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13 Questions With: Cate Carlyle

13 Questions With: Cate Carlyle

January 30, 2017

Curriculum Resource Centre Coordinator, Mount Saint Vincent University

Who inspires you in your career?

There are many professionals whose careers I follow and who inspire me: Maura Marx, Carla Hayden, Melanie Sellar, Sandra Singh, Kate Byrne, Alyson Dalby, and Clare McKenzie.

My parents’ work ethic has also inspired me and reminds me that nothing comes easy. My mom came to Canada in the 1960s, worked her way up from small jobs to an HR career, and went back to school for her degree in her 50s while working full time and with two kids. Her example and support fueled me when I switched careers and went back to school late in life for my MLIS while working full time and raising two young children.

The first job you ever held and at what age and your first position in the library and/or information services field?

I started working in the kitchen at McDonald’s at 15 years old, as soon as I was legally eligible to work ($2.65 an hour and glad to have it!). Working at McDonald’s taught me a lot about customer service, hard work, the value of a dollar, being part of a team and multi-tasking. I know many young people avoid fast food work but I highly recommend it as a first job, even if only to know what you DON’T want to do for your career.

My first library position was as a teacher-librarian in a small elementary school. This was a turning point in my life as I realized I much preferred the “librarian” part of my day.

Why a career in librarianship?

I fell into it (see above) after a life of preparing to be a teacher. I grew up reading under the desk while my mom worked part-time evenings in a small town library, but librarianship as a profession never even crossed my mind until I stumbled into a term position as a school teacher-librarian. I vividly remember completing this archaic “fill in the bubble to find your true profession sheet” in the high school guidance office and getting “teacher or stewardess”.

Regardless of how long it took for me to find it, librarianship is the perfect career for me as I love customer service, problem solving, research, writing, reading and technology. I finally feel like I have found where I belong and am comfortable in this skin.

Coolest thing in your cubicle or office?

Sadly my office is not cool, and I am a bit of a neat freak. The beach glass from our cottage on Prince Edward Island and odd animal shaped paper clips on my desk could count at a stretch?

What is your guilty pleasure?

Raisins, preferably baked into something very sweet, very closely followed by cheese and chocolate. And no guilt at all.

Career advice – what’s your top tip?

If I could “Freaky Friday” with a younger version of myself she would balk at the advice I am about to give as it took me years to overcome insecurities and actually do the things I now suggest as career advice.

Say yes, volunteer, join, attend, reach out, get involved! I can’t emphasize this enough; get out of your comfort zone, take risks and get your name known. Joining professional networks, writing articles and submitting them to journals that are seeking submissions, submitting items for professional newsletters, submitting to present at conferences or in webinars will all help your career. The bonus is that all of these activities also advocate for our profession, the value of libraries and library professionals!

Now that you have said yes to everything remember that you do need to find that work life balance. Saying no to the things that aren’t healthy for you and/or your family is perfectly okay. Spreading yourself too thin or taking on something that causes stress and illness is never worth it. Taking time to unwind and pursue personal interests will benefit your professional self (you won’t be that scary stressed out person behind the desk who no one wants to approach for fear of being the last straw!) and it may even lead to other professional opportunities you hadn’t considered.

For those just beginning their careers I will also add one tip that worked for me when I was starting over and switching careers. My career coach tasked me with creating a web of all of my professional contacts, library related and other, and reaching out to them letting them know I was interested in finding work, asking their career advice, and asking if they could refer me to any other professionals who might be of assistance. This task was not easy for me, it was far out of my comfort zone and to be honest had I not paid a huge sum for his advice I might not have completed it. It was one of those contacts-of-a-contact who led to my first job in a public library and the many good things that came from that. Reaching out and making those cold calls opened many doors for me.

What useless skill(s) do you possess?

Perhaps better suited to the “useless oddity” category, but here goes….I can curl my tongue on itself, I sing when I yawn (usually the national anthem, an inherited trait), and I wrap presents at lightning speed.

Proudest moment in your professional life?

I’ve actually had two pivotal career events where I stopped in the moment and reflected on my good fortune. This August stands out as I received one of a limited number of Canadian Fellowships to attend the 82nd IFLA World Library and Information Congress. I was extremely proud (probably annoyingly so) to attend and represent Canadian librarians, my Atlantic Provinces Library Association and Mount Saint Vincent University. It was an inspiring, educational and enjoyable professional trip of a lifetime with an amazing group of professionals. It is now my goal to speak at IFLA someday!

I also recall a very humid evening at the Asturias Academy in Xela Guatemala dancing with a group of local students and international librarians, feeling proud to be a part of such a caring influential profession and so fortunate to be able to promote librarianship outside of my country.

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

In Paris, wandering my favourite neighbourhoods, while eating pastries. Having said that, a good sleep in would be pretty awesome too.

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

I dabble with writing children’s books in my spare time so I would love to imagine I would be writing full time. I also daydream about owning my own business that my kids could acquire one day, something involving design.

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

I was voted “best dressed” and my teenaged self was quite chuffed! In hindsight, looking back at the high school yearbooks, competition couldn’t have been tough as I was pretty cringe-worthy.

How do you stay current in your field?

I read a LOT (blogs, tweets, websites, journals, newsletters, books), take webinars, converse with my colleagues and networks, and attend conferences.

What would you like your headstone to read?

Definitely the AA Milne quote that has helped me over the years: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard”

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