Mary Greenshields is an early career librarian who made a midlife career change; she graduated in April 2018 with an MLIS. Mary is currently an Academic Library Resident at Bibliotheque Saint-Jean, the French library, at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. She wishes she had discovered that she fits in libraries earlier but is so pleased to be here now!

mary greenshields

What’s an average day at your library?

Every day is different! Most days include a meeting of some kind, whether it’s a team meeting or a committee meeting or a mentorship meeting. The rest of the time, I teach information literacy, consult with students and researchers, work on aspects of our website, serve members at the single service point desk, work on team projects, take advantage of developmental opportunities, play with robots, and drink lots of coffee. If you put it all into a snow globe and shook it out, you’d get an average day coming down.

What was the first job you ever had? 

Besides babysitting, my first formal job was at McDonald’s. I neither endorse nor dine at that restaurant chain.

What was your first position in the library or information field? 

While I was in library school (online), I worked in the Buchanan Library at Lethbridge College as a part-time reference assistant in the evenings and on weekends. The library staff there showed me the ropes and were exceedingly patient with me.

How do you stay up to date in your field? 

The library and information landscape is constantly changing, and I am relatively new to the profession; I try to learn something everyday. To that end, I read recent articles, use Twitter, check in with certain blogs, am a member of many listservs and several associations, talk to other librarians/mentors, and participate in webinars, workshops, and conferences.

What is your favourite part of library, archive, or information services work? 

Because our field is so diverse in terms of work, I would have to say that the variety of tasks I get to perform in a day, and all the wonderful people with whom I have the privilege of interacting, is my favourite aspect of work.

What are you reading or watching right now? 

Currently reading:

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

The Politics of Theory and the Practice of Critical Librarianship, edited by #critlib rockstars Karen P. Nicolson & Maura Seale.

If you didn’t work in information services, what do you think you’d be doing? 

In my fantasy world, I’d be a published author travelling the world for research purposes. In reality, I’d likely be a sessional instructor and/or government services agent, as I was in my previous life.

What is the best career advice you’ve ever received? 

I have been fortunate to have several informal and formal mentors since before I began my education and career. Advice on presenting and publishing my work has been super helpful, as has the support to try new approaches to teaching and learning. Finally, I was encouraged to step up and chair a national association subcommittee whose members are all ultra sharp and experienced – win-win for me.

Overall, if I may, I’d like to suggest mentorship is key in this profession (however you come upon it). Buy someone you respect a coffee – you won’t likely regret it.

What is the coolest thing in your office or on your desk? 

The coolest thing that will be in my office is currently not in my office: I bought a Christi Belcourt print, “Messengers of Renewal,” with money I received when I graduated from the MLIS but it’s hanging over the dining room table until I have a permanent gig. It’s a great reminder of all the work that went into getting me here, and the importance of so many people’s labour in the greater effort to empower and inform.

What makes you passionate about library work? 

Helping people is my jam! Library and information work is all about (or should be) helping one another. The University of Alberta’s promise is expressed as “Uplifting the Whole People,” and I believe library work is integral to this goal both within and outside that particular institution. Libraries can transform lives and I am passionate about that.

Why do you think library work is important? 

Library, archives, and information work is important for many reasons, not the least of which I have mentioned above. We are a loosely knit network of people who, ostensibly, believe in the power and importance of information; how this plays out varies across the planet, culture, library-type, information source, and job description.

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