13 Questions With: Christopher Stephenson
May 1, 2018
Branch Head Librarian, Okanagan Regional Library
Who inspires you in your career?
As I head back to the BC Library Conference in May for the first time in a while, it’s officially Thank-A-Mentor month for me. Many people helped me to the place I am today, and I’m really grateful. Some of them may not even recall the librarianship spark – or torch – they passed me… But here’s a short list of inspirational characters from along the way:
Stephen Abram, Allan Wilson, Heidi Schiller, Kimberly McMunn, Amanda Wanner, Dean Giustini, Carolanne Nadeau, Marie Belanger, Monica Swamiraj, Kelly Thompson, Louise Broadley & Anne Olsen, Rick Kopak, and Anna Jubilo
The first job you ever held and at what age and your first position in the library and/or information services field?
I eventually helped run the children’s programs I originally attended at my hometown library in Gravenhurst, Ontario. I was around 16. I did some storytimes, and I developed the theme for the summer reading club: Phantom of the Library. I convinced a friend to dress up as a literary ghost and make surprise appearances at the library throughout the summer. I’ve had a delightful soft spot for this department in every library I’ve worked at since. At library school I took every course I could taught by the legendary Judi Saltman!
Why a career in librarianship?
Somehow I’d worked in 6 libraries before I stopped to realize it was my ideal career. I was burned out from a first career in Vancouver’s film industry, and the library became a weekend sanctuary. I started dating my local librarian and hanging out with her friends – they’d all recently graduated with their MLIS. Their enthusiasm was contagious and it awoke this long-cultivated passion I’ve always had for libraries. I realized I’d been a library advocate since my parents first walked me into that original Carnegie-built beauty in the Muskokas.
Coolest thing in your cubicle or office?
Last Friday I found a box of formatted, 3 ½ inch 1.44 MB floppy disks in my new desk. I stared at them for about a minute. Not because I thought they were coasters (like a kid in the library I showed them to), but because I realized they’d probably been in that desk since 1996. When the library was built…
What is your guilty pleasure?
Don’t tell my vegan parents. But for over 25 years my comfort food has been Zoodles and bagels with a LOT of butter. My new staff likely haven’t figured out it’s a particularly stressful week when I crack open a can of these critters. Funny story:
My friend Monica from India: Christopher, what are Zoodles?
Me: Zoodles are animal noodles!
Monica: Christopher… Only CATS should eat from cans.
Me: Hrmph. *arms crossed*
Career advice – what’s your top tip?
Make a list of people you respect or admire. Call them all up to make an appointment and start asking questions about everything you want to know. It doesn’t matter who they are, 10 bucks says they’ll like your pluck and agree to meet. People love to talk about their work and what drives them and you can learn SO much from being a good listener in the company of a dynamo.
Library school calls these “Information Interviews,” but this has been my strategy since I was 14 and I went to Town Hall to ask how to register my first business.
What useless skill(s) do you possess?
I can tell at a glance if something is level. This is very embarrassing when visiting art galleries with someone.
Proudest moment in your professional life?
I recently took 4 months off to find the perfect job. It was a lofty goal and I was really picky. But when I got the call that I was moving to Kelowna for my current role, I walked in the door at my parents and hugged them and suddenly got pretty teary. I’d done it! Two years ago I drove through this city and thought to myself, “One day I’d like to work HERE.” And with a bit of perseverance, my thought became reality. Choose your own adventure, that’s what I always say.
If you had 24 hours all to yourself, how would you best like to spend it
Hiking, reading, napping, camping, smooching. Wine. Chocolate. Music. Driving roadtrip.
If you didn’t work in the information industry, what would you be doing?
Ever met a librarian who said they had a book to write? No? Well, nice to meet you!
Finish this sentence: “In high school, I would have been voted the person most likely to … “
Become the Jack of All Trades. I won my high school’s Most Well-Rounded Student award, so I guess I was off to a good start. I like finding out just a little bit about everything. Curiouser and curiouser.
How do you stay current in your field?
As far as information flow goes, Twitter is pretty remarkable. I follow several thousand libraries & librarians from around the world and I get 5-10 new great ideas every day. It’s affirming, inspiring, frustrating, and succinct. I hit a Twitter limit recently, actually. Apparently you can’t follow more than 5,001 people until the same number are following you. Weird.
What would you like your headstone to read?
“Here lies a modern-day Sisyphus with a sweaty sense of humour.”