Donna Michelle Lanclos
My Leave of Absence for this past academic year while my family was living in England is over, and I’m now officially Freelance and Trying to Figure Things Out. I have been lucky this past year, keeping busy with a couple of research projects, some speaking gigs, and co-facilitating workshops. My official job title at UNC Charlotte was Associate Professor for Anthropological Research in the J. Murrey Atkins Library. Now, I’m just Donna Lanclos, PhD. We’ll see where that gets me.
How long have you been in the field?
I fell into working in libraries in 2009. I’ve been an anthropologist since I started my undergraduate degree at UC Santa Barbara in 1988--I was an archaeologist then, but I have never identified as anything else, intellectually or professionally.
How Do You Work?
What is your office/workspace like?
I work out of offices, for the most part, even when I have one. I used to joke that my office was where my work would go to die, but it’s not a very funny joke, because that is kind of what happened--my generative, thinking work hardly ever happens while sitting at my desk staring at a screen. So, my range of workspaces includes (courtesy of my touchscreen laptop and the internet): a sofa, a dining room table, a desk in a given bedroom (overlooking the Thames last year which was not awful). Sitting at desks in office chairs is awful for my back, so I try to mix it up a fair amount. When I need to do sustained writing, I try to find a cafe outside of my home, where I can be surrounded by enough lively noise that I don’t get distracted away from the thing I’m trying to focus on.
How do you organize your days?
I am ruled by my calendar, and by the things that other people have asked me to do. So, I start with any meetings or calls I have that day, then consider the deadlines for writing or other productive work I have ahead of me, and then schedule my day accordingly. Sometimes if I have a lot of meetings or calls, that’s all I get done that day.
What do you spend most of your time doing?
I have a varied schedule, sometimes I am spending time reading (on paper and the internet); sometimes I am spending time interviewing people; sometimes I am writing up those interviews; sometimes I am writing drafts of articles, chapters, or talks. Sometimes the work I do looks like having a series of Skype conversations with colleagues with whom I’m planning an event, a workshop, or some other piece of work.
What is a typical day like for you?
I don’t think I have those.
What are you reading right now?
At the time of our original interview, I had two books going right now, one titled Black London: The Imperial Metropolis and Decolonization in the 20th Century, by Marc Matera, which was reading as an antidote to the largely white history and culture tour books that were scattered throughout the flat we were living in last year; and a book called Science(ish): The Peculiar Science Behind the Movies, which my seventeen year old checked out of our local library, and I highly recommend it. I just finished The Girl in the Green Silk Gown by Seanan McGuire (which I LOVED) and have just started a short story collection called Starlings by Jo Walton. I’ve got some non fiction that I need to read, but I just wanted a break.
What's the best professional advice you've ever received?
The best professional advice I ever got was from my mom, just before I accepted the library anthropology job in 2009. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to do it. She told me, “Say yes, try it, see what happens. I know you can do it. You just have to figure that out, too.”
What have you found yourself doing at work that you never expected?
I never expected to be doing the work I’m doing now around developing people’s practices in academia. The workshops piece is completely unexpected. I love it. It’s a kind of teaching, I think, but it’s far from the kind of thing I thought I’d produce as an academic. I always thought the results of the work I do would be articles, book chapters, more traditional stuff. The amount of time I spend (and, funnily enough, work I get done) on Twitter is pretty unexpected, too.
Inside the Library Studio
What is your favorite word?
In English, “vivacious.“ In Spanish, it’s “zanahoria”, which is just the best way to say “carrot” ever. And I love the French word for frog, “grenouille,” ‘cause it’s fun to say.
What is your least favorite word?
What profession other than your own would you love to attempt?
Home interior design. I love being opinionated about fabrics, paint colors, and furniture and other fittings.
What profession would you never want to attempt?
Anything in the hospitality industry, because I’m afraid it would make me hate people.
What superpower do you wish you had?
I wish I could fly. In my dreams, I can.
What are you most proud of in your career?
I am most proud of the network I have built, with the people I have found through the work I do.
If you're willing to share, tell about a mistake you made on the job.
I am sure I’ve made a lot. I think the one I struggle with the most is never finding the right balance between communicating internally about the work I’m doing and also communicating externally so that I can get to continue to do the work. I spend a lot of time talking to students and faculty about academic work, what it looks like, what their motivations are for the ways they do and don’t engage with places, resources, and people. I want to get better at making time to talk to colleagues within my organization. I think maybe it’s that there’s never enough time. Or, maybe I’m not good at being part of an organization.
When you aren't at work, what are you likely doing?
Reading. Traveling with my family. Walking and exploring--there was a lot to see in London, and we didn’t get to see it all before we had to come back to North Carolina, but we sure tried! Eating and drinking fun things, and trying to see as many of my friends as I can.
Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Lareese Hall and Bryony Ramsden
Donna tweets at @DonnaLanclos.