Posts filed under Librarian

Kate Marchewka: Early Elementary Teacher-Librarian

Name: Kate Marchewka

Age: 33

College & Majors/Minors: University of Wisconsin-Madison | Major: English Literature | Minor: Women's Studies and LGBT Studies || Grad degree: University of Washington, Masters in Library & Information Science

Current Location: Seattle, WA

Current Form of Employment: Part-time Early Elementary Teacher-Librarian

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I'm in my second year as the early elementary teacher-librarian at St. Thomas School, a private PreK-8th grade school in Medina, WA. I get to read picture books, perform felt board stories complete with voices, and sing songs with small children three days a week, and home with my son the other days. It's the best. Also, I get to ply my older kids with stickers and candy to check out books (it works...mwah ha).

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

I found my first job through some random web searching and it (very luckily) ended up being a really great job. I had just moved to San Francisco and was fresh out of college and somehow ended up working for a small woman-owned brand agency, where I learned a ton in a short period of time. It was one of the first places where I learned that being highly specific with words and being a detail-oriented person could make a hugely positive impact on a project.

My current job as a teacher-librarian was also a stroke of luck; I interned here during graduate school and found the posting on our department's online job board. It had been listed by a former student, and was exactly what I was looking for. Turned out that the part-time librarian was leaving at the end of the summer after I'd graduated from my program, so I interviewed and had that extra leg-up to get the job.

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

For almost three years, I worked first full-time and then part-time for an online flash sale retailer as a copy editor. I was the first editor officially hired into the role, and although it was a crazy pace and workload, I found that I loved the nitpicky work of editing and immensely enjoyed getting to work with writers on their writing, even if it was about tutus and eco-friendly cleaning tools. I kind of fibbed my way through the interview question, "Do you know AP?", saying, "Yes, obviously," while furiously buying up every book on the style and studying them at home after work. Between the studying and the breakneck pace of the job, I picked up skills to back up my claim pretty quickly. Occasionally, if a writer couldn't quite hit the mark or we were short staffed, I'd get to write copy myself, which was also a ton of fun and a fantastic learning experience. I'd never done that kind of writing before—researching brands to write a brand story, and making up character-limited descriptions for products on the site that millions of people were reading.

“I think that just being a reader makes you inherently better at communicating in multiple forms—written and verbal.”

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

I wasn't the person who was constantly writing on my own for fun, but I have always been a reader with a 'to-read' list 18 miles long, reading-a-book-while-walking-down-the-street kind of thing. So I think that just being a reader makes you inherently better at communicating in multiple forms—written and verbal. It certainly helped in my editing career. And keeping up with the book world has absolutely helped in my career as a librarian. Even though it can be tough to read for fun while being bogged down with undergrad classes, I think it's important to sneak a few in where you can!

Lastly, taking writing classes where your work is torn apart by a pack of hungry undergrads is very good practice for receiving constructive feedback of any sort, and for giving it to others later on down the road. =)

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

I'd say to not let yourself get pigeon holed into the "Oh, an English degree. What are you going to do, teach?" schpiel most will offer. Don't listen to those people, they don't know what they're talking about or how much you have on offer. Try to think about the skills you have and how the things you're passionate about can translate into real work/jobs. I have been a brand manager, a customer service agent, done sales and operations management, and been a copy editor, and having strong writing, editing and communication skills played heavily into every one of those jobs. I didn't ever even think about becoming a librarian until I was in my late twenties, and it was a total light bulb moment and has turned out to be a dream career for me.

You can check out Kate's photography website here, and read her blog here

Posted on April 4, 2016 and filed under Editor, Editing, Librarian, Library Science, Teaching.

Chris Stephenson: Information Architect

Name: Chris Stephenson

Age: 42

College & Majors/Minors: McMaster University, B.A. in English Literature, interests in Philosophy, Art History & Politics (1997); University of British Columbia, Master of Library & Information Studies (2016)

Current Location: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Current Form of Employment: Information Professional, Carpenter, Writer

Where do you work and what is your current position?

As per usual, I currently have many "irons in the fire..." Presently I work in the capacity of Information Architect for a non-profit society started by a former mayor of my city. Here I do records management, historical transcription, advise on best practices for showcasing digital documents, and I participate as a media spokesperson to promote the program and (hopefully!) contribute to raising funds to keep our projects going. We have nearly completed a community transcription project to put the first five years of our historical City Council Minutes online for historians, researchers, students, and the public to use in digital form.

“I’ve digitized nearly forty books so far this year, including some really neat ones from the 1770s.”

On the other hand, I also work for a major Westcoast digitization centre (Canadian spelling from here on in!) on a project called the British Columbia Historical Books Project. We are systematically digitizing rare materials that tell the narrative of the earliest years of this province. I've digitized nearly forty books so far this year, including some really neat ones from the 1770s. My interest in Pacific northwest history is constantly sparked by handling these amazing accounts of first-hand explorers, Chinook jargon dictionaries, maps, and other rare texts.

In the meantime, I'm honing my job application and interviewing skills as I search for the perfect job in my particular field of librarianship: I'm trained as a legal and legislative research librarian. This is my second career, so I have reserved the right to be a little choosey for the moment.

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

My first career job was actually in 'Hollywood North,' another name for Vancouver's thriving film industry. After I finished my English degree my Dad handed me a hammer and said, "If you want to pay off your student loans in a hurry, you should learn to use this." That moment kicked off an informal apprenticeship in carpentry that eventually led me out here to the Westcoast for a ten year career in building the sets for feature films, television and commercials. After while though, I was getting pretty burned out by the long hours, and I started paying attention to a nagging voice that said I should return to my area(s) of interest: writing, teaching, and helping people solve information issues. I took a year off to motorcycle around India and learn yoga and think about how I could make my career dreams possible.

After hanging out at my public library, I started dating this cute local librarian. I asked hundreds of questions about the program she'd recently graduated from, and before I knew it she was helping me with my application for library school. Fast forward to now - we're no longer together, but I have a trusty MLIS under my belt, and I'm as enthusiastic as ever about librarianship. My non-profit job came about after I did a professional experience course and initially approached the society to volunteer, and my digitizing work fell into place as a part time job just as I wrapped up my final semester.

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

No matter what job I'm doing at any given time, I always attempt to publish something.  It's a great way to articulate to myself and others my passion for what I'm doing.  In my last reference librarian role I wrote an article for the Canadian Parliamentary Review and a few articles for the local government's website.  Next month I'm contributing a piece to the Vancouver Association of Law Libraries for their online review.  

I've also been writing a lot of reference letters for people lately, and most exciting of all, I'm learning how to effectively do grant writing.  I'm helping to organize a Children's Literature conference this spring and as the "Logistics & Finance" guy, I've been scrambling to find us some money.

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

As an undergraduate pursuing a liberal arts degree I was pretty angsty and had a great many interests and little focused direction. I read broadly, travelled often, had adventures such as living in my van for my final year of school, and really took the time to get to know myself. I also documented my life by writing human interest stories for the newspaper, and challenged myself in other ways: playing music, trying tough new jobs like treeplanting, and hiking everywhere I could. Little did I know until much later, but these extra-curricular events played a large role in forging the guy I am today: an intensely curious and only slightly curmudgeonly fellow. ;)

But to answer the question, I worked in my campus library. I loved that job and I never forgot the feeling of being behind the desk and sending people away with the help and resources they came seeking. Throughout my life I've often worked in libraries - first running the children's programs in my hometown library, and then later as a circulation desk and systems development employee.

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

Find a writer that speaks to you, and read their books at least twice—especially if you're at a time of life when making life decisions. It was Robert Persig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance that got me on a motorcycle heading west after my undergrad degree. Matthew B. Crawford showed me in Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work that I could be a carpenter and a writer, and constantly reinvent myself. And good old Joyce Cary reminded me to keep my humour and artistic passions in check in his amazing book, The Horse's Mouth.

It was looking into the lives of people doing work that they love that has helped me the most. I'm a firm believer in the value of "Information Interviews." Call up someone in a professional field that interests you and take them to coffee. You'll find that people like to talk about what they do and are thrilled to answer your questions. These people often become crucial later on in ways that you couldn't possibly have predicted. As my Mom says, "If you don't ask, you don't get!" so I always make sure to ask. Turns out it's a great remedy to this persistent curiosity of mine, too!

You can connect with Chris on LinkedIn, and see the Transcribimus website he helped to create!

Posted on March 18, 2016 and filed under Library Science, Librarian, Interview, Interviews.