Leigha Locke is the Children’s Services Librarian for Newfoundland and Labrador Public Libraries. She is based in St. John’s.
Describe yourself in three words.
Bubbly, Reader, Determined.
What’s an average day at your library?
I work as a selector and program coordinator for a library system, so a lot of what I do is behind the scenes work. An average day would include some collaboration with branch staff, reading reviews, buying books for the collection, researching contemporary trends in children and youth services, and conceiving of ways to implement them at NLPL. Many days also include outreach with kids – I love this part of my job!
What was the first job you ever had?
The first job I ever had was babysitting (where I would read as soon as the kids went to bed!), but my first non-babysitting job was a seafood personnel at Sobeys.
What was your first position in the library or information field?
I started volunteering in libraries from the time I was in junior high. I did this when I was changing careers from teaching to librarianship as well so that I could get as much experience as possible before my first real library job. The job was Library Assistant at an awesome little branch in St. John’s.
How do you stay up to date in your field?
I research all of the time. Even in my free time! I am also part of social media networks with a focus on library services and trends and I ask as many people as many questions as I can. I want to learn everything!
What is your favourite part of library, archive, or information services work?
I think being a part of amazing literacy evolution is the coolest part of my job. Because I do not work directly with our patrons, keeping abreast of trends in services and also in the publishing industry are so enjoyable. Also, when I spend all day reading reviews and the titles of upcoming children’s books I always get a kick out of some of the titles. I have the best ordering area!
What are you reading or watching right now?
I am always reading! Right now I am deeply in love with the book Internment by Samira Ahmed, a very timely YA novel. As well, I am reading To Night Owl from Dogfish by Meg Woltizer and Holly Goldberg Stonee, a juvenile lit book about two girls who are brought together in the most interesting way. It is told entirely through email. It is so much fun!
If you didn’t work in information services, what do you think you’d be doing?
I would probably still be teaching high school, or would have gone back to university to be an oceanographer!
What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Listen to people and focus on community building. It is the best way to move forward to have a working environment that everyone can enjoy.
What is the coolest thing in our office or on your desk?
I have a giant life-sized cut out of Thor in my office. Sometimes he wears a Santa hat. He is very festive. 🙂
What is the most challenging part of your job?
We are underfunded and understaffed, as many library systems are. This makes providing the best services tricky at times. But we work really hard to give the public every opportunity to have a great library experience, despite these challenges.
What do you think is the biggest challenge libraries face today?
I think this is two-fold. First, they are underfunded and a big reason for this is because the perception of libraries for so many people is an antiquated one. I think we need to bring our libraries up to speed and offer those services that will impact our most needing populations and we also have to stay on trend so that everyone sees themselves reflected in the libraries within their communities. We need to think outside of the box and really appeal to the collaborative and life-long nature of libraries.
What aspect of library work are you most passionate about?
I love sharing the message of how important libraries are, but what I love most is seeing kids excited to be in the library or tell me stories of what they love most about the library when I am at outreach. It makes every book purchase that much more enjoyable because I know there is definitely a kid out there who will be excited to find the book in the branch!
Why do you think library work is important?
Libraries are forward thinking, free, educational, and fun institutions. Libraries are meant to inspire and welcome everyone through their doors. What other type of institution can we say that about in this day and age?