13 Questions With: Emily Farrell
November 9, 2015
Chief Executive Officer, Edwardsburgh Cardinal Public Library (Ontario)
A hero who has inspired you in your career?
Helena Merriam, the Program Coordinator of Algonquin College’s Library and Information Technician Diploma program has been a big inspiration to me. From almost my first day in her class, she pulled me out of the crowd and encouraged me to be amazing. The time and care she puts into helping each and every one of her students succeed is truly inspiring and I hope one day to be able to say that I have helped as many people as she has.
The first job you ever held and at what age and your first position in the library and/or information services field?
My first “real” job was at a local Tim Horton’s when I was 15. Apart from the perks of free donuts and coming home from a shift smelling of coffee (which, as it turns out, isn’t as much of a perk as one would think), working at Tim Horton’s really gave me a good work ethic.
My first position in the field was at my university library in my undergrad. I worked for almost two years in the University of Guelph and the Ontario Veterinary College libraries before I graduated.
Why a career in librarianship?
I’d always spent a lot (emphasis on a lot) of time at my local public library and reading books as a kid. When I was in my undergrad, working at the university library was presented to me as an option for part-time work but I never considered it as a career. However, once I started work at their circulation and course reserves desks I absolutely loved it. It didn’t matter how busy or slow the shift was going, I always enjoyed going into work. It was at that job that I really started to consider the possibility of a future in libraries.
Coolest thing in your cubicle or office?
My desk runs the gauntlet between relatively tidy and completely covered; however, permanent desk residents include a teddy bear, stuffed animal Pete the Cat, Lorax, Very Cranky Bear and a Very Hungry Caterpillar. They’re all curled up next to my Thing 1 cup, candy leftover from a kid’s program (which I definitely do not snack on from time to time, no way, not me), an adorably misspelled picture from a child, and buttons with literary quotes about alcohol that I got at the last OLA Super Conference pub crawl.
With all that stuff, is in any wonder why sometimes I can’t see my desk?
What is your guilty pleasure?
Watching British historical dramas on Netflix. Hands down. No contest.
Career advice – what’s your top tip?
I know that there is a real chance of burnout if you’re constantly doing more than your best, but I became a CEO of a small public library when I was 26 and without a Master’s degree most likely because I gave 110% at every single one of my library jobs before then.
My second piece of advice is “love what you do”. This goes hand-in-hand with “give 110%” because if you love what you do, you’re more likely to give 110%. Whether it’s flipping burgers or selling crochet animals on Etsy, just love what you do. And if you don’t love what you do, change it. At the end of the day, it’s not about where you are on the corporate ladder, it’s about being happy.
For me, being happy means running a rural public library, what does it mean for you?
What useless skill(s) do you possess?
The running joke with my boyfriend is that I know a little bit about a lot of things. But only a little bit. I’m not sure if that could be considered a useless skill, the ability to pick things up quickly but the inability to master any of them?
I also recently learned how to operate a backhoe, although in some instances that might not be considered useless either.
Proudest moment in your professional life?
I don’t have one specific moment. Instead, every time I see a child exhibit an interest in books, especially if they weren’t previously strong readers, I feel proud of my profession and proud of the work I’m doing in my community. Every time a new person comes in to get a library card and every time someone’s face lights up when they see me out in the community representing the library is when I know that I made the right career decision.
If you had 24 hours all to yourself, how would you best like to spend it?
I would probably get lonely spending a full 24 hours alone, but if my dog was there it could probably be manageable.
I would most likely sleep in, or wake up at my regular time and just not get up for a while. I find my bed particularly comfortable in the morning. After that, breakfast and a giant cup of tea to be brought outside with a book. I’d probably want to do some house or yard work at some point in the day, normally because I don’t have a lot of down time so dust is a regular visitor in my house. After that, more reading, maybe some crafting (I knit… doesn’t every library professional?!), and possibly some movie watching. If I’m feeling particularly lazy, I would probably order take out for dinner (oh, I ate lunch in there somewhere and most likely had another cup of tea), and then more reading/ movie watching.
In conclusion, I have a lot of property at my house so it’s highly likely that, if I had 24 hours to myself, I would spend it all at home. Being exceptionally lazy.
If you didn’t work in the information industry, what would you be doing?
I initially started my undergrad in pure science because I wanted to be a veterinarian. That said, I finished my undergraduate degree in Geology and Classical Studies. At the end of the day, I’d probably be either a geologist trekking through fields to stare at rocks or a copy editor because I’m a little OCD and that often translates in becoming the grammar police.
Finish this sentence: “In high school, I would have been voted the person most likely to … “
Actually, in high school I was voted Biggest Flirt.
How do you stay current in your field?
Meetings and conferences! I often don’t feel like I have time to read all the articles I’d like, so making time for local meetings with other CEOs and attending conferences or workshops as much as I can really gives me the best ideas for new trends in the library. Also, for a small rural public library, the Southern Ontario Library Service (SOLS) is extremely helpful at helping us keep up to date with legislation.
What would you like your headstone to read?
I don’t tend to think about stuff like this, but my unofficial tag line with my friends is “books and books and books and books” so maybe that.
Or, if that’s too lengthy, maybe something like “She read books. And did other stuff. But mostly she read books.”
Actually, that’s pretty long, too.