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13 Questions With: Jess Oakman

13 Questions With: Jess Oakman

October 24, 2022

Library Technician, Ottawa Catholic School Board

Who inspires you in your career?

I aspire to be as great of a library tech as Tori Murray is. Her creativity and passion for her job and for education worker rights inspires me to be the best I can be.

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

My first job that wasn’t babysitting was working on a horse farm in Ashton for a summer in high school when I was 17 feeding the horses and mucking stalls. As much as I love horses, it was a long 2 months and solidified that it was not a sustainable career path for me.

My first position in the library and information field was an FSWEP position with the Treasury Board Secretariat filing paper documents.

Why a career in librarianship?

After completing a Bachelor of Arts in History, I actually started my college career in the Law Clerk program at Algonquin. One day in November of my first semester, I woke up realising I really didn’t like it and had no interest in being a Law Clerk for the rest of my life. I couldn’t really tell my parents I was dropping out without a plan, so I went to talk to the college equivalent of a guidance counsellor, who gave me a few pamphlets on possible programs based on what I told him I enjoyed doing, including one for the Library and Information Technician program, because I’d said I’ve always loved reading. I decided to apply to give it a try, and got in. My first week in the program it was like the sun came out and I realised THIS is where I belong. With how obvious a career path it should have been for me, I’m amazed it didn’t occur to me sooner!

Coolest thing in your cubicle or office?

I’m a huge fan of the 80s classic tv show Golden Girls. My coolest thing on my desk is a Pop Funko of Estelle Getty’s character Sophia Petrillo. The library tech I share a school library with doesn’t really get it, but even on the most stressful days it never fails to make me smile!

What is your guilty pleasure?

Watching old classic tv shows like Golden Girls, M*A*S*H*, and Murder, She Wrote. They really don’t make good tv like that anymore!

Career advice – what’s your top tip?

The key to a great library is a good weed and inventory. Even if it’s a “classic”, that doesn’t mean it should be kept if there are racist or problematic aspects.

What is something people would be surprised if they knew about you?

I have a lot of what I call “side hustles”, one of them being that I dabble in horse photography. My best subjects are the horses and ponies at the therapeutic riding stable I’ve been volunteering at for 21 years. I started volunteering there when I was in Grade 9, a week after 9/11 happened, to get my required 40 hours of community service, and they haven’t been able to get rid of me since!

Proudest moment in your professional life?

Presenting at the Ontario Library Association Super Conference a few times…I’m very much not confident about public speaking or having a lot of people staring at me, so every time I push myself to do it and step out of my comfort zone, I can’t help but feel proud.

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

Sleeping in, then lounging in bed for an hour or three reading a book while snuggling my cat, before getting up and puttering around. Maybe take a walk or go for a ride on a horse. Then come home and do more reading. Finish the day with my favourite meal, then watching an Ottawa Senators hockey game.

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

I’ve always wanted to open a funky used bookstore that has a coffee shop in the front. Lots of comfy mismatched chairs, rock music playing. A place people would want to hang out where the customers feel like family.

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

…have an unmanageable TBR list.

How do you stay current in your field?

Attend free webinars, as well as conferences like OLA’s Super Conference. I also follow library professionals from other places on Twitter to get ideas for things to try in my own schools.

What would you like your headstone to read?

Here lies Jess. Her biggest regret was not finishing her TBR list.

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