What I do at the library: As Assistant Manager for Branch and Access Services, I have the best job at the Oak Park Public Library! I get to support a creative and energetic group of staff members in their work on all of our service desks, in curating the Multicultural Collection, and in forming community relationships. It’s inspiring to see the passion and ideas that my co-workers bring to their roles. I also visit and work at all three library locations on a regular basis, sometimes all three in one day! They are all such different spaces, which allows me to adjust my perception of what it means to work at the library every day.
My favorite "hidden library gem": This is a tough one to answer; I have special reasons for loving the Silent Reading Room, for instance, or the amazing acorn lights on the third floor, both at the Main Library. I would have to say that the garden around Maze Branch is my favorite hidden gem, though, because for a few short weeks in late spring and early summer everything blooms and wonderful scents fill the air. There is no better start to a working day than walking up to the Maze Branch door with a key in my hand and pausing to look at the beautiful magnolia tree or to take in the amazing scent of the Korean spice viburnum before opening up to the public.
Something I love about Oak Park: This is an easy one—the architecture! I’ve always had a love of art, but since I moved to the United States in 2007, I’ve begun to genuinely appreciate architecture. Chicago Architectural Society river tours helped to start me off! There are so many wonderful architectural features, even on standard houses in Oak Park; you can see everything from Tudor Revival to Prairie Style to Gothic Revival everywhere you look. No wonder Oak Park has been described as a living museum of American architecture! Standouts for me include the Pleasant Home and the Frank Lloyd Wright Home; the drawing office in the FLW Home might just be my favorite room in any building.
What I’m reading: I always have several books on the go at any one time, usually a novel, a nonfiction work, and an audiobook. As a literature graduate and a writer, I’ve made a goal to read everything ever written (progress update: I’m lagging behind somewhat). At the moment I’m reading Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë and Bobby Fischer Goes to War: How the Soviets Lost the Most Extraordinary Chess Match of all Time by David Edmonds (co-presenter of the amazing Philosophy Bites podcast) and John Eidinow. I’ve just finished reading volume seven of the Saga graphic novel series written by Brian K. Vaughan, and with stunning artwork by Fiona Staples, I can’t recommend it highly enough. When I have some time to spare, I read the next books in the Swedish police procedural series Wallander by Henning Mankell or absolutely anything by P.G. Wodehouse, in my opinion the funniest writer who ever put scribbles down on paper.
What I’m watching: I’m currently on season three of Black Sails, a prequel to Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. Black Sails mixes pirates from literature with their real life counterparts and is an entertaining alternative for those wanting a bit more grit in their tales of the Golden Age. I love world films, mainly from French and Japanese directors, but at the moment, I’m hooked on the work of Yorgos Lanthimos and can’t wait for his new film, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, to come out in May. For now I’m re-watching and can recommend Dogtooth, Alps, and The Lobster—all three are amazing, disturbing, and funny by turns. My favorite TV channel right now is YouTube, and my favorite channel on YouTube is Alex French Guy Cooking. It doesn’t matter what kind of mood I’m in, this guy will cheer me up with his infectious passion for cooking. I also like the History Buffs channel, which takes a look at the accuracy, or otherwise, of historical movies.
What I’m listening to: I listen to a lot of podcasts. Some of my favorites are: Economic Update, an alternative take on political and economic happenings with Richard D. Wolff, The Full English Breakfast chess podcast, and, for keeping in touch with my homeland, Football Weekly, which covers the Premier League and beyond, and Pappy’s Flatshare Slamdown for a slice of uniquely English humor. Two of my all-time favorite podcasts are The History of Rome, which ran for 179 episodes from 2007-2012 and is still fully available online, and The Irish History Show. My first love is music; I can’t be without music from day to day. At the moment I’m listening to The White Stripes back catalog, revisiting Kraftwerk, and finding out more and more about the British social commentary of Sleaford Mods. There is one band, though, without which life would be an eternally grey experience, ladies and gentlemen: The Smiths. I can’t remember one day over the last 35 years when I haven’t listened to, watched, read about, or warbled a lyric of this mighty band.
How I turn outward: My role gives me many opportunities to turn outward, whether it’s collaborating on projects with co-workers, having conversations with patrons, or networking with professionals in the library field. I attend regular meetings of the Circulation Users group, which gives me a chance to learn directly from and swap best practice with staff at the 75 plus SWAN member libraries. I also attend regular meetings of our local and regional library–based Harwood Institute groups, where we try to take what we learn from our community in our day-to-day work and use it as a reference point for planning our strategic goals. Later this year, I’ll be joining three co-workers to present at the Illinois Library Association’s annual conference about our work on the Multicultural Collection. These opportunities to turn outward and to continuously learn by sharing through conversation and analysis are, for me, the highlights of my role.
(April 19, 2017)