What was your educational and professional background before coming to SILS?
Prior to going to SILS, I had completed a BA in French Education K-12 with a minor in Russian. However, instead of teaching I found a job working in customer service for manufacturing companies with international interests. During those 13 years, I worked in customer service and finance and honed my interpersonal, team building and computer skills.
How has your career progressed since you graduated SILS?
While I attended SILS I was very fortunate to secure an internship at the EPA & NIEHS Libraries where I was able to rotate through different functions in academic librarianship. I was also able to work part-time at NC State and at Barnes & Noble booksellers. I had always planned on going into pubic librarianship but due to the economy upon graduation, I took a position as a school media specialist for a private school. For two-and-a-half years I learned how to manage a library on a very small scale and I got to help elementary school children get excited about reading. In 2011, I joined the Catawba County Library system as a programming librarian over two small branches. I did lots and lots of programming and reaching out to the community and a lot of saying yes to new things. I learned how to write an LSTA grant and successfully secured and managed two grant projects. After two years I was invited to help open a renovated branch site so I moved to that location. While I was working at that branch, the assistant director position opened up and I moved into that role.
For the past two years, I have been working closely with the library director, learning about working with local government and municipalities, grant writing, budgeting, and leadership. I was able to participate in the NCLA Leadership Academy where I have met many other great librarians and have become more involved in NCLA. I am currently the treasurer for the Leadership and Management Section (LAMS) and I am treasurer-elect for NCLA.
In your current employment, what are your job duties and responsibilities?
As assistant director, I am part of the leadership team that helps drive the mission and vision of the library. I supervise staff and operations at the main library location, and I supervise and support our branch services manager in her responsibilities to oversee the six smaller branches. We try to ensure that all employees are well trained and have the resources they need to provide excellent service to our community. I write and manage most of the grants that we secure such as Big Read, LTSA, Edge, United Arts Council, etc. I write employee evaluations for my direct reports and I review and edit employee evaluations for other employees. I help craft new job descriptions and organize the hiring and training process for new employees. I craft and administer an annual system wide customer service survey. I present to various community organizations such as Rotary, Lions, Friends of the Library, and others. I manage a women's book club. Sometimes I work in circulation to help out, get to know our patrons and our staff. I am sometimes called upon to deal with situations such as disruptive patrons or procedures that need addressing.
What projects have gotten you most excited and/or what accomplishments have made you the proudest?
Everyday I feel like I get to make a difference in the lives of people in my community and now in a leadership position, I have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people that work with me. In 2015 I wrote an LSTA grant to create a makerspace with a 3D printer, a digital cutter, new computers, GoPro cameras, and a sewing machine. I am very proud when I see people using those computers and the 3D printer. I know that I was instrumental in bringing these resources to our community. I am equally proud when I see the faces of young participants in the library's tutoring program who are doing great in school or the faces of adults at the local Hispanic community center learning how to use computers for the first time.
What were some of your best experiences at SILS??
Hands down my experience working at the EPA & NIEHS libraries was the best part of my SILS experience. It allowed me in-depth experience working in a variety of library roles. I also enjoyed my learning experience with the Wake County Public Library as it was a different focus and it helped me determine where I wanted to work.
I also had the opportunity to go on the Washington, D.C., trip with SILS where we were invited in to speak with librarians from NPR and the Smithsonian Institute.
One memorable experience at SILS was a class about information where we had to do everything in the multiuser virtual environment of Second Life. I had never heard of Second Life and I am not a gamer so this experience really helped me exit my comfort zone and explore what informational value could be found in that environment. It along with many other classes at SILS opened my mind up to so many more possibilities.
How did your time at SILS prepare you for the future?
I think SILS does a great job of teaching people "how to fish." Because the field of librarianship is ever changing, a graduate program cannot be expected to teach everything. What SILS did for me was to introduce me to the key concepts and show me how to educate myself on those concepts. As a professional librarian it is up to me to stay abreast of trends in technology and library services. Working as a public librarian I need to know how to navigate local governments and community groups. SILS has provided me with the foundational philosophy to use when providing library services to my community.
What inspires or motivates you?
I am motivated and inspired by helping people in our community find a good book, learn how to download something or use a computer. I am motivated to write grant applications because I know the projects I work on will ultimately help people. I am also competitive so I enjoy writing grants because I like the feeling of winning when I get them.
Is there any other information you would like to share, or any advice you would like to offer current or future SILS students?
If you are going to work in a public library you should get to know the folks at the State Library, especially the representatives that go out each year like Jeffrey Hamilton. Maybe even go ahead and take some of the classes offered on the Train Station and attend events hosted by the State Library. This will help you see what is currently trending with libraries across the state.
I would also get involved in NCLA earlier so that you can go ahead and make some contacts in various library types across the state.
Finally, don't be in a hurry to become a library director straight out of the gate. There is so much to learn and if you can find a good situation with a great Director it will put you much further along in the game than if you floundered on your own in some remote county as the sole librarian.