Friday, October 29, 2010

Interview With Scott Douglas

Hello everyone! This post's interview is with author Scott Douglas. Scott works at a public library in Anaheim, California and has written a books about his experiences: Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian. Scott also writes through several blogs and maintains other numerous writing projects (all of which can be found here. Scott's interview is funny and enlightening and enough to give any LIS student food for thought. Enjoy!

What is your educational/professional background?

Education: English Lit (AA, Fullerton College), Comparative Religions & English Lit (BA, Cal Sate University of Fullerton), Library & Information Science (MLIS, San Jose State University

Current Position: Anaheim Public Library (current role librarian)

Publications: Going Mobile: Developing iPhone and Mobile Apps for Libraries (ALA Editions, 2011), Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian (Da Capo Press, 2008)

When you graduated college/graduate school what were your career goals/have they changed since?

When I graduated graduate school, I was hopeful! Now I just want to retire. Seriously! I like what I do, but not always the environment I do it--patrons seem to be getting more hostile, teens seem to be getting more violent, and parents seem to be getting more demanding. I find myself clinging more and more to library jobs behind the scenes. In all honesty, I’d like to go back to being a page--you get the library setting without any responsibility.

When/how did you decide the LIS career path was for you?

Working at a public library paid my way through college, and I enjoyed it. I was offered a state grant out of college, so I figured if I didn’t like it at least I didn’t owe any money. As it turns out, I did like it (libraries, not school--school I hated and it was a complete waste of time and resources), so I stayed.

What does a typical work day look like for you?

Depends on the day. I’m a public librarian, which means I’m tossed into doing whatever is needed and my responsibility changes on a daily bases. For the most part, I work in adult services. I am in charge of coordinating and teaching all the free computer classes (usually 4 or 5 a month) and doing collection management for CDs and technology book. I’m also on most committees that include any kind of technology--most recently that means mobile apps. 80 or 90% of my time, however, is spend manning the reference desk--which means on most days I give people more computer time and pass out the restroom key...once or twice a day someone also wants a book.

Any interesting anecdotes you care to tell?

A whole books worth! I guess the oddest thing that’s happen recently is a little 10 year old who kind of reminds me of satan--at least the satan I was taught in Sunday school; he’s a borderline homeless kid, being raised by his borderline mentally challenged mom (and that’s not an exaggeration of her, unfortunately). He used to have screaming fits when he didn’t get his way, but most recently he’s also having hitting fits. The first time this happened, the police actually had to be called because his mother could not be reached; when the police officer arrived, he high fived the kid, told him to go home, and then said something along the lines of we were bullying him. A week later, it happened again, but this time he actually knocked over a video rack and tossed his bike helmet at the stomach of a pregnant mother; luckily, female cops came this time around, and female cops in Anaheim don’t mess around with high fives--they actually try to fix things. So now he is officially banned, until social services can talk to the mother and try and figure out what’s going on.

What is your favorite/least favorite thing about your job?

Favorite thing: helping down and out patrons, who need the library to improve the quality of their life.

Least favorite thing: helping unappreciative patrons who think that just because they pay taxes (in California this means a little less than $1 a year from your taxes goes to libraries) they somehow own you.

Do you feel that you incorporate your personal interests or passions into your work as a librarian and is that something you recommend doing?

I love computers/gadgets, and I teach all the computer classes, so I suppose so. I think a lot of people make the mistake of believing just because they like reading, they’ll make great librarians--obviously they haven’t been to a library in quite sometime, because often more space is devoted to computers than books. The modern library is more a community center than place of books.

How do you think your education prepared you/didn't prepare you for your current career?

I learned absolutely nothing from library school; everything I learned came from reading and actually working in a library. I recommend library school only because it is required to get a librarian job; it is in need of a complete overhaul--at least where I went (hopefully it’s better elsewhere). When your thesis paper is on terrorism in the South Pacific, you know there is something wrong with the system...

How do you think people generally perceive librarians and do you think you fit into that perception? Why or why not?

Most people still believe in the stereotypical librarian of the 50s. I’m sure you’ve seen the Nancy Pearl librarian doll--that’s how people see librarians...but that’s not how most librarians look. And if they are seriously still shushing people, then they should be ashamed--that little finger to the lips should be reserved for pre-school, unless your a passive librarian too afraid to actually communicate words with a a person. So no, I don’t fit the typical perception of librarians.

What is your salary range/what can students interested in working in your type of LIS profession look to make as far as salary (both starting out and over time)?

In Orange County, librarians usually make around $22 to $29 dollars a hour P/T or $40,000 to $50,000 a year F/T.

What changes do you foresee for the field of Library and Information Science in the next five to ten years?

I suspect the next five or ten years will be devoted to trying to catch up with the rest of the world. Libraries used to be cutting edge--they had the Internet before most people even knew what that was. Lately, shrinking budgets have forced too many to taking a “wait and see” approach to most technology trends. Libraries will have to learn more and more how to work more with less. It’s unfortunate, but libraries just aren’t getting the same funding that they used to get, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon--in tough times, people would rather have police/fire protection, then knowledge. Librarians need to fight to stay relevant, and prove that they are still needed. If they aren’t on top of technology, then they simply won’t survive--cities will outsource work to staffing firms, and save a bundle doing so.

What advice do you have for current/graduating library and information science students?

I don’t mean to seem bleak, but a lot of outgoing students believe that cities will be running to hire them. They won’t. Libraries can do without you, unless you can prove otherwise. My advice is to find your talents, and sale this talent to the library--prove that not hiring you will be the biggest mistake they ever make. You have to do more than just your job--you have to be proactive and actively show how valuable what you do is.

And finally, what are you reading right now (what would an interview be without this question!)?

Gillermo Del Toro's "Strain" series.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, may all your wishes come true!