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13 Questions With: Dani Wellemeyer

13 Questions With: Dani Wellemeyer

June 27, 2017

With the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference taking place in Chicago, is profiling members of the librarianship community from the United States.

Information Literacy Librarian, Miller Nichols Library, University of Missouri-Kansas City

Who inspires you in your career?

People who are innovating in education and putting it on the Internet. YouTube! I watch a lot of scientific, instructional, and educational YouTube channels. Nerds, scientists, historians, naturalists, makers, people who break down academic concepts for an Internet audience…I’m all about that. YouTubers are making amazing Open Educational Resources and paving the way for innovative uses of media in the classroom. I’m not going to list a bunch of channels because, word count, and picking favorites is hard, but The Brain Scoop, created by Emily Graslie and now produced by the Field Museum launched my obsession with educational YouTube videos. I think curiosity is the single most valuable characteristic for a 21st century employee/person to develop.

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 as a lifeguard at the municipal pool. I was 15 with a whistle and a power complex and it was very glamorous.

My first job in a library was as an assistant to a library faculty member whose work I admire, so that made it easy to be motivated. That job was actually at my current academic library and it opened the door to all the subsequent opportunities I’ve had here.

Why a career in librarianship?

Research and teaching. I had other plans to continue in academia in my first field of study (Communication Studies), but the parts I really loved about it were the parts that make academic librarianship such a cool job. Working with students (undergrads!), teaching in the college classroom, working on research and writing projects – those things are similar for academic librarians and professors, but in the library I also get to work on public services, outreach, and programmatic curriculum design. It turns out I love that stuff.

Coolest thing in your cubicle or office?

Space posters by NASA! JPL created this amazing, FREE set of of futuristic travel posters: Visions of the Future. They’re across the room from my desk so that I can stare at them when I’m doing 20-20-20. I also have seven plants but no windows. I can’t believe they can grow in the fluorescent light, but they do! Our shared office is a bit of a dungeon so we’ve gotten creative with making it livable and inspiring.

What is your guilty pleasure?

Really complicated cocktails. I fancy myself a pretty good home bartender. I like to make infusions and syrups and incorporate fresh ingredients. I grow a lot of stuff in my garden just for making cocktails.

Career advice – what’s your top tip?

1. Get experience doing the thing you want to do. Don’t quit your job to become a librarian – or anything else – until you’ve worked in the field and are sure it’s where you want to be.

2. Find friends and work with them! It will make you happier and more productive. You’ll quickly learn that the people working around you are more important to job satisfaction than almost anything else.

3. Figuring out the type of work you want to do is important, but so is figuring out the people that you want to serve. Librarianship is tough and constantly changing. At the end of the day drawing on your passion to serve people, rather than to do specific kinds of tasks, will keeping you going and hopefully non-grouchy.

4. Don’t be afraid to start a side hustle–it’s fun! We know we can’t rely on any one relationship in our life to meet all our social and emotional needs, and the same may be true for your career. Jobs in library and information science can be diverse in their day-to-day composition but you may find that you need a separate outlet for your passion in a particular area. Use it to make some extra scratch, and you’ve got yourself a side hustle.

What useless skill(s) do you possess?

Recognizing voices. Commercials, animated movies, any kind of voiceover. If I’ve heard an actor’s voice before I will recognize it instantly. This skill has no practical application.

Proudest moment in your professional life?

Being recognized in the elevator at a library conference by someone I’d never met. #fame

Seriously, though, each time an LIS graduate student that I supervise/mentor gets a job or moves on to an amazing new opportunity – those are super proud moments. I’ve been delighted to work with our grad students since very early in my own professional career, and it has turned out to be super fun as well as rewarding. I take pride in the work our team produces – we really prioritize student success in our information literacy program and it has paid dividends in both faculty buy-in and student learning achievement – but I take even more pride in our team and their individual accomplishments. Seeing young librarians emerge as leaders, grow into confident teachers in the classroom, and then run their own libraries or departments…that’s the business.

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

I would spend the 24 hours getting ready to throw a party when they ended. I’m a mega-extrovert. I hardly know what to do with myself when I’m alone, besides read. I also love to have parties, so I would bake a ridiculous dessert, make a pinata or something, and prep an extravagant cocktail. Party on.

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

I’d work for a smaller company, probably in an information-adjacent field or a non-profit, doing communication and project management. I would love to continue interacting with libraries and their patron groups but do more to combine my background in communication with my library expertise. Oh, and my retirement job is definitely park ranger. National Parks Service forever!

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

I had to ask a friend for help with this one. Luckily, I’ve known one of my BFFs since before high school. She said: “You were so much your own person which was unique for high school. So naturally you were weird but it’s just because everyone else was trying to be everyone else. Voted least likely to change in the best way possible.” Aw. Blush.

How do you stay current in your field?

Feedly, Twitter, YouTube, and talking to students. All day. Every day. I’m a holdover fan of the feed reader, so I follow academic librarianship blogs and websites using Feedly. Listening to the conversations that library professionals are having via more community-focused channels (like blogs and social media) leads me to the scholarship I need to be aware of. I read and pay attention to technology news a lot, too. This is a surprisingly large part of my information diet that I’ve found absolutely essential to librarianship. And I talk to students about everything: pop culture, memes, music, their classes and schoolwork, what kind of jobs they’re working toward, how they do the Internet.

What would you like your headstone to read?

“She’s got that giant heart that’s part compass and part flashlight.” — Feeny, D. (Writer), Rosell, R. (Writer), & O’Donnell, T. (Director). (2017). San Diego (Television series episode). In E. Meriwether (Producer), New Girl. Los Angeles, CA: Fox Network.

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