Interview By: Anthony Prince
Linda is a tenure-track librarian at Washington State University where she is Reference Team Leader and librarian for the sciences and health sciences. She lives in beautiful Pullman, Washington, which is in the non-Seattle part of the state.
Linda's interests include virtual reference services, next-generation library catalogs, and library leadership. She is the 2012-2013 Past-President of NMRT. Linda holds a Master of Library and Information Science from the University of Washington and a Certificate of Advanced Study in Health Sciences Librarianship from the University of Pittsburgh.
Linda has been working in libraries since 1991 and as a librarian since 2000, including experience in special, public, and academic libraries. She admits she might have kind of hogged the spotlight this issue.
What inspires you?
Excitement in others is what inspires me the most: that electric charge of connecting with another person. That's one of the things I love about NMRT and working with new librarians. There is so much excitement and optimism, new ideas for the future of librarianship, and people are so ready to go for it. Meeting new librarians at ALA Conferences is what keeps me going the six months in between.
What are you passionate about?
I'm passionate about gender inclusivity. Not everyone fits into "male" or "female" and that needs to be reflected in our culture, services, and interactions with patrons. Next time you make a survey, if you have to include gender, add a category for "other." That's the best we can do for now, but it's an important step.
As the NMRT Past-President, what advice do you have for new librarians/information professionals?
Especially about getting started in the profession.
Get whatever experience you can. Don't worry about what you might find for your first job - just get that experience. Find out what you enjoy. Try some committees. Get some cross-training. Ask lots of questions. Things are looking up for employment in our profession, but it's a hard time to be starting out. Just get what you can and as much out of it as you can. The more flexible you can be the better - not just in where you're located, but in what tasks you do and how you respond to challenges.
At the same time, take care of yourself. You may not be able to say yes to every opportunity that comes your way. Give yourself permission to try and fail and learn and try again.
Why did you become a librarian/or when did you know you wanted to?
"I believe I must date it from my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley." Wait - that's something else.
I love telling the story of how I became a librarian. Like so many things in life, it didn't happen all at once, but in scattered moments. To begin with, I loved books (not a good reason to become a librarian). My mother would walk with me to our local branch library and I exulted in the treasure trove of picture books. I couldn't get my own library card until I could sign my own name - how tantalizing that was! The best part was the friendly librarian who even gave me a cookie once. Chocolate chip! And that was the first moment in becoming a librarian (cookies are a good reason for anything).
Elementary school was difficult for me. I transferred into the public school system at age 8 and it was a big shock. I'd never had a library story time before and that was a dream come true. I'd never had PE before, either, and that was a nightmare. In a tactic I would later use again, I broke my leg playing in the schoolyard. After that, when the other kids went to PE, I got to go the library. It was bliss. One day the librarian said, "I suppose you want to be a librarian when you grow up, so you can read all day!" Sounded good to me! "Well," she continued, "you don't get to." And that was a moment, a seed planted, regardless of what she was really saying.
I made it through high school without a library-related incident, although I do not have fond memories of the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature. Several friends of mine worked as library pages, and oh, I envied them! But only the coolest kids got to work in the library and I was never cool enough or in the right place at the right time. So, the summer after graduation I organized my parents' library, marking and cataloging each item. Getting ready to head to college, I didn't how much was about to change. Blissfully unsuspecting, I showed my Dad an ad soliciting people to work in the dorm cafeteria. "You are going to have to get a job, you know," he said. "And it will probably be in food service." He made me fill out the form, but I was not going to let that happen. On my next visit to campus I announced I was going to get a job in the library. That was my moment, as I took control of my destiny.
There were two open jobs for student assistant I - several openings in Circulation, and one opening in Monographic Cataloging (which sounded awesome). When I went to library administration to apply, I was taken by surprise when asked which department I was applying for. I had been planning on Monographic Cataloging, but the words eluded me, and I said, "Circulation." That was a moment of a different kind - there's an alternate reality where I chose monographic services and who knows what would have happened? Instead, I was sucked, unwittingly, perhaps unwillingly, toward public services. My Dad was so impressed when I was hired for shelving on the spot, not realizing that they were just looking for warm bodies. But that was really the beginning of everything, a major moment in my becoming.
I spent my first quarter at University as a shelver. I loved getting to shelve in the Deweys (because there was always space on the shelf!) and I loved seeing what kinds of books were being used. My second quarter, reverting to form, I broke my leg. It is hard to shelve books on crutches, so I was given more of a sit-down job, helping out with mailings and stamping checkout cards. Even after I was back on two feet they kept me in Circ. "We're hot to train you for desk," the Circulation supervisor told me. I was terrified - the typical shy bookworm - but somehow they got me checking books out to patrons and even answering the phone. I blossomed, and my service focus was born.
As the months passed, I realized that I looked forward to work far more than school. That was a moment. After getting my BA, I began working for the University as a paraprofessional. Seeing the eagerness of the students coming back each fall, I was inspired to go after my MLIS. I heard tales of better pay and benefits for librarians, plus I was tuition exempt, and maybe that's the moment when I knew I wanted to be a librarian.
Cookies, broken leg, threat of food service, broken leg - those were the moments that brought me into librarianship. I am so grateful it all unfolded as it did. I never intended to be a reference librarian, but that's another story.
What do you want to be doing in 5 years?
I can't imagine how much the world and the profession will change in the next five years. I would like to be an Assistant Director, perhaps, although I also want the chance to become really good at my job. I want to be teaching, doing research, writing, and getting tenure along the way. I want to meet lots of new librarians and get lots of new ideas and maybe get to the next milestone without breaking my leg. I guess I don't have a definite picture of how things might be, but I am going to Make "It" Happen, and "It" is going to be awesome!