Public Services Librarian, College Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison.
How long have you been in the field?
I started working in libraries in May of 2001, as a circulation clerk at a public library. I defended my Master’s thesis in December of 2007 and got my first librarian job in August of 2008, though that was the third library I had worked in. So it’s either 16.5 years, 10 years, or 9 years, depending on how you want to do the math.
How Do You Work?
What is your office/workspace like?
I have a shared office off of a large study room. It’s not a cubicle situation - we each have our own areas and have set up the space to give ourselves room and a sense of semi-privacy. I’m currently sharing an office with four colleagues: three postgraduate residents and one permanent staff member (who is my closest colleague from a responsibility standpoint). There’s a lot of variation in our schedules, so it’s rare that all five of us are in the space. We have an office agreement concerning things like noise levels, lighting, and greener use of the printer, among other things. We also have good conversations and a “queer kid’s dorm room in the mid-90s” aesthetic. I love us.
How do you organize your days?
Because the staff where I work have such a diverse range of responsibilities that require us to spend a lot of time out of our offices and elsewhere on campus, we are very dedicated to our online calendars. Between calendaring and the app Things on my phone, I tend to be where I need to be, when I need to be, with what I need to be there.
What do you spend most of your time doing?
The answer to this question varies widely depending on what part of the year we’re in. College Library is an undergraduate library, so most of my job is teaching, no matter the context. We refer to ourselves as a teaching library, and we mean that in a very comprehensive sense. We teach on the desk, we teach in the classroom, and we teach each other in meetings. I’m also one of the two supervisors of our graduate student employees. If it’s summer or early fall, I’m spending a lot of time training our new employees, refreshing our returning employees, and making sure administrative details have been taken care of so everyone gets paid and can sign in to the tools that they need to help our patrons. I estimate that I spend about half of my time teaching in one way or another - on our busy reference desk, in the classroom, at outreach opportunities, training and meeting with student workers. Regardless of the time of year, I go to a lot of meetings. I know it’s standard to heap scorn on meetings, but I love them. I’m a very verbal person and I think some of the best work gets done when everyone has a chance to reflect, share their expertise, and make a contribution to the decision-making process.
What is a typical day like for you?
I get up every morning around 6:45. My partner (who is also a librarian, also at the UW) and I get our daughter ready for school. One or both of us drop her off and then take the bus to campus. That part of my day looks the same every day, but that’s where consistency ends. The inconsistency is a big upside of librarianship for me - I don’t do well in work environments without a lot of variation. I’m usually teaching, in a meeting, or on desk before 10 am every day. Between scheduled responsibilities, I’m in my office, running down my to-do list, catching up on the news (serving early-career undergraduate researchers means that I need to be up on current political and cultural events if I stand any chance of doing my job well), and preparing for the next thing.
What are you reading right now?
Unbelievable, by Katy Tur. I just finished Disobedience by Naomi Alderman and I have Call Me By Your Name coming via ILL. In the spirit of resisting the librarian stereotype, I’ll push against this and broaden the question to media in general. I love Halt and Catch Fire and Insecure. You should watch both if you haven’t. I’m watching The Marvelous Ms. Maisel as fast as I can. I listen to Crooked Media podcasts and Unorthodox every week. I still own an 80G iPod Classic. The last things I listened to were Melodrama by Lorde and 1989 by Taylor Swift (mostly because my five-year-old asked me to put it on in the car).
What's the best professional advice you've ever received?
I don’t know if I can boil this down to one piece of advice or one experience. I think the way I’ve best been able to grow as a professional is having the privilege of working in close proximity to amazing thinkers and doers in our field and having a lot of space to talk with them and listen to them. As I write this, I’m thinking specifically of Hope Olson, who was my professor, thesis supervisor, and boss for several years while I was in library school. She taught me so much about rigor and about the uses of theory in a field that can be practice-oriented. I’m also thinking of Carrie Kruse, my current supervisor, who is serious about the value of reflection, regard for individual expertise, and putting a lot of time and effort into interrogating what a library is and what its responsibilities to its community are.
What have you found yourself doing at work that you never expected?
The trajectory of my career has been about coming to understand how much I enjoy working with people. I have a particular interest in patrons and colleagues who are situated at an entry or exit relative to the library - new undergraduates, the families of new undergraduates, people who tend to be underserved or misunderstood by academic libraries (which definitely includes undergraduates), new LIS graduate students, and LIS graduate students who are on the job market. I love supporting people whose information needs have undergone a shift. I do a lot more public speaking, training, and generally getting in people’s faces about what they need and how a librarian might be able to help than I thought I would when I was in library school.
Inside the Library Studio
What is your favorite word?
What is your least favorite word?
What profession other than your own would you love to attempt?
When I’m feeling burned out, I alternate between threatening to open a bakery and going to rabbinical school.
What profession would you never want to attempt?
Anything where the assessment of my job performance hinges on selling things to people.
What superpower do you wish you had?
I want a time-turner.
What are you most proud of in your career?
My graduate student workers, past and present. All of them.
If you're willing to share, tell about a mistake you made on the job.
Too many to count. At their heart, though, would be my overriding inclination to not pause long enough to find a useful way to apply my emotional reactions to things in a workplace setting. To be clear - this is not me making some nonsense argument equating being unemotional with being professional. I think our real goal, as professionals, should be to find ways to acknowledge our emotional and personal reactions to our work and make use of those reactions in a way that will do the most good for everyone involved. I’m getting better at it. I could get better still.
When you aren't at work, what are you likely doing?
Spending time with my daughter (she is five and brilliant and fascinating), cooking, reading, being fannish, sleeping.
Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Dave Bloom (my partner, who has an interesting professional story) or any of my former graduate student workers (who are numerous and delightful - I can provide names).
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