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13 Questions With: Erica Penton

May 26, 2013

Public Services Librarian, Colchester/East Hants Regional Library

Photo of Erica Penton

A hero who has inspired you in your career?

When I was a younger, I was an obsessive reader whose curiosity was greater than her time-management skills, so I always had overdue fines. Luckily for me, the staff at my local library had exceptional customer service skills and were willing to work with me. So much so, that one Christmas I received a “Library Credit Card” in my stocking. My parents had pre-paid fines for me! I didn’t immediately decide to become a librarian at that moment, but I like to think that it makes me a more empathetic one today. I still think about those ladies.

The first job you ever held and at what age?

I started folding T-shirts at the Gap when I was sixteen. I ended up on the display team and eventually went on to work with different companies doing fashion merchandising and designing window-displays.

Your first position in the library and/or information services field?

I went immediately from focusing on change-management during a practicum with a not-for-profit, early-childhood-literacy organization in Scotland, to working in the cataloguing department at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, so I was able to see vastly different ends of the MLIS career spectrum.

Coolest thing in your cubicle or office?

I am in charge of the donations, and I’ve purchased a few gems for myself from the book sale: several 1960’s pulp romances, as well as a Betty and Veronica Double Digest where they work in the library.

What is your guilty pleasure?

Print magazines. The irony of reading WIRED magazine in print is not lost on me, but there is something about the feeling of the paper, or rolling up the New Yorker to exactly the column I am reading at the moment. I am a big fan of long-form journalism, but it’s one genre that I just can’t go digital with (at least, not yet anyway). And who doesn’t love getting fun mail?

Career advice – what’s your top tip?

Your non-library network is just as important as your professional one. During my job search, I discovered that a friend of mine who now owns a gluten-free bakery used to be a recruiter in the corporate world. She met with me and we went through my resume and several job-postings line by line. It was extremely helpful.

What useless skill(s) do you possess?

I am a highly talented mess-maker. It’s not a meal unless I have used every pot and pan in the house. I also have a degree in Circus Skills (I was an aerialist), which was useful until recently, when I became too old and retired from performing. Sadly, now I only use those skills if I get locked out of the house.

Proudest moment in your professional life?

I am most proud of the small moments and interactions I have with our patrons throughout the day. Recently, I helped an English Language Learner who had very little computer experience write a resume for the first time. I sat with her and we went through the process of creating a resume. She learned new vocabulary, how to use a computer, and how to express her skills. In the end, she couldn’t thank me enough. She left with a great resume and I was left feeling pretty great myself.

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

In New York City!

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

I have always had competing (and often conflicting) interests, so this is a difficult one to answer. Most likely I would be in the not-for-profit sector (that is unless Bergdorf Goodman suddenly came calling for a window dresser). Or, a yoga instructor!

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

“See the World.” I’ve done a pretty good job so far (Sarajevo, Copenhagen, and Istanbul were a few of my favourites), but there are still so many cities on my list! Hong Kong, Toyko, Dubai, Bogata…

How do you stay current in your field?

I find Twitter very helpful in this regard. I follow a wide array of people in the field, and they lead me to all kinds of blogs, websites and articles I hadn’t known about before: innovative ideas come to me in a happily curated mix.

What would you like your headstone to read?

My partner and I joke that it would most likely say, “Guess I should put some real pants on.” It’s a constant refrain as we’re getting ready to go out. Our house is a very pajama/yoga pant friendly environment.

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