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13 Questions With: Fiona Anthes

13 Questions With: Fiona Anthes

March 20, 2018

Supervisor, Military History Research Centre, Canadian War Museum

Who inspires you in your career?

Neil deGrasse Tyson, the astrophysicist. He excels at marrying big ideas in their full glory with the people side of research and collective learning. Learning from him is marvellous interdisciplinary cross-training.

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

Paper-route substitute for my neighbour on vacation – 8 years old.

Information Manager at Tissue Regenerative Therapeutics (a stem-cell research company in Toronto).

Why a career in librarianship?

Because I get to bounce between my different brain functions and bridge the gap for others trying to do the same. I constantly alternate between big thinking and individual applications, long term planning and nitty gritty daily data management, process design and client service. When I was in school and was asked the much feared “what are you going to do with your life?” I gave the unsatisfying answer “something interesting.” I now can truly claim I’ve never had a boring day on the job.

Coolest thing in your cubicle or office?

A small pillbox depicting an old hunting lodge in Germany, hand-engraved, with a small German flag, a Canadian flag pin, and note inside. It was sent to me from someone that was a child there during the Second World War, and remembers the Canadians that came through as liberators. He wrote a booklet about his experiences, and through me it has been added to the museum’s library. Three-quarters of a century later, his daughter made her first visit to Canada, and delivered the pillbox to me. We never crossed paths in person, but have remained pen-palls ever since.

What is your guilty pleasure?

The “educational resources” tin that we keep to hand. It is self-control exempt.

Career advice – what’s your top tip?

Do something that has nothing to do with your career as doggedly as you do career development. Having a personality is one of the best assets you have going for you. I once had an interviewer ask me out of curiosity about when I played in a flute and harp duet (I got the job), and know someone that was asked about their circus experience while being interviewed for medical school (they are now a doctor). I also know hiring managers for whom ‘having a life’ is a non-advertised hiring requirement. Job applications aside, you will network better, avoid small world syndrome, and generally have more fun if puppy-like enthusiasm permeates your life.

What useless skill(s) do you possess?

I once won ‘most likely to survive the zombie apocalypse’ out of 50 people, due to my diverse (and random?) skills: karate, knitting, plant uses, handiness with power tools, how to make water balloons out of wax paper, etc.. This was wasted on me, as I am so frightened of anything resembling horror that I instantly had to give away my zombie thriller novel prize. Lesson learned: all skills can become useless with a context change.

Proudest moment in your professional life?

When we hosted an all-female human library for the closing event of the World War Women exhibit. It included women from all branches of the military as well as Doctors Without Borders, conflict-reporters, war zone survivors, a Second World War bride (her book title was ‘My first hundred years’ – she was 99!), and more. They shared their stories candidly, many for the first time, citing seeing the others doing the same as the source of their courage to share. I was not even the lead on the event, but am filled with pride, affection, and gumption every time I reflect on how extraordinary that event was.

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

At the cottage, sans power or electronics, watching the herons fish.

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

I would probably be an urban planner working to make city design better for active living, wildlife, and long-term uses. I geek out about this stuff, and have no lack of motivation to do the work.

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

Be at the ready with trivia.

How do you stay current in your field?

By following the ‘I wonder…’ trail and subsequent internet search. When no ‘wonder trail’ is present, I conference, podcast, and coffee date with colleagues until one appears.

What would you like your headstone to read?

Here lies Fiona the insatiably curious, and chocoholic.

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