13 Questions With: Michelle Lake
October 15, 2014
Government Publications Librarian, Concordia University Libraries
A hero who has inspired you in your career?
My career as a librarian was inspired by many people over the years, including lots of wonderful teachers, professors and librarians, but my biggest career influences and heroes would have to be my parents. There was always an emphasis on education and reading in our home, as a family we would go to the public library every week for new books. My parents always modelled loyalty, hard work and dedication and I strive to achieve those values in my own work.
The first job you ever held and at what age?
The first job I ever held was at Zeller’s, at age 16, in the Toy’s and Children’s wear departments.
Your first position in the library and/or information services field?
My first paid position in the library or information services field was as a student shelver at the University of Guelph Library, during my undergrad. I also located missing books, which was my favourite part of the job; tracking down elusive items is very satisfying. Previous to that, I volunteered in my elementary school library, helping sort and put books away.
Coolest thing in your cubicle or office?
My favourite item is a stuffed owl (who wears glasses and is reading a book), that sits on top of my filing cabinet. He was a gift I received when I graduated from my MLIS and is my office mascot.
What is your guilty pleasure?
I don’t really believe in the “guilty pleasure”, I think that if there is a hobby or form of entertainment that adds something to your life, you should feel free to enjoy it.
My guilt free entertainment recommendation? Sleepy Hollow (the tv series), is completely bananas and I love it, if you’re looking for something fun and not at all historically accurate, try it out.
Career advice – what’s your top tip?
Say yes. This is especially important at the beginning of your career, but is true throughout. You likely won’t end up in the exact job you pictured as your ideal when you started your MLIS, but that isn’t a bad thing. Our profession has so many different facets to it, and as a result, an incredible amount of opportunity.
On the practical side, I mean apply to all jobs that you are interested in, consider contracts, or consider moving to a new city; try to get as much experience doing different things as you can. I have worked in public and academic libraries, covering a wide range of social science and humanities subjects and those experiences have all helped inform my current position and skill set.
What useless skill(s) do you possess?
I possess a large amount of pop culture knowledge. I’m great with movie and TV trivia, which can be useful in a trivia team situation and/or those ‘quizzes’ they show before movies at the theatre.
Proudest moment in your professional life?
My proudest moments are usually from the interactions I have with students. I’ve had the privilege of working with some really great undergrad and graduate students and offering assistance with their library research. Hearing back from students that I have helped about their successful projects and research is a great reward.
If you had 24 hours all to yourself, how would you best like to spend it?
Sleeping in, drinking tea & eating pastries from my favourite local patisserie, perhaps a little spa time, having a meal + dessert with my friends and a walk in the autumn leaves.
If you didn’t work in the information industry, what would you be doing?
I would likely still be in the education field; I would probably be a teacher. I really like working with students and helping people access and understand information. My sister is a teacher, and is also a continual source of inspiration to me.
Finish this sentence: “In high school, I would have been voted the person most likely to … “
I honestly am not sure. It’s funny though, when I run into someone from those years or I catch up with old friends, their first reaction to my telling them I’m a librarian is a kind of knowing nod. I really love what I do, and I think it is definitely the right profession for me.
How do you stay current in your field?
I subscribe to a number of government information related listservs: CLAGIN, GOVINFO, INFODep, GODORT which are great for information sharing and keeping up-to-date with developments in the field.
I’m also a member of several library associations, and I regularly attend conferences and take webinars.
Twitter is also a really great tool for keeping current, there are so many interesting and dynamic librarians tweeting about our profession. I’m social media editor for ABQLA which has really added to my awareness of library news.
What opportunities does the shift to digital-only government information present to the library community and to users?
The shift to digital-only government information provides libraries and librarians with the opportunity to collaborate on digitization projects, initiatives and shared collections. I think it also provides us all with the opportunity and incentive to make our online portals to information more robust, and accessible, while providing the challenge (which the government information community is taking on quickly and efficiently) to be creative in our delivery of this information to the public.
Biggest surprise working in this subject area?
It’s not so much a surprise as a happy confirmation, that the government information community is very supportive and is thriving in a very challenging time. The partnerships, collaboration and resource sharing across all types of government information librarians and libraries is truly impressive and I am enthusiastic to see what the future brings.
What should every information professional know about gov docs?
That there are government information librarians!
Seriously though, the government information community is engaged and providing access to all manner of publications in many innovative ways.
There are excellent government information webpages and subject guides at academic libraries across Canada, there are custom google searches to uncover electronic documents and a wide variety of digitization projects across jurisdictions.
Find a government information librarian and/or their resources and use their expertise, it is useful in so many disciplines and for so many communities.
What would you like your headstone to read?
If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything. – M. McFly