Member Spotlight: Margaret Howard Interview

By Anthony Prince

The Footnotes committee is happy to re-launch our Member Spotlight section by featuring NMRT's 2013 Emerging Leader, Margaret Howard. She is a Librarian with the Chesterfield County Public Library and a member of the NMRT Annual Conference Professional Development Attendance Award Committee and the NMRT Liaison Coordination and Support Committee. She received her MLIS from The University of North Carolina in Greensboro in 2010.

What inspires you?

My co-workers, colleagues, mentors, managers, peers and pretty much everyone I know in the field that is working hard to improve and grow librarianship. I have been really fortunate to work with and be surrounded by individuals who are so passionate, kind, supportive, and who inspire me to keep dreaming big ideas and working hard to improve and cultivate the library field.

What's your personal and/or professional philosophy?

My personal mantra is "You go where your eyes go," meaning, whatever you're looking towards, if you keep working at it long enough you will get there eventually, but you have to strive for it every day and be willing to take risks. A lot of wonderful things have worked out for me in my short career, but looking back I can see they were the result of tiny steps I took every day, asking the right questions, and of course, a little bit of luck.

What do you find most rewarding?

I do a lot of one-on-one work with patrons and it's those moments when they say "thank you" with sincerity that reminds me why I wanted to become a librarian in the first place. Being able to make a difference in someone's life, whether it's showing them how to use a computer or eBooks, reading them a story or just showing them something new, I love the feeling that I am assisting people in improving their quality of life. I am so lucky to do this job every day!

Why did you become a librarian/or when did you know you wanted to?

I taught English in Beijing, China my first year out of college when I was still figuring out what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I learned that I love helping people of all ages on a personal basis, and I was kind of good at it. When I came back to the U.S. I worked in finance for a few years and I missed the individual one-on-one interaction and started looking for something where I could get back to that, which of course lead me to librarianship. It was scary to change careers like that, some people thought I was crazy, but I am so happy I took the risk.

As an Emerging Leader, what advice do you have for new librarians/information professionals?

Never give up! I graduated from library school in May 2010 and did not land my first librarian job until January 2011 and that was a very long and hard 7 months when I applied, interviewed, and seriously questioned my decision to become a librarian. It was difficult but it was literally on the day that I started thinking I had made the biggest mistake of my life that I landed the interview that lead to my first librarian position. Even if you are working as a librarian, starting out can be tricky and I think it's during this time that it's important to discover your voice and to find people who will support and guide you. Find a mentor, get involved in your state library association and ALA and be willing to put yourself out there. Working hard, being okay with making mistakes, and believing in yourself will get you further than you could ever imagine.

What do you want to be doing in 5 years?

My ultimate goal is to be in an administrative position in a public library but I have a lot of experience to gain until I get there and I'm in no rush at this point. In 5 years I would like to be in a management position to some capacity and to be more involved in the programming side of librarianship. I also look forward to getting more involved in ALA and the Virginia Library Association, serving on committees, and learning more about myself and how I can best serve the library field.