Amie Wright (yes, I am ‘Amie’ with an ‘i.e.’)
9 to 5 I am a Library Manager at the Edmonton Public Library;
evenings and weekends I am the Co-Chair Convention Planning for the American
Library Association Graphic Novels & Comics Round Table (GNCRT - follow us @libcomix). Formerly I worked at the New York Public Library as
the Manager of School Outreach and Collection Development Librarian on MyLibraryNYC - NYC’s educational outreach partnership.
How long have you been in the field?
I have been a Librarian with a capital “L” since graduating with
my MLIS from the University of Western Ontario in 2009; however I have worked in
the field on and off since (*thinks and counts in head…*) 1999 when I started
as a library assistant at the University of Calgary medical library. Before
that I worked as a student assistant in an art museum and as a high school page
shelving books so, yep, it’s been a while.
How Do You Work?
is your office/workspace like?
Clean - except for my collection of Comic Con and Library
Convention badges and my ever present and vigilant Ms. Marvel funko.
How do you organize your days?
Use a lot of life hacks (i.e. work on a project for a set amount
of time - i.e. 50 mins then break) and GTD tricks (though I am ever attempting
inbox zero I am more like inbox 30 on most days); also coffee. A lot of coffee.
What do you spend most of your time doing?
Email. Also a lot of communicating with teams via face to face
meetings, phone calls, and emails - lots of email.
What is a typical day like for you?
Have I mentioned email….? But seriously, even as a library
manager everyday looks a little bit different - which is one of the best things
about librarianship! - but generally I start by checking my messages on my cell
from about 8:30 am onwards. I need to see if anyone has called out sick and if
there are any literal (or figurative) fires to put out - my library has a
renovation currently underway, while still being open, so this is a constant
concern - is everything OK with the contractors? How is the work going today?
Etc. I usually arrive at work between 9-10am depending on my schedule that day
- and how late I need to stay. I work one evening a week (a 1-9pm shift) and
every third weekend (full shifts on Sat and Sun). Once I arrive I check in with
my team before the library opens to ensure the daily schedule looks OK and I
give the weekly schedule a double check. If there any holes I will start making
calls to our sub and part-time call-in pool - or call nearby branches to see if
any staff can be reallocated. My library system is a mid-range urban system;
Edmonton is a city of a million people and we have 20 library branches. My
branch is a smaller, community library with 17 staff members - 5 full-time
staff and 12 part-timers including 3 high school pages. Then, once the library
opens, I flex my fingers, and start with paperwork. There is a lot of admin running
a library branch and this can include balancing the monthly financials (petty
cash, discretionary spending), forgiving library fines, checking in with
library patron feedback, responding to emails (have I mentioned emails?), and,
of course, forecasting ahead for the next 1-2 months - who do I need to check
in with? what are some critical dates / programs / events coming up? I will
also check in with my leadership team.Then my days are usually a mix of
meetings, preparing for meetings, and, as I am able, I like to catch up even 30
mins per day on library / education / publishing news.On my lunchtime and
after work I respond to ALA GNCRT emails, and help with our social media
channels. This is a lot of work but a labour of love. Our Round Table just got
official status this past summer during ALA Annual in NOLA.
What are you reading right now?
Currently reading the award winning and gorgeously drawn My
Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris; I recently finished reading The
Strange by Jerome Ruillier - a new graphic novel published by
Drawn & Quarterly that - similar to Shaun Tan’s The
Arrival - follows an unnamed,
undocumented immigrant’s experiences as he tries to forge a new life in a
Western country where he doesn’t speak the language. Finally, I am also reading
- which has been super inspirational as I contemplate (big gulp) leaving my
full-time library job to head back to school full-time. I have been wanting to
further my history studies and specifically look at improving accessibility and
educational outreach of library and archival collections.
What's the best professional advice you've ever received?
Allow yourself to be surprised and allow yourself to be
inspired. Say yes to things that scare you. Allow people to help. Also - and,
most importantly, enjoy the moments and the people; if you are a manager or
leader, be good to your team. Build people up, don’t tear them down. My professional
mentors are all people who came to the profession in unusual or surprising ways
- maybe it was a midlife career change, or they ended up doing something
radically different than they originally studied for, or they bring interesting
side projects and interests to their work. They all showed me that
librarianship - our leadership, our values, our collections - is (or - should
be) as diverse as the communities we serve. There’s no ‘one path.’
What have you found yourself doing at work that you never
Considering my current trajectory as a comics and education
librarian? 100% my career has gone in places and I have found myself doing work
I never expected and truly didn’t realize existed. I worked in non profit for a
few years post-undergraduate as I was figuring out what to do with my life. I
came to the library because I saw it as a perfect fit between helping people
and connecting them with resources. I never thought that my personal passion
for comics and history could be further combined with helping people and
connecting them with resources. Certainly I never expected that would result in
me working to get comic books like March into NYC schools, then presenting at San Diego Comic Con,
then planning an event like NYCC @ NYPL, and
then working with an amazing team to get the GNCRT created! Definitely the past
few years have shown me that librarianship can be so surprising and rewarding
in the big moments and the smaller, more personal ones too.
Inside the Library
What is your favorite word?
SO MANY! (I am sort of obsessed with the Merriam-Webster
Dictionary iphone app - they have a word of the day feature!) Most recent
favourites: abscond, dulcet, mellifluous, and asseverate.
What is your least favorite word?
When I lived in NJ somehow ‘irregardless’ was integrated into
the state lexicon. To hear it is like fingernails on a chalkboard.
What profession other than your own would you
love to attempt?
I wanted to be a vet growing up. Unfortunately, I pass out at the sight of blood so I figured a career
in veterinary medicine probably wasn’t a good fit.
What profession would you never want to attempt?
Making a profit off of others - looking at you, for-profit
What superpower do you wish you had?
If anyone has ever heard me present or appear on a podcast they
have probably heard me talk about Wolverine and his healing factor - and I just
going to leave it at that before I fan (again) about Wolverine.
What are you most proud of in your career?
The work I am doing now and the people I am working with: helping to contribute
to starting a new Round Table at ALA and one that is all about Graphic Novels
& Comics has been the culmination of a lot of separate projects and
passions and amazing committed individuals all coming together in such an
awesome and unexpected way. But truly, all of the professional development sessions
I have been involved with for schools and libraries, big and small, have felt
so meaningful. And, like most librarians, some of my top career highlights have
been with fellow teammates and community members themselves - a kid whose face
highlights up when you suggest a new title to read, someone who needed help
with their resume who has found a job, or when you hire someone who is as
excited about the profession as you are! The library is an extension of the
communities we live in, and I am just happy to be able to assist in anyway with
the ebb and flow of that.
*also, my friends would find this remiss if I didn’t say that
getting Mover and Shaker in 2017 has given me a steady supply of dinner party
jokes that feel like something out of A Christmas Story - as I tried to
explain to my (non-library) family that it’s a major award.
If you're willing to share, tell about a mistake
you made on the job.
So many mistakes…! If anyone has one hour I will tell you all
about that time we tried to issue library cards to every student in NYC! But
seriously, and without sounding too Oprah like (hey Oprah - you are awesome
tho), I don’t consider them mistakes. Truly they have been learning
opportunities and like, ‘oh hey, I didn’t know that…’ or, ‘hmph….good to know for
next time.’ Working in a public library so long you meet so many different
people. Most of the ‘mistakes’ I've made are around making assumptions about
people or interactions; what I have learned (and have to keep reminding myself
over and over again) is that it is always best to make no assumptions - have
high standards certainly - but don’t take things personally, be open to change,
and allow yourself to be surprised by people and situations.
When you aren't at work, what are you likely
Thinking about work. And when I am not doing that, I am spending
time with friends and family and traveling and thinking about traveling. I went
to so many amazing large and local cons throughout North America these past few
years, like the Toronto Comic Arts Fest, Small Press Expo, and San Diego Comic
Con. on the agenda for the 2019 and 2020 are some international conventions
like Angoulême in France and Thought Bubble which has a comics scholarship
conference concurrently hosted at the Leeds Library. Maybe a Latin American Con
too? Also IFLA and the Graphic Medicine Conference and one day I would like to
visit the Nelson Mandela Centre for Memory.
Who else would you like to see answer these
Carla Reimer @carlawr Marcela Peres @marcelaphane Matthew