Colette (BA, MLIS) is the Manager, Indigenous Public Library Outreach, with the Public Library Services Branch (Government of Alberta). She has worked in public libraries for almost 20 years. She received a Library Journal “Movers and Shakers” award in 2017 for her work with library services to Indigenous communities. Colette also serves as the Chair for the Canadian Federation of Libraries Association Indigenous Matters Committee. She is a proud member of the Métis Nation of Alberta.
Describe yourself in three words.
Passionate (about service – particularly to Indigenous communities), committed (to library service) and (slightly) neurotic.
What was the first job you ever had?
Construction clean up. There was an apartment building being constructed close to my home, so I was in charge of sweeping and disposing of the garbage when I was twelve. It was hard work, but I found it satisfying to be helping in a small way.
What was your first position in the library or information field?
Retro-conversion clerk (adding item records to bibliographic records), which turned into full fledged cataloguing. I like public service, but I really liked cataloguing as well. I found it soothing, but also had a hard time staying focused when cataloguing non-fiction titles – particularly biographies (all of those interesting photos!).
How do you stay up to date in your field?
I watch webinars, attend conferences and am a real nut for academic papers. My daughter’s make fun of me because I tend to read graduate thesis papers for pleasure.
What is your favourite part of library, archive, or information services work?
I work in the public library sphere. Connecting people with resources (either by Internet or with hard copy materials), watching a small child participate in a program while their parents get some sweet relief, being able to provide anyone marginalized a safe space – libraries can be such amazing, life changing places for community members. I remember being a small child and spending hours in a library – it was my happy place then as it is now.
What are you reading or watching right now?
When I read a book, I tend to read it from start to finish, before putting it down. As I noted earlier, I like to read academic papers. The latest paper I read yesterday was called Daniels v. Canada: Understanding the Inkblot from a Metis Nation Perspective by Jason Madden. I also like general non-fiction, biographies and love goofy fiction like the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich.
If you didn’t work in information services, what do you think you’d be doing?
I have wondered about that myself. I think something in the service industry helping people. I really enjoy learning about my own culture and history, so perhaps something to do with Métis culture.
What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
To do something that makes me happy. I enjoy helping people and through my job I can do that and make a living!
What is the coolest thing in your office or on your desk?
I have a lot of artifacts and mementos in my office. Some people would likely say it is cluttered, but it makes me happy (see below).
What aspect of library work are you most passionate about? Why do you think library work is important?
I thought I would answer these at the same time. In many of the small, rural communities that I often work with, public libraries may be the only truly inclusive space within that community. They can level the playing field by offering free computer/Internet access as well as free resources, programs and services for everyone. Libraries can play such an important and meaningful part in peoples lives. I have experienced lovely moments in which someone has gotten a library card for the first time because they saw a library book in their own language, for the first time ever. The online resources that we offer assist in helping young people with homework, which has lead to higher graduation rates in one community I work with. The library in Standoff, Alberta (Kainai) offers a job board, resume services and job coaching – what a difference they are making!
I would be remiss if I didn’t note that I am humbled to be working alongside some amazing people in the field!