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13 Questions With: Carmelita Cechetto-Shea

13 Questions With: Carmelita Cechetto-Shea

October 28, 2014

Library Support Consultant, Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board

A hero who has inspired you in your career?

There is no hesitation as to whom was my hero inspiring me for this career. My father had a grade 3 education; he was the baby in a family of 8 and had to work at a young age to help support the family. He was an avid reader, and self-taught himself to read as an adult. He read every Louis L’Amour novel, and one needed to get the local newspaper because he read EVERY word, even news articles that didn’t really mean anything to him. As an Italian immigrant who came to Canada knowing NO English, his accomplishment was awesome. He died during my first year in my career, but I know his example instilled the love of reading in my heart and a good reason to be in a career I truly love.

The first job you ever held and at what age?

Growing up in a “corner store,” also known as a convenience store, it was inevitable that my first job was to help behind the cash. I think I was about 10 when I started doing cash transactions, under the watchful eye of my mother. Honestly, my wages were probably in the shape of ice cream, candy, and chocolate!

Your first position in the library and/or information services field?

In 1983, I began a career as a library assistant to a high school librarian. It was an amazing moment in my life because it was my own high school and I was going to be working with my high school librarian Mr. Stephen Muise. During high school, I was a bit afraid of this bold and dynamic man, but after I worked with him for only a short while, I discovered he was a teddy bear!

Coolest thing in your cubicle or office?

Front and centre in my office is a funny action figure of Nancy Pearl, American Librarian and author. Featuring Pearl with a stack of books and a finger to her lips, the doll’s “push to shush” action was popular with some librarians and dismaying to others who felt that the doll reinforced librarian stereotypes. Pearl herself said that the shushing aspect of the action figure would determine “which librarians have a sense of humor.”

What is your guilty pleasure?

One only needs to step into a room in my basement to discover my second passion (reading is first) and definitely a guilty passion…scrapbooking. My husband jokes when we go into the local craft store and asks the sale people if they “want to buy supplies from me”. I guess you are hooked when the sale people all know your name and face.

Career advice – what’s your top tip?

In a school environment, one must realize that the students are like sponges, they absorb information quickly and it is crucial to instill the love of reading to every child from Grade Primary to 12. Be yourself, share your joy of reading, and never give up on the comment “I hate to read”.

What useless skill(s) do you possess?

I can click both baby fingers to make a noise. Guess they need to be oiled!

Proudest moment in your professional life?

It is hard to answer this question with one example. I have been blessed with two special moments where I knew that being in school libraries was where I belong.

In 2008, I received the Librarian Technician award at the Canadian Library Association in Vancouver, British Columbia; it was a moment I will never forget, and never expected to win because the person before me was also from Nova Scotia, a colleague and a friend, and I was doubtful that two Nova Scotians would win the award back to back. I was wrong. Then in 2012, I received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, nominated for my work with the Adopt-A-Library Literacy Program where students around the world compete in a WOW Reading Challenge. Each year I coordinate the competition in my school board with over 6000 students read books in grades from Primary-12. Last year, schools in my board excelled in all divisions claiming the title of “World Champions” in 5/6 categories.

If you had 24 hours all to yourself, how would you best like to spend it?

Being alone is something I don’t often have, but if I did, I would probably read every book I could that is on my “to read” list which keeps growing in my home. We all have them, the books that you want to read, but yet take forever to begin reading. For “breaks” from the reading, I probably would scrapbook. Having my two passions together, my greatest diversions to the world outside would help pass those 24 hours very quickly.

If you didn’t work in the information industry, what would you be doing?

As a child, I always wanted to be a vet. This “dream” faltered when I hit high school and discovered that I was not very science oriented. I could easily be one of those old ladies with a millions cats, and maybe a dozen or two dogs as well. I’ve been known to take in strays, cry at movies when an animal dies, and want to pet every cat or dog I see. My mother believed this would not be my chosen career as she knew that I could not put down an animal even if it was the humane thing to do and necessary. A friend’s dog I have dog sat is currently not doing very well, and just thinking about the “inevitable” has me in tears. Yes, being in the information industry is where I belong.

Finish this sentence: “In high school, I would have been voted the person most likely to … “

…who entered politics or law. A former teacher compared me with a local female politician on numerous occasions. The law option probably came from my “ability” to argue forever. Both career paths were probably “highlighted” because of my “gift of gab”.

How do you stay current in your field?

I remain as current as possible in the field with the help of many tools: professional journals (print and online), Internet sites, engaging in professional development whenever possible, and belonging to various associations where colleagues engage in sharing new trends, ideas, and experiences.

I belong to 3 associations: Canadian Library Association (CLA), Nova Scotia Association of Library Technicians (NSALT), and the Nova Scotia Library Association (NSLA). Depending on the locations, I attend the conferences of these mentioned associations. I also believe in becoming a “doer” and not just a member in an association. I currently am completing year 4 out of 5 of my term on the Canadian Library Association Young Adult Award Committee which will end at the conference in Halifax in 2016. I am also the Past President of the Nova Scotia Association of Library Technicians, a position it seems that I have held for three terms. At NSLA, I usually attend as an exhibitor for the NSALT group.

Lately, I seem to be constantly drawn more and more towards social media to help me be aware in the field; whether it is Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn, the information is instantaneously before me. It could be news of a book release, or discovering when the next conference is, or an opportunity for professional development.

The field of education and teaching is constantly in flux from curriculum to funding, from technologies to staffing. What opportunities does the frequency of change, for better or for worse, present to the library community and to users?

Change is a concept that can cause fear in some and hope for others. Without change, one cannot grow intellectually. Learning is a lifelong journey, and if one is not open to change of new ideas, beliefs, theories and opportunities, one will be stagnant both professionally and personally. Accepting the changes will enable you to support the students and staff in the schools so that their learning experience and development achieve the best opportunity and education possible. For me change is a very positive part of growing as a person and using that growth to serve the “patrons” better. Change gives the opportunity to succeed in making someone else value the library.

What should every information professional know about school librarianship?

School librarianship is a field that never stands still for very long. With the changes as mentioned above, it is evident that a school librarian must adapt quickly, accepting that adaptation with a positive outlook and an open mind. The field of school librarianship will give you memories to make you smile, whether it is the smile of a Primary student reading their first book or the student in Grade 12 crossing the stage on graduation night. As a school librarian, you have the power and duty shape the leaders of the future. You will need creativity, patience, compassion, consideration and a zest to learn with the students. And ultimately, a school librarian must be able to laugh at themselves and accept that each student that crosses your path matters.

Biggest surprise working in this sector?

I’ve grown up all my life surrounded by books yet I was surprised to realize that I am not the only person passionate about reading, books, and wanting to share the joy of reading. Several years ago, I met a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who had created a program with the motto “fighting crime one book at a time”. His work gave him the impetus to try and help children to grasp the concept of reading as a solution to getting involved in crime; instead he discovered a window of opportunity to reach children in schools and public libraries with a program that now encompasses the globe. This program gave me renewed hope for the future that our students, our children and the leaders of tomorrow, will embrace reading as an everyday task, just like brushing their teeth!

What would you like your headstone to read?

“The world was hers for the reading.”― Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

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