mall Santa?

Yes. That is a life goal. I will be a mall Santa probably no more than 20 years from now. I’m going to make it to my early fifties, and I’m gonna be like, “there’s enough gray in here. Let’s do this.”

Anything else to add?

I mean, being part of this community, it can be challenging. I think that for all that this place welcomes to you to be weird and different, it also welcomes you to be weird and different in a certain set of what is culturally normal here. And I think a lot of students struggle with that. What I would say to that is, man, don’t let other people tell you how to do what you do or how to be what you be. Just do what you got to do, be respectful, and move along. There’s so much good going on here. There’s so many good things happening. For a town this small, there shouldn’t be this much cool stuff packed in here and you can find your spot. There’s one there for you.