Tracey Therrien is the Chief Librarian at the Nelson Public Library in British Columbia. She came to library work later in life. After rediscovering the magic of public libraries while living and working in Montreal, she moved back to BC and enrolled in Langara College’s Library & Information Technician program. Since then, she has been fortunate to work in a number of public libraries and regions in BC and along the way complete a Masters in Library Science. Her partner and her call Nelson home for now but who knows there may be one move left in them!


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

I worked for what was then called CILS (College & Institute Library Services), which is now CAPER – BC (Centre for Accessible Post-Secondary Education Resources). The Library provided alternative format materials for post-secondary students with print disabilities. Students requested textbooks in alternative formats (audio, large print, digital or braille). If we didn’t have it, we produced it. It was eye opening; before I started there I had little understanding of the different information/format needs of students and how a library could help.

How do you stay up to date in your field? 

I believe one of the best ways to do this is to seek out opportunities to meet up (face to face or online) with colleagues: develop relationships, listen to their challenges, achievements and most importantly be inquisitive and ask questions.

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

Ikebana – Japanese flower arranging. I love this art: I love the history, the simplicity and the symbolism.  You can find materials all year round even in the coldest climates – a twig, a piece of evergreen can be turned into a beautiful arrangement.

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

Be yourself. When starting something new (career, job, project) it’s easy to become immersed in the newness and lose parts of yourself that brought you there. I find I make the best decisions when I trust my intuition and use my past experiences to guide me. Being authentic and true to yourself makes doing something you believe in easy!

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

A Nelson landscape picture made entirely with stamps: a genuine piece of folk art. The artist is Ilsa Williams; her and her husband moved to the area in the 1930s and worked as architects until the 1950s. She was a pioneer in her field and many homes and commercial buildings she designed in Nelson are still standing. Besides its quirkiness, I also appreciate that the picture belongs to the Library; it’s comforting to know that it will remain hanging on the wall long after I am gone – like a sentinel, witnessing changes and guarding the history of the library and community.

What aspect of library work are you most passionate about? 

Access – that’s why I was drawn to this work. Working in a public library, I get to see first-hand, on a daily basis, how we strive to achieve equal access.  Every decision we make is a based on this, whether its policy development with the library board, a collections question or decision on how to physically configure the library space – we ask ourselves, is this accessible?