Interview with Diane Thompson

Diane Thompson, former Library Technician and current Chair of Langara College’s Library & Information Technology Program, kindly agreed to answer a few questions for LTAS readers.

1. What are your responsibilities at Langara? What do you like best about the position and/or school?

Currently, as Chair & Instructor of the Library & Information Technology Program, my primary role is to ensure that the program runs smoothly and to liaise with our advisory committee and library community so that our students receive the best possible education and that the skills they are learning are relevant and useful in their careers. Langara is a great school which offers a fantastic physical setting but also really allows our instructors to support the students very well throughout their education. All the instructors are very keen in preparing the students for employment which means exposing them to the all the latest developments in library technology, processes, systems, and interview and resume skills.

2. Can you share any planned changes to the program for next year?

We are hoping to integrate a co-op work placement into the program. The proposal is in its infancy at the moment and if the College accepts our proposal, this would mean that five to seven students per summer could be eligible to do a work co-op which would count towards their second practicum. The co-op would help those students who wanted a longer exposure to the work place (four months vs. one month) and of course those that wanted to get paid employment during the summer or fall.

3. What are the strengths of Langara’s program?

Currently our strengths are in providing students with the opportunity to experience two practicums. This allows students to experience two different library settings and to network with different employers.

4. Why did you get into the library field, and why do you stay?

My career started off serendipitously as I filled out an application to work for the City of Lasalle (suburb of Montreal). I was called for an interview to become a library shelver and to work in circulation and I did get the job. I continued schooling at Concordia University to become a high school teacher but I decided that I loved working in the library more and I was given opportunities to work in different departments in the library including reference and media services. In total, I’ve worked in libraries for 28 years so I feel that my current job allows me to give back to the community and teach others about what a wonderful and great place libraries really are.

5. What kind of libraries did you work at previously? What did you like about those places or types?

I’ve worked in many different types of libraries over the years, including government / science libraries, public libraries, academic libraries (UBC and Langara) and even health libraries. All of them had common themes in that it was the client / customer relationship that made the job so interesting. Each library had its own unique subject matter and allowed me to keep learning and certainly helps when playing Trivial Pursuit! If only I could get a job in a sport / recreation library so that I can get the orange piece of the pie which continues to elude me!

6. How have experience and skills from other fields helped with your career?

I had originally started my career in the education field. This has proved very helpful while working at Langara as I understand what learning outcomes are and how to demonstrate and show students the process of learning about searching, databases and other technology.

7. What skill(s) are you working on developing or improving?

I am always learning and keen to expand my skills in various areas. Currently I am learning about how to make effective but short videos so that I can demonstrate processes in my online courses. Students can then refer to these and watch them several times if need be in order to learn some of the tips that I’ve included in these videos.

8. You have an MLIS as well as a Lib Tech education. Why did you choose to pursue the MLIS, and how has it contributed to your career? Please share any tips and/or warnings for Lib Techs considering that path.

After completing my Lib Tech Dip. at Langara in the 90’s, I worked for a short while at Langara College and UBC but decided to return to school to complete my MLIS. I felt that I wanted to further my career and I was ready to take on various management roles. I had some excellent mentors along the way and I felt that I had learned a great deal about what might make a good manager and that I was ready for this type of career as I entered my late twenties. Before that time, I just didn’t feel that I was mature enough to deal with budgets and human resources issues. It is a real personal choice as to whether someone wants to pursue a Masters or not as it is a big commitment and a different career path. Both are rewarding!

9. Please share any tips for new Lib Techs, especially re school and job search.

With regards to tips to finding jobs, I find it is really important to remain open minded about the type of work or where you might want to work. Also, when you read a job description and you feel that you have about 80% of the qualifications that they are looking for, then apply! Be sure to have someone else look over your cover letter or resume prior to sending it. It’s always good to have a second opinion.

10. To which professional associations have you belonged, and how were/are they valuable?

I have belonged to all of the library association at one point but the ones that were the most rewarding were HLABC and SLA. Both these organizations were very active and always provided its members with timely professional development opportunities that related to the positions that I had at the time.

11. What is your opinion of RDA and its implementation? Do you think certain types of libraries are more likely to have adopted it?

Since I am not teaching the cataloguing courses, I have not kept up with all the latest developments of RDA however I do know that both Kathy Peters and Dale West are always on top of these developments and ensure that they include the latest information within their courses.

12. For yourself: print, e-book, or both? Read anything lately that knocked your socks off?

I like both formats (print and e-book) and I usually have two books going at once. I like to read before bed and the printed book seems more comfortable to handle and the action of turning the page is a ritual in itself. While the e-book (on my mobile) device offers a great distraction while waiting for appointments or while waiting for the bus. I have recently started reading Neil Gaiman (Ocean at the End of the Lane) and I find his books really help you get lost in the fantastical. My students would often make websites for my class and would include a bibliography of his works and everything about him and I just had to know and now I am hooked myself!

13. Please share your retirement dream or favourite travel destination.

While retirement is some years away, I really appreciate and love warm dry weather. So to that end, I think perhaps retiring for a few months of the year to the desert sounds like a good plan, especially when it is cold and rainy in Vancouver.

Thanks Diane!

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