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13 Questions With: Emily Sanford

13 Questions With: Emily Sanford

June 23, 2017

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

Serials Catalog Librarian, Michigan State University Libraries

Who inspires you in your career?

More than anything, I think my love of reading and helping people discover what they’re looking for or what they needed but didn’t even know could exist, inspires my career. I really admire Henriette Avram. Her innovative use of technology in the development of MARC ushered in a whole new era for libraries – taking us from paper-based to computerization and facilitating sharing of bibliographic data and discoverability to a whole new level. This seems especially relevant as we stand on what appears to be the next precipice for libraries in linked data. My parents are also sources of inspiration in my career. They honest, hardworking, and dedicated as the day is long. If I am half as such, I’ll consider it an accomplishment.

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

The first paid job I ever had was as a clerk in a gas station in my hometown at the age of 17, the summer after high school and before I left for college. My first “position” in a library was as a volunteer at my small, rural public library when I was in junior high. I knew even then that I wanted to work in a library. I worked a couple hours after school and on the weekends shelving and checking out books. We were small enough, even though this was the late 90s, that there was no computer system and everything was on paper. My career has officially spanned the technology gap!

My first paid library position was as a student worker in technical services at my undergrad college library. I worked there for three years and learned so much! I reviewed bib records for books and media, did both sides of interlibrary loan, worked on serials holdings, and ebooks – just got exposed to a whole gamut of library tech services functions. I owe those librarians a lot!

Why a career in librarianship?

In my experience, I find people come to librarianship one of two ways, either they know from early on that they want to be librarians, or they come into the career after getting the bug from working in a library or a related information field. I was one of those people that knew pretty early on that I wanted to be a librarian. I was a voracious reader and happiest amongst books. I also liked helping people, but I knew I didn’t want to teach. All through my education, I was able to volunteer or work in libraries and in doing so confirmed that this was my calling. I enjoy helping people find and identify information. And, I love being a student of all areas of knowledge. I never know what is going to cross my desk on any given day. I currently have a serial on astronomy in Madrid and another on turfgrass in Oregon on my desk waiting to be cataloged.

Coolest thing in your cubicle or office?

Mmm, that’s a good question. Maybe my conference badges? I have the name badge from every conference I’ve attended hanging from a corner of my cubicle wall. The oldest one is from ALA Annual 2009 in Chicago, which I attended as a grad student participating in ALA’s grad student-to-staff program – a cool program that subsidizes a student’s attendance at ALA in exchange for volunteer work at the conference. The most recent is from The Collective Conference 2017 in Knoxville, TN.

What is your guilty pleasure?

Paperback romance books, binge watching tv shows, and Reese PB Cup flurries.

Career advice – what’s your top tip?

I can’t pretend to have it all figured out at this point. The first thing that came to mind, however, was how grateful I am for the small community of librarians I’m a part of and how I’ve benefited from having being a part of one. We are each other’s sounding boards, voices of reason, and support network. We collaborate on projects, presentations, and of course getting dinner/drinks at conferences (it’s also all about that work-life balance, folks) It’s a diverse group – from different areas of librarianship, different institutions, and in different stages of our careers. So, my top tip, would be to be active about building a community of professionals – the more diverse the better!

What useless skill(s) do you possess?

Working knowledge of GMDs, maybe? I learned AACR2 just in time for us to make the switch to RDA.

Proudest moment in your professional life?

I recently was elected by my peers to the Executive Board of the Cataloging and Metadata Management Section of ALA’s Association for Library Collections and Technical Services. I’m really proud of that at the moment!

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

I’m from Michigan originally and I have what some might call an excess of state pride. I’d probably travel to our Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. It’s been on my Michigan bucket list for a while. I’d camp, finally make a dent in my to-read pile, and kayak and hike in the natural beauty of the Great Lakes State.

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

I really enjoy baking, especially old family recipes for desserts and bread. So maybe a pastry chef?

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

I texted my two closest friends from high school this question to see what they would say. One said “most likely to time travel to olden England” and the other said “most likely to be behind a NYT best-selling pen name.” So, I guess my love of books and Jane Austen definitely came through to my friends.

How do you stay current in your field?

My tech services colleagues and I have an article discussion group. We get together once a month to discuss a relevant article on tech services or a related library topic. It’s kept me accountable and in the literature. It also sparks good discussion about what we’re doing locally and where we’re headed as a unit.

I attend conferences to keep up to date on the developments of national cataloging standards and policies, and with other advancements in the field. I also keep an eye on Twitter where I follow other librarians and information professionals.

What would you like your headstone to read?

She finally got through her to-read pile.

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