Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Interview with Sian Brannon

Hello, everyone! This post's interview is with Sian Brannon, who works here at UNT in the library annex as Assistant Dean of Collection Management. She is a UNT College of Information graduate and is currently finishing her PhD at TWU. She has also worked at both the Dallas and Denton public libraries and has experience in almost every area of the library. Enjoy the interview!

What is your educational/professional background?
I graduated from UNT in 1999 with my Masters. My degree says Master of Science. Nowhere does it indicate Library or Information Science. Sometimes I pretend it’s a Masters of Chemistry or Fine Arts.

My first job was as a children’s librarian at the Dallas Public Library. I was terrible. Luckily my boss didn’t know better. I moved to Colorado and managed the library in one of those technical schools that advertises on daytime TV. Not thrilling. The library didn’t even have a door. My total collection numbered around 250 items. A lot of science and computer stuff.

When I moved back to Texas (Yeehaw!), I started working at the Denton Public Library (ironically, with the same boss I had at the Dallas Public Library), but not as a children’s librarian this time. I worked my way up from entry-level reference and programming to systems administration and branch management. An opening came in Technical Services/Collection Development and I hopped on it. I controlled the statistics, materials budget, and whatever else I could get my hands on. It was during this time that I realized that I am a much better worker AWAY from the public.

After working there for 8 ½ years, I was as far as I could go. I applied for the Assistant Dean of Collection Management position at UNT during the summer, and was surprised when they called me for an interview. Many grueling conversations later (12 hour interview!!!), I was offered the job. Lucky me! Now I have been here for about 3 months. Here’s looking to at least another 3. (Just kidding-I hope to be here a LONG time.)

Somewhere during my stint at Denton Public, I applied to the PhD program at TWU. I started in Fall of 2009, and am finishing my coursework this semester. I will be taking my qualifying exams this semester, and hope to start formally on my dissertation this fall.

When you graduated college/graduate school what were your career goals/have they changed since?
In college I studied Spanish and Mathematics. I cannot do math in Spanish. With a Spanish degree, I taught kindergarten for two years, back when Texas was lax with the requirement for education degrees. This was not part of my career plan, mostly because I didn’t know what my career plan was. So, I went to library school. In that program, I studied academic libraries, archives, and preservation. I thought I would hole up somewhere and keep the past alive. That didn’t work out, as I grabbed the first job offered-children’s librarian in a public library.

Since then, I have been involved in many aspects of libraries, and am hoping to translate that into a long practitioner career, and then become some type of professor (hence the PhD).

When/how did you decide the LIS career path was for you?
After the whole Spanish/Math thing didn’t really go anywhere, and after years of having friends comment (not always nicely) on my anal-retentive neat-nik organizing, I thought back to once when I was the substitute teacher in a library. It all seemed to fit.

What does a typical work day look like for you?
I have two types of workdays. One is super-meeting day. Dean’s Council, special projects, vendors, conference calls, etc. The other is catch-up/investigation day. Emails, looking into new products, professional journals, one-on-ones, budget talks, etc. Sometimes they blur, but I try to plan them out where it’s one or the other. Easier to organize, easier to do.

Any interesting anecdotes you care to tell?
I got lost in the Annex twice my first week. It’s spooky in places. I have heard talk of snakes in the basement. Not checking that out.

What is your favorite/least favorite thing about your job?
Hey, now, I’ve only been here 3 months, so I don’t have a lot to judge thus far. My favorite thing, I reckon, is the people in my department, and I don’t mean that in a hokey-kind-of-way. There are a variety of personality types in Collection Management, and I hope I fit in. (I also like making my own schedule…but not as much as the people). Least favorite thing…um…the location of my workspace (the Annex out by the Peterbilt factory) is not the most desirable for me. I am used to being able to pop over to Walgreen’s or 7-11 for candy, cokes, and medicine. Now I have to be more prepared.

How do you think your education prepared you/didn't prepare you for your current career?
My education gave me a perfectly adequate theoretical and somewhat practical preparation for my current career. I took courses in cataloging, management, collection development, and preservation. That all ties in to my current job. The LIS degree is short, and there is no way they can teach you everything you are going to need to know. There’s no nitty-gritty. In that way, though, it never lets you get bored.

What advice do you have for current/graduating library and information science students?
Get a veteran librarian to read your resume and share interview questions. Gather references all the time, and make them of varying types (positions, types of libraries, etc.). Volunteer. Get experience any way you can.

What changes do you foresee for the field of Library and Information Science in the next five to ten years?
Digital! Books won’t go away (during my career, at least), but there needs to be an effort to tailor some LIS courses to digital content collection development and mechanisms for gathering it. Another Assistant Dean here at UNT advocates for librarians learning to program so that we can create our own databases and content discovery systems. That’s not a bad idea.

And finally, what are you reading right now (what would an interview be without this question!)?
I am not reading anything fun. I am neck-deep in the literature review part of my dissertation preparation which means I am reading journal article after journal article after book after journal article. Any free time I have is spent playing Tetris on my Nintendo DS.

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