Nancy has worked at Hamilton Public Library for four years, currently as an Arts, Literature and Culture Community Librarian. Nancy was born in Alberta, completed two art degrees in Victoria and Montreal, an MLIS in Halifax in 2013, and now calls Hamilton home. She lives with her husband, two children, and a bunch of grumpy cats. In her spare time she makes art, is a member of The Assembly Gallery, and recently ran her first 5K.
What’s an average day at your library?
I’m based at our Central library, a modern 6 storey building in downtown Hamilton, ON. We’re attached to a mall, a Farmer’s Market, an arena, and down the street from the main arts district. We have 27,000 customers per week at Central and are open 7 days a week. In addition to regular desk shifts I personally run 6-8 exhibition spaces across the system, so the month end is always a busy time with deinstalling, installing, planning social media posts, making signage and planning receptions. As a co-lead for the Arts, Culture and Literature working group, I head or oversee our system-wide programs like Hamilton Reads and work closely with our Communications and DT departments on events and program planning. I strongly believe in the ‘touch paper once’ rule, and occasionally follow it.
What was the first job you ever had?
Picking strawberries at a farm in Vulcan, AB. The first job I loved was at a video store called Pic-A-Flic in Victoria, BC. It is (still!) a small indie shop that employed a bunch of movie nerds. It was always busy with customers asking for recommendations, and everyone chatting about their new favourite film.
What was your first position in the library or information field?
As a Visual Arts undergraduate at the University of Victoria I had a part-time job with their Photo Services department digitizing their promotional images and creating a basic searchable database. I had no idea that would lead to a career.
How do you stay up to date in your field?
As I’m on the events side of library work, staying up to date means looking beyond the library into the community and thinking about how to create events that either resonate with our existing customers, or that will invite people who don’t regularly use the library. Sometimes that means presenting cultural events similar to the ones already occurring in the community, but in an accessible space, or earlier in the day. Sometimes it means thinking about what the library can offer that is unique. And sometimes it’s a simple as allocating space for community groups who are doing interesting and meaningful things. Within the library realm, I attend OLA and watch webinars, and these are useful for thinking about strategy and audience, and for meeting authors and publishers.
What are you reading or watching right now?
A lot of Afrofuturism, fantasy and sci-fi, Canlit and literary. Some recent favourites are R.F. Kuang’s The Poppy War, In Search of the Perfect Singing Flamingo by Claire Tacon, Deborah Levy’s Hot Milk and Banana Yoshimoto’s The Lake. Thrillers are my go-to when my insomnia gets bad but I rarely remember them. I’m enjoying the TV series Cardinal, set in a fictional Thunder Bay-type city, and rewatching Seinfeld as my in-the- background-while-cooking show.
If you didn’t work in information services, what do you think you’d be doing?
Theatre management or city planning.
What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
For years I floated around from contract to contract thinking that at some point, something would catch. Getting a part-time permanent position at a large institution has allowed me to grow upwards through the organization. No one told me that as advice, although my husband did (nicely!) suggest that I get a real job.
What is the coolest thing in your office or on your desk?
The Ergotron sit-stand unit on my desk. It is a life-saver.