The Canadian Library Association (CLA) has designated the fourth Monday in October as National School Library Day.
To mark this special day, this week we are profiling librarians and library technicians who work in the school library sector: 13 Questions + 3 bonus questions about school librarianship.
Librarian, Trafalgar School For Girls, Montreal
A hero who has inspired you in your career?
My friend from high school Eric Craven (got his MLIS at McGill in 2000), who was responsible for convincing me to move to Montreal and becoming a librarian in the first place, is doing some AMAZING work at the Atwater library with the digital literacy project. He works with a lot of community outreach groups and does so much with so little. He’s like the new frontier of librarianship in my books (pun intended). Check it out!
The first job you ever held and at what age?
My first job was at the age of 14 as a bus girl in a pirate-themed burger joint. Part of my job was to shape the hamburger patties, which involved dipping my hands repeatedly in a busser’s container full of raw ground beef. I was vegetarian for several years after that.
Your first position in the library and/or information services field?
At the age of 16, I was a page for the Oak Bay Public Library in Victoria, BC.
Coolest thing in your cubicle or office?
Well, I do have an autographed portrait of Jennifer Lawrence as she filmed a scene from X-Men in one of our French classrooms. That’s pretty exciting.
Oh, but not to be outdone by a marble bust of good ol’ Dante. The students really like to dress him up for the holidays.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Whiskey (can I say that?). And movies with car crashes in it.
Career advice – what’s your top tip?
Be brazen, curious and unafraid of failure.
Have an idea? Try it out. If it works, yay! If not, try something else.
If you are in a workplace that doesn’t allow you to try out new ideas? Quit.
What useless skill(s) do you possess?
Hmmm. This is a hard one as I don’t have many skills – the ones I do have I feel are pretty useful.
Ok, the fact that I can recognise a two bit actor from the 80s in a newish TV legal drama without any problem, but I can’t recognise that person who just said hi like they knew me and apparently I have met on several occasions. I think there is something wrong with my brain.
Proudest moment in your professional life?
I got John Green to talk at our school. I have been riding on the coattails of that success for several years now…
If you had 24 hours all to yourself, how would you best like to spend it?
24 hours? Wha? That would be crazy. Get up later than 5 am. Drink coffee. Do some writing. Go for a long run. Have a bath in which I read a good book until the water gets cold. Eat something. Read more. Write more. Go for a walk. Nice dinner, nice wine, good movie with a car crash in it. Go to bed and sleep. Wait. That’s like my weekend…
If you didn’t work in the information industry, what would you be doing?
I’d like to say writing fiction. Well, I do that anyways, but if I wasn’t working I could do it more. But then again, everyone knows you can’t make a living off writing so…I have no idea. I think I was born to be a librarian. My mom told me I even came into the world with the pointy little glasses, a bun and a severe “shh” face.
Finish this sentence: “In high school, I would have been voted the person most likely to … “
Quietly beat you over the head with my large, pretentious collected works of Dostoyevsky if you dared talk to me. Heck, even look at me.
I was such a charmer.
How do you stay current in your field?
I read a lot of blogs/magazines (I have a pretty full Feedly), talk to my colleagues, go to conferences. I am always looking for ways in which I can serve the staff and students at my school. I also use social media to see what other people in the profession are doing (Ok, I lurk. I’ll admit it).
The field of education and teaching is constantly in flux from curriculum to funding, from technologies to staffing. What opportunities does the frequency of change, for better or for worse, present to the library community and to users?
Oh fine. Leave the hard questions for last.
My position is a little unique in that I am working for an all girls, English private school in Montreal. The last few years have been especially hard politically, as the provincial government has launched a double attack – one, making it harder for potential students to attend English schools and recently by cutting funding to private schools.
But that doesn’t mean there are not opportunities. The librarian is uniquely positioned to serve the community in the following way:
1. Take part in building your Digital citizenship program for the school, from information literacy (more and more necessary) to how to use technology mindfully. I truly believe this is where librarians can shine- with our core belief in access to information and our ability to present to students ways in which they can not only consume online but create, this is where we should be putting a lot of our efforts.
2. Curriculum changes- that means teachers and students will have different information needs. Make sure you are listening to the teachers and responding to their needs and soon they will see you as indispensable [insert evil laughter here].
3. Embrace technology – the teachers at my school are extremely dedicated and committed to their students but they are classically strapped for time. Get to know the tools that they need to know and become a go-to person for that technology. Share ideas via your network/blogs, etc so that they always have something they can be inspired with.
4. Books too! That doesn’t mean your role as reader’s advisory gets to lag. From the kid who reads so much you can’t get new books in fast enough, to the ones who are best served by audio books, reading is still super important, at least in my school. It is valued and supported by the teachers. We have a Community Reads project every summer as well as a book café that meets every month and a Battle of the books team that competes with other schools. Reading is a big part of our school life.
What should every information professional know about school librarianship?
Make yourself (ok, fine. The library) essential.
I have always treated the school library like you would a special library: you have to promote yourself aggressively and show them that you are an essential part of the school. It is not enough to simply do the traditional library occupations (collection development, etc.). You have to infiltrate! Get to know the teachers, launch programs, make yourself available for presentations, provide them with resources that make their life easier.
Biggest surprise working in this sector?
That I actually like teenage girls. I didn’t so much when I was one (see above response).
But seriously, I came from public libraries where I was a Youth librarian. The biggest surprise was how much easier it was to develop a rapport with the students and how much they asked my opinion for their next read. I do way more Reader’s advisory as a high school librarian than I ever did as a public librarian.
What would you like your headstone to read?
(at least try, ok?)