Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Interview: Jessica Olin

To get things started with these interview posts (previous post for context), I'm going to be the first to fill out this questionnaire. So, here goes...

Me, chatting with my office mate: a velociraptor stuffy.


Jessica Olin, or, to my friends, Luna Lovegood

Current job?
Director of the Robert H. Parker Library at Wesley College

How long have you been in the field?
I got my first gig as a professional librarian almost exactly 12 years ago.

How Do You Work?

What is your office/workspace like?
Small with lots of windows. I've got a couple filing cabinets, a desk, a bookshelf, a bulletin board, a slow & old computer, an all-in-one printer/scanner/copier/fax, a phone - all the requisites. I try to keep it as neat as possible because, as I've already mentioned, it's small and very visible. I have lots of toys there, too, as you can see from the photo I posted above.

How do you organize your days?
Is "over organized" a thing? I plan every work day at the end of the previous day, looking at which projects are in process and what meetings I have. I try to be flexible about it, too, since as the director and one of only two librarians on staff, chances are pretty high I'm going to have something unexpected dropped in my lap. Being this structured almost always helps me have room to stop for lunch and leave work on time. I've learned the hard way that too much work and not enough rest makes Jessica grumpy.

What do you spend most of your time doing?
Administratriva. I'm our bookkeeper and our scheduler and bill payer and and and... I take care of lots of little details, but I make sure to carve out time every day (well, almost every day) to work on longer term projects. It's hard to find a balance between long term goals and short term needs, but I'm getting better at it.

What is a typical day like for you?
I know this is a cliche, but there's not really a "typical day" for me. On an academic calendar, you go in cycles. Right now it's the summer, so I spend a lot of time in my office reading and working on projects that got ignored in the 9 months prior, During the school year I'm sometimes too busy for projects; I've got meetings and meetings and instruction sessions and did I mention the meetings?

What are you reading right now?
Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather. I realized I'd never read anything by her, even though I consider her works part of the American Canon, so when I saw a used copy get donated to my library's book sale, I snapped it up and I'm really glad I did. 
The World Exchange by Alena Graedon. I'm actually listening to this right now, but I think audiobooks count. Even though I have a short commute, I still listen to audiobooks. I picked it up on a whim because the cover art appealed and the description sounded interesting. I'm really digging it so far.
The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal. Part of finding balance is being mindful, and this book is a great help towards that end. 

What's the best professional advice you've ever received?
"Stop interviewing for the job you already have." My mentor from the College Library Directors' Mentor Program, Jessame Ferguson, said this after she visited my campus. When I started applying for director positions, I didn't expect to get one. I was expecting to get an assistant director gig at best. So when I was hired for a director spot, I was startled. And she was right - I was still trying to prove to them that they'd made the right choice instead of concentrating on the work at hand.

What have you found yourself doing at work that you never expected?
I joke that my job is 90% "and other duties as required," but if I'm honest I'd say the percentage is closer to 50%. That means the unexpected comes on a regular basis. I have, in my 2.5 years a director: cleaned up after a flood in the basement; put together furniture; moved furniture; dealt with many arachnid and insect critters, rescuing my staff from the critters and the critters from my staff; taken apart furniture. (Yes, lots of furniture.)

Inside the Library Studio

What is your favorite word?
Mellifluous. It is an example of what it means.

What is your least favorite word?
Derogatory words associated with minority groups - all of those words.

What profession other than your own would you love to attempt?
Wildlife rehabilitation. Especially raptors and/or bats.

What profession would you never want to attempt?
Any kind of elected office. I'm glad there are people willing to serve in that capacity, but I wonder about their sanity.

Everything Else

What superpower do you wish you had?
Jamie Madrox, or Multiple Man, can create multiple copies of himself. The copies can go off, do things, and then when they return he can reabsorb them and have their memories and skills and what not. I wish I had that power. I mean... THINK OF HOW MANY BOOKS I COULD READ!

What are you most proud of in your career?
That this blog has done what I set out to do: help people who are either new or at a crossroads in this field. I've been pretty lucky in the way I've stumbled into the paths of mentors, both traditional and peer, but not everyone is that fortunate. The ever-growing blog readership and professional acclaim are nice, but that I'm meeting the goal I set is the thing that makes me proudest.

If you're willing to share, tell about a mistake you made on the job.
I used to get so excited about ideas and projects that I was compared to a steamroller in one place and a bull-in-a-china-shop in another. I've had to learn the hard way to be more circumspect and politic.

When you aren't at work, what are you likely doing?
Making cover band jokes on Twitter? Actually, the things I've been spending lots of free time on are reading and crafting. Cross-stitch is my craft of choice, and I tend to be fairly omnivorous with reading. I try to go hiking, too, but have been lazy about it lately.

Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
I'm going to play the "it's my blog" card here and skip this question. Too many people to name, but I've already started approaching people privately.

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