Friday, December 14, 2018

Interview Post: Amie Wright


Amie Wright (yes, I am ‘Amie’ with an ‘i.e.’)

Current job?
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?

What 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 Worry-Free Money - 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 expected?
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 Studio

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 pharmacology industry.
Everything Else

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 doing?
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 questions?
Carla Reimer @carlawr  Marcela Peres @marcelaphane Matthew Noe @noethematt

Amie tweets at @librarylandia.

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