Thursday, April 25, 2019

Interview Post: Violet Fox


Violet Fox

Current job?
As of June 2018, I work for OCLC as one of the editors of the Dewey Decimal Classification.

How long have you been in the field?
I started working as a library student worker in 1995 and worked as a paraprofessional for seven years, but I was outside of libraries for a while (buy me a drink and ask me about my job as an internet content moderator). I got my MLIS in 2013 from the University of Washington iSchool.

How Do You Work?

What is your office/workspace like?
The Dewey editorial team has been working at the Library of Congress since 1932, so in keeping with that tradition I work at LC, but in not the fancy Jefferson buildingthe boring building next door. I keep my cubicle pretty sparse. The two computers reflect the two organizations I work within: one belongs to OCLC, the other to LC.

How do you organize your days?
I use handwritten lists on scratch paper for daily tasks, color-coded Google calendar entries for longer term tasks, and text documents for ideas for future projects.
The Pomodoro Technique is a lifesaver.

What do you spend most of your time doing?
There’s a lot of research, especially researching topics that potentially need revision in the DDC schedules: recent subjects I’ve investigated include sewage systems, coloring books, eunuchs, and BASE jumping. The editorial team is only four people, so we work closely together to review each other’s work and bounce ideas off each other. I’m still learning the ins and outs of the editorial rules that govern the development of the DDC, so I refer to those frequently.

What is a typical day like for you?
Things I might do in a typical day: answer a question from a Dewey user, review another editor’s work, research one of my own projects, investigate the history of a particular Dewey number, reach out to one of our international partners for suggestions on how to address a particular problem. Sort through email. Lots of phone/video meetings, since my boss and most of my coworkers work in Ohio. I often have lunch or a coffee break with someone from LC; it’s difficult to get to know anyone outside my tiny department, so I try to be intentional about reaching out and making connections.
What are you reading right now?
I recently finished
Naming Nature: The Clash Between Instinct and Science by Carol Kaesuk Yoon. I’ve been reading a lot about classification in a variety of fields; Yoon’s book is a popular science discussion of the history of scientific taxonomy and how it differs from folk taxonomy.
I just started The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia by Michael Booth. Work is sending me to Stockholm & Oslo next month for a conference and it’ll be my first time overseas, so I’m reading up to alleviate some anxiety about that.
I’ve outsourced all my memory of books I’ve read to my GoodReads account, which leads to moments of panic as I totally blank when anyone asks what I’ve been reading.

What's the best professional advice you've ever received?
I’ve heard Dr. Nicole Cooke (@LibraryNicole) speak a few times and have walked away energized and inspired by her focus on figuring out what you want your legacy to be. Reflecting on that periodically helps me focus my energy on the things that matter to me (e.g., making the case for the value of metadata, being encouraging to new library folks, bringing transparency to my work).  

What have you found yourself doing at work that you never expected?
Defending Dewey (the classification, not the man)

Inside the Library Studio

What is your favorite word?
I love learning new color words. Recent favorites are corbeau (a very dark shade of green, almost black) and eau de Nil (a pale green).

What is your least favorite word?
Every single word that comes out of the mouth of the man currently living in the White House.

What profession other than your own would you love to attempt?
Throughout the years I’ve taken a few personality tests that suggest likely careers based on my temperament. Usually number two is librarian, and for whatever reason, number one is always X-ray technician. So I should probably give that a go if this library thing doesn’t work out.

What profession would you never want to attempt?

Everything Else

What superpower do you wish you had?
Just the regular power of not having to struggle with depression. That’d be neat.

What are you most proud of in your career?
Whatever I’ve been able to contribute towards building communities of generous and compassionate people in the overlapping circles of librarianship that I inhabit.
If you're willing to share, tell about a mistake you made on the job.
Honestly, I don’t evenwhere would I start? I’ve had entire jobs that were mistakes.
Most of my mistakes are the result of procrastinating, which is absolutely my worst trait. Not wasting time putting off small tasks is the life lesson I never seem to learn.

When you aren't at work, what are you likely doing?
Often organizing zine librarian stuff or, occasionally, critlib stuff. Occasionally writing Wikipedia articles. Thinking about the next issue of my zine about roadside attractions. Sending snail mail. I moved halfway across the country for this job, so a good amount of my time is spent traveling to visit my spouse, or counting the days until our next visit.

Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
A few of the amazing folks from my grad school cohort: Alyssa Jocson-Porter (@itsuhLEEsuh), Elizabeth Brookbank (@elizabethbrookb), and Eli Gandour-Rood (@eliganrood).

Violet tweets at @violetbfox.

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