Interview with Susan Burdak

Susan Burdak kindly took time out of her first semester as Chair of the Library and Information Technology program at Langara College (LIT program) to answer a few questions for LibTech Soup.

1. Please give an overview of your career so far, including types of classes taught.

This is a second career for me.  I have been fortunate enough to have had a very satisfying and varied career in the Public Library sector prior to joining the faculty at Langara about four years ago.  It is a completed cycle now as I started off in Education and took an opportunity to become a librarian and am now back in education using the skills and knowledge I gained as a librarian.  So far I have taught several technique courses in acquisitions, technical services, MARC coding, subject analysis and classification as well as the introductory course in information retrieval and the first year practicum course.

2. What drew you to library work?

Where do I start?  I can use the cliché and say that I have always had a love of books and libraries but even though it sounds untrue, the cliché is true in my case.  For as long as I can remember, libraries have held a fascination for me.   Since high school I have been involved with a library of some sort.  Books and the world they represented always intrigued me.  I still devour books on Ancient Egypt when given the chance.  The ideal holiday always includes trips to book stores. If they are unique in character and filled with used book littering the isles and friendly staff willing to talk about their best reads or special finds so much the better.

If I had to define further what drew me to library work I would have to say it is the satisfaction of continued learning and of helping people to discover and understand more about their interests.

3. What classes are you teaching this semester?

This semester I am “easing” my way into the administrative role of Chair of the program so am teaching part time, two sections of MARC coding, a second year course, for the Regular and Flex Participation options of the program.

4. How is your new Chair position going?

It is definitely an exciting and interesting aspect of the program.  Many of the duties of the Chair are not unfamiliar to me as I have had previous administrative experience.  What is different is working in an Academic setting with its own preferred division of responsibilities and duties.  Interviewing the new applicants was a great opportunity to meet them and get a better sense of what they were looking for as an outcome of their education experience in the program.

5. Has it been difficult to balance Chair duties with your other duties and the rest of your life?  Can you share any time management & balance tips as a result?

I prefer to view the balancing not as difficult but as a challenge to manage.  There are days when I win and there are days when I have to be more flexible or “creative” with my time.  Prioritizing the tasks and responsibilities is easier to handle than the unexpected meetings, reports, and appointments.  I would love to say that I have a method that works all of the time, but in fact I am still learning; although I am finding that if I have a spare few minutes and can work on a long term project ahead of time, it certainly pays off.  There is an indescribable sense of being in control when you open a file and realize that you are over half done and you are ahead of schedule.

There are a couple of good pieces of advice that have been given to me.  One, is to ask for help and know who to ask and the counter part, that of providing assistance if you can when asked.  Two, is to take a little bit of time a couple times a day to do something for yourself.  This helps to keep the perceived turmoil around you in perspective.

6. Guessing that you worked in libraries before teaching, are there advantages and disadvantages to teaching over working in libraries?  Are there things you miss?

The advantages to teaching revolve around the opportunity to learn with the students and influence their preparedness and knowledge base in preparation for working.  What do I miss?  The information/reference work.

7. What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the library field so far?

By far the biggest changes I’ve seen are the explosion of information availability and the rise in expectations of information delivery.

8. Can you comment on future direction and goals of the LIT program?

It is little too early in my tenure to comment on the future direction of the LIT program.  It is going to be dependent upon the needs and direction that we receive from the community that we serve.  At present we will be continuing to place emphasis on developing coping skills for learning the new technologies as well as continue with the basic knowledge and skill building that will help graduates excel in their field.

9. What is your opinion of ALA’s new Library Support Staff Certification program?  Has it changed anything in the LIT program?

I am not that familiar with the program but from what I have read it appears to be a national program to improve the knowledge level of library staff who don’t already have a Master’s or an LIT certification.  In Canada we have guidelines for the LIT programs so there is coordination nationally which I am not sure is the case in the US.  In BC there is the CLTP program which offers further training for public library staff who do not have their LIT certificate. Since there seems to be acceptance of both LIT and CLTP streams of training in BC I guess it could be argued that the LSSC program might also find a niche.  Some course delivery systems work better than others for students. The bottom line is that we want to have knowledgeable staff working in libraries and a variety of delivery systems and program options fill that need.

10. Does the LIT program include both RDA and AACR2 cataloguing instruction?  How do you see RDA progressing?

For a second year the MARC Coding course introduces the students to the RDA Toolkit and covers the major proposed changes in AACR2 cataloguing.  Until the National Library starts regional training we will not be offering full RDA cataloguing instruction.  The approach that the program is taking is to make the students aware of FRBR, upon which RDA is modeled, inform them of the proposed changes, and,  to provide them with the opportunity to learn how to navigate the software.  As we get closer to the January 2013 implementation date training opportunities in RDA will increase.

11. Please offer advice for Library Technicians and Assistants, especially new ones.

Don’t be afraid to try something new; be flexible; and, be interested in the future.

12. Please recommend books, blogs or Twitter feeds you’ve found useful.

I presume you mean in addition to Library Soup!  I have been a subscriber to Library Link of the Day for years and always find something new in the postings.  The Daring Librarian is a blog that I have just recently started to follow as well as Lauren’s Library Blog. Since I have a background working primarily in Technical Services I do have a favourite site: A portal to my Cataloguing Aids Website: Cataloguing Advice and Links That Serve the Website of the Same Name.

13. What are you reading now?

I use a couple of websites to keep me aware of what is being published as my recreational reading is usually only during the non teaching semesters.  BookBrowse, Fantastic Fiction, and Good Reads are all easy to use websites that offer you the ability to search by genres.

I have to admit that I do enjoy “escape” reading and try to keep up with the releases from Susan Hill, Margaret Maron, Michael Connelly, and Steve Barry.  I follow Pauline Gedge (Ancient Egypt still is an interest) and just finished reading The King’s Man, the third novel in her last trilogy.  Des Kennedy is an author who I admire.  I have heard him lecture a couple of times on gardening and enjoy his irreverent wit.  I have a bad habit of stockpiling books to read when I have time.  I thoroughly enjoyed Kennedy’s Way of the Gardener, and have Living Things We Love to Hate set aside along with the last three novels by John Dunning that I discovered in Victoria’s Russell Books during the last BCLA Conference.  Christmas reading?  Perhaps.

I am one of those cross format readers – I have an e-book reader that I use to read pop fiction and “real” books for the titles that I want to savour.  I have discovered that I have no compunction about deleting a title from my e-book if it doesn’t capture my interest within the first chapter but I would never do that to a book in hand.  What funny habits we develop.

14. If you had not gone into the library field what type of work might you have done instead?

I can honestly say that I am happy with my life choices but if I had to guess about another career it probably would have been a career in Zoology.

15. Where did you grow up?

Vancouver born and bred – one of the few I am discovering!

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