13 Questions With: Lauren Romaniuk
February 18, 2016
Digital Asset Librarian, Instacart
Who inspires you in your career?
Lots of people! I learned about information architecture and search through Peter Morville’s books. His body of work clearly demonstrated to me that going into librarianship was the right route for me. Thanks to him and others like him, I knew fairly early on that I wanted a non-traditional LIS career that applied LIS principles.
The first job you ever held and at what age and your first position in the library and/or information services field?
Generally speaking, I got my first taste of reference services and subject guides by working as a recruitment assistant at the University of Alberta. There, I quickly learned that the way information is structured has a critical impact on how individuals find information and perceive and organization. Prospective undergraduate students often have little experience with academic institutions, their jargon, and their standards prior to entering undergraduate studies, and so structuring information in a way that makes sense to highschoolers (and their parents, who may or may not have gone to university themselves) is critical in recruitment success. This was my first job out of my undergrad, and while it was not in a traditional library setting it taught me the importance of thoughtfully organized information.
Why a career in librarianship?
Candidly speaking, I got into librarianship without a real plan to get into it and I probably fell into the profession in the most millennial way possible. Parental guidance combined with needing to make a change in my life.
I had became obsessed with improving content and information while in my recruitment assistant role, but I didn’t actually know that the work linked to librarianship. Back then, I would come home from work and talk to my one of my parents about how information on our website needed improving, I’d talk about the initiatives that my workplace was taking to improve access to information for prospective students, and I’d talk about what I was doing in my own way to better structure data. My parents are both MLIS holders. My mother is an academic librarian, and my father is a lawyer with a background in knowledge management. Both kept telling me that my interests at work sounded an awful lot like librarianship, but I fiercely resisted the idea. A couple years later I was fresh off a four month stint of backpacking through China and India and was unsure of what my next career move would be. Again, my mother nudged me towards grad school (an MLIS). I still was undecided, so I emailed the leader of a team at Google who’s work I’d been reading a lot about and asked him if his team had any librarians on it. He got back to me and said yes, they had several librarians on his team, and the rest is history. Librarians at Google! Too cool. I applied to library school and my love of this profession has existed ever since.
Why do I love librarianship? The skillset that librarians have is transferable to all sorts of workplaces, and many organizations are hungry for those skills. We (librarians) stand to make meaningful contributions in all sorts of domains if so choose. It’s just a matter of making our skills known!
Coolest thing in your cubicle or office?
I work at a tech startup in Silicon Valley, so you can probably imagine some of the fun things we have going on in the office based on common stereotypes. But in truth, the coolest thing in my office isn’t the quirky perks or fun spaces, it’s the people. Your only limitation here is yourself – otherwise, if your idea is a good one and you’re ready to put in the long hours, you can shoot for the moon and your colleagues will be there to help you when you need it and cheer you on.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Using my learned search skills from my MLIS to super creep people online. Bwahahaha. Watch out!
Career advice – what’s your top tip?
I can speak to non-traditional librarianship, and maybe some of my words will apply to public and academic librarianship as well but I’m not sure. My advice is two part.
- Own the fact that you’re a librarian. I always, regardless of my current working title, introduce myself to others as a librarian. It invites a lot of conversation and immediately prompts an opportunity to advocate my skills and – bonus – I can simultaneously advocate for the great work that public and academic librarians do every day. I’m really fortunate that my current employer celebrates the fact that I’m a librarian. I’ve been introduced to several major organization’s marketing teams as “the librarian”. Later, I get email from some of the biggest companies in the world saying “I heard you’re the librarian that I am supposed to talk to.” How cool is that?
- Know your skill set and put yourself out there. Lots of job postings go up without asking for an MLIS and have no mention of librarianship or information science in the posting. However, the skill list comes pretty close to that of a librarian’s. Tons of jobs like this are out there – digital asset management, my current field of work, is a great example. Many corporations are scrambling to hire librarians to build digital libraries for them. Some know to call out the MLIS or to ask for a librarian, others don’t. Find those opportunities.
- BONUS: MLS / MIS / MLIS holders! If you went to an accredited institution in North America, you can freely move between the USA, Mexico, and Canada for work. This is part of NAFTA. I’m a Canadian who has been working in the USA for 1.5 years, and I came here with no job offer, no contacts, and found something in two months. The visa cost all of $50 dollars. This fact isn’t mentioned enough in grad school. An MLIS is a Swiss Passport in terms of finding work across borders in North America.
What useless skill(s) do you possess?
I can ski backwards really well.
Proudest moment in your professional life?
I’m 27, so I think it’s too soon to say. I’ve had some incredible experiences thus far, but I can’t let myself think anything comes close to being the pinnacle. Dare I say I have big dreams and excitement for the unknown? Fingers crossed!
If you had 24 hours all to yourself, how would you best like to spend it?
Right now? Racing a sailboat from San Francisco to somewhere fun. But ask me on a different day and you’ll get a different answer.
If you didn’t work in the information industry, what would you be doing?
Wandering aimlessly and finding work as I went along. I’d love to live on a boat and find odd jobs at each place that I stopped at, but that’s another life! And maybe, just maybe, if I actually tried that I’d hate it in practice. Ha!
Finish this sentence: “In high school, I would have been voted the person most likely to … “
… I don’t know if anyone would have finished that line back in the day! I had a great group of friends that I’m lucky to continue to have as close friends to this day, but in truth, I don’t know if anyone ever had a really strong opinion of me either way. I’ve always been kinda quirky and done things off the beaten path, but yeah, I don’t think I stood out much in high school enough for people to speak of my future.
How do you stay current in your field?
Professional associations, asking people I find on LinkedIn with similar jobs to mine out to coffee, professional meet-ups.
What would you like your headstone to read?
Gah. I cannot imagine my grave. I’m not afraid of dying, per say, but I hate the idea of people mourning my loss. So maybe my headstone would read: “The future is called “perhaps”, which is the only possible thing to call the future. And the only important thing is not to allow that to scare you.” That’s a quote by Tennessee Williams, my favourite playwright. I live by those words, and so I guess in death, I’d hope others would read those and be as inspired by them as I have been.