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13 Questions With: Jason Hammond

July 21, 2013

Outreach and Homebound Services Librarian, Regina Public Library

Photo of Jason Hammond

A hero who has inspired you in your career?

I’m not sure if “hero” is the right word (though some would call her a library super hero!) but I first encountered Jessamyn West via her work as a moderator on MetaFilter. This led to me finding her site, www.librarian.net long before I went back to school to do my MLIS. Then, just before entering library school, I read “Revolting Librarians Redux” which she co-edited. So she’s always been a big influence on how I think about librarianship, technology, activism, community and where those varied areas intersect.

The first job you ever held and at what age?

I worked at my hometown Esso gas station from when I was 14 to when I was 17. One of my pet theories is that everybody should work in a retail job when they’re young – restaurant, gas station, grocery store, whatever – to learn about customer service and also so you appreciate the people who do those kinds of jobs when you’re on the other side of the cash register.

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

When I moved to Calgary with my then-girlfriend, now wife, I briefly worked as a page at the U of C Library before being offered a position with the Writers Guild of Alberta. I wasn’t a page for a long time but again, am grateful to have had that firsthand experience doing a job that’s sometimes undervalued.

Coolest thing in your cubicle or office?

A handwritten note from a patron: “This book has a lot of very explicit descriptions of a variety of sex acts. I would suggest that you choose carefully who you send it out to. I, personally, did not enjoy it at all.”  (I love how she says she didn’t enjoy the sex acts in the book but apparently not enough that she wasn’t able to finish reading it!)

What is your guilty pleasure?

As librarians, we’re told never to be ashamed of our reading habits. But I’m still pretty ashamed to admit that I read a lot of biographies of pop culture figures from Tom Cruise to Ginger Spice to Hulk Hogan.

Career advice – what’s your top tip?

I personally dislike the word “networking” for the “Who’s baby is that? What’s your angle? I’ll buy that!” feelings the term always evokes for me. But there’s definitely something to be said for being outgoing, friendly and staying in regular contact with a wide variety of people. Among other things, I’ve been invited to attend the CLA HR Summit, to present at a CLA pre-conference and even to do this Q&A because of “who I knew”.

What useless skill(s) do you possess?

Some would call my ability to blog at www.headtale.com on a near daily basis for six years straight is pretty much the definition of useless! But it’s rewarding to still get the occasional e-mail from MLIS students who find value in what I wrote about library school nearly a decade (!) ago.

Proudest moment in your professional life?

A recent one was hearing that a paper I wrote about user fees in Alberta public libraries is being used in an Introduction to Library Science course at the U of A. Pretty heady stuff for a non-academic librarian who failed the first university class he ever took as an undergrad.

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

Reading. Watching movies. Spending time with my family. Going on a road trip. Sleeping. Walking in the park. I’ve never understood people who don’t want to retire – there’s so much to do in life that 24 hour spare hours wouldn’t even begin to touch all the things I’d like to do!

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

It’s still the information industry but considering my highest mark in library school came during the one elective we were allowed to take across the hall in the journalism program, I’d say I’d probably be a reporter of some kind.

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

Write a book. I’m still working on fulfilling that one though I consider myself extremely fortunate to have worked with writers and publishers for nearly ten years before going back to school to do my MLIS. Although I haven’t published a book yet, I’ve also written a few newspaper and magazine articles over the years. I’ve also just joined the board of a regional publishing house so perhaps I can pull some strings! 😉 (I should also note that my wife will happily point out that she got her name in the library’s catalogue before I did because of a book that was published out of a research project she assisted with as a student nurse.)

How do you stay current in your field?

In many ways, I learn the most about my field by reading books and articles about other fields – what are technology companies doing? What are governments doing? How about political parties? Book publishers? Universities? Bookstores? Shopping malls? Grocery stores? Las Vegas casinos?  (Completely serious on that last one.)

What would you like your headstone to read?

I’m a big fan of those headstones that are shaped like a bench. So maybe I could have one of those in some scenic location, an attached “Free Library” with some of my favourite books in it and an inscription on the bench quoting Kurt Vonnegut: “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

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