13 Questions With: Allyson Fox
September 10, 2017
Training Manager, Southern Ontario Library Service
Who inspires you in your career?
I have been fortunate to be influenced by several inspirational leaders each with unique leadership styles who impacted my career in very different ways.
When I first graduated from FIS at U of T, Vicki Whitmell gave me a piece of advice that changed the direction of my career. It had a huge influence on the path I chose to begin my career as an information professional. That advice lead to me working in a non-traditional library setting as Manager of Library Services at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), a think tank focused on International Affairs. The Executive Director at CIGI was Dr. John English. He inspired me with his passion for libraries and his belief in the importance of access to information. I learned a great deal from Dr. English’s approach to leadership. He embraced visionary ideas and empowered every member of his staff to make the ideas a reality. At CIGI, staff were encouraged to provide input and participate in finding solutions to the complex problems we faced. We felt our opinions were valued and that we each had an integral role to play in achieving the vision of the organization.
At Region of Waterloo Library, I worked with Kae Elgie who had a very different, yet equally inspiring leadership style. Kae inspired her staff with her willingness to think outside the box, take risks, try out new and creative ideas. Kae was not be afraid to fail or admit that she made a mistake. By taking risks herself, she allowed her team to do the same. She trusted and respected her staff and always encouraged us to try new things.
The first job you ever held and at what age and your first position in the library and/or information services field?
My first job ever was delivering the “Pennysaver” newspaper in Windsor, Ontario. I still remember going for the interview at the age of 12 and then delivering those papers on dark winter evenings after school.
My first position in the information services field was a Library Assistant position at the Law Society of Upper Canada in the Great Library. I was initially hired to shelve books and do loose-leaf filing. Eventually, I began working at the reference desk during evenings and weekends.
Why a career in librarianship?
Working at the Law Society of Upper Canada was what led to me pursing a career as a librarian. I didn’t intentionally seek out a library job, but once I started working in the Great Library, I knew that I was where I was supposed to be. I loved spending my days in the library and watching and listening to the knowledgeable staff members, many of whom had been there for decades. They seemed to know everything there was to know about legal research. I liked the high-pressure environment as lawyers would rush in on very tight deadlines and the reference team would work together to get them the information they needed. My manager (Jeanette Bosschart) and the Executive Director (Janine Miller) encouraged me to apply to FIS. I pursued my Masters degree while continuing to work part time. Their support and belief in me is what allowed me to finish my Masters while continuing to work and gain the hands on front line experience that I have since applied to every role I’ve had.
Coolest thing in your cubicle or office?
When my daughter was in Kindergarten one of her assignments was to draw a picture of what she wanted to be when she grew up. She wrote “Librarian” and drew a picture of herself in a library. I have that hanging in my office and it still makes me smile every time I look at it.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Rice Krispie Squares and Chai Lattes from Starbucks.
Career advice – what’s your top tip?
Be yourself. Recognize your strengths and try to maximize them. Take on projects and roles that challenge you and then work hard to meet your goals.
What useless skill(s) do you possess?
I’m an expert at finding Waldo.
Proudest moment in your professional life?
At CIGI, I had the opportunity to lead the team that developed a digital library of Kofi Annan’s personal papers. This was a collaborative project with United Nations staff and students and faculty at the City College of New York. We worked together to develop a metadata structure, digitize and catalogue a huge amount of content, and design a user-friendly online portal. After a year of hard work, including many long days and late nights, we had built a searchable archive of a decade’s worth of photos, letters and documents related to the former UN Secretary-General. I had the honour of presenting the Kofi Annan Papers Project to a group of representatives from the United Nations at the Rockefeller estate just outside of New York City. This was my most challenging and proudest professional experience so far.
If you had 24 hours all to yourself, how would you best like to spend it
I’m a mom of 2 young children, so it has been a very long time since I have had 24 hours all to myself!
If I did, I’d like to wake up early on a sunny blue-sky day in Tucson, Arizona. Go for a long bike ride in the mountains. Enjoy a great brunch. Spend the afternoon swimming outside and relaxing beside the pool reading. Eat dinner at a nice restaurant. Watch the sunset over the mountains. Have a nice, long, uninterrupted sleep. Then…at the end of the 24 hours come home to my kids running toward me at the airport.
If you didn’t work in the information industry, what would you be doing?
If I didn’t work in the information industry I would like to be a lawyer.
Finish this sentence: “In high school, I would have been voted the person most likely to … “
Go to the Olympics.
How do you stay current in your field?
In my current role as Training Manager at SOLS, I develop and coordinate training opportunities for public library staff across southern Ontario. To do my job well, I need to keep on top of the evolving trends and issues impacting public libraries. One of the things I love most about my job is that I get to connect with people working in libraries of all sizes which allows me to stay current about the innovative and exciting things public libraries are doing to serve their communities.
What would you like your headstone to read?
This is a tough one. I think I would stick to the facts (names, dates) and keep it simple – something like “A life well lived”.