I am super excited to kick off the feature “Librarian’s Spotlight!” I love art (as showcased with the “Artist’s Spotlights”), but I also wanted to give exposure to books and libraries as well. Thus the concept for this feature was born.
The inaugural interviewee is Alyssa Bussard. She is a New England librarian that has experience working with children. I love reading her bookish tweets. Enjoy the interview!
Roaring Out: Please introduce yourself and speak a bit about your background with libraries.
Alyssa Bussard: The fun (read: real) answer (thank you Twitter profile): Let me ‘splain, no there is too much. Let me sum up. Librarian, Slytherin, villain lover, cat whisperer, embracer of the macabre. I read, I blog, and honey you should see me in a crown.(That last bit being a smile and wink to Sherlock…ahem, I mean, Moriarty – I am not totally obsessed with myself that I think I deserve a crown) The professional answer: I have been a librarian on and off for 10 years, and I have experience working in every department in the library. The best thing about making my way through multiple types of libraries and jobs within the library, is that I was able to find out exactly what I want (and do not want) to do for the rest of my life! I have been working in a high school and middle school library for the past three years but I recently obtained my DREAM JOB that I have been waiting for! Say hello to the new Information Services Librarian at a very busy and amazing library in New England!
RO: What made you want to become a librarian?
AB: You know, I never really had the slightest idea that I could even be a librarian when I “grew up,” it was never a profession that seemed real to me. In terms of dream jobs, all I ever wanted to be was an English teacher. Being able to share my love of literature was something that I always wanted to do. Then, when I was a senior in college and in the education program, I realized that I really had no desire to teach. At all. Imagine my surprise! I was working part time as a librarian at the time and it was becoming more and more apparent that the job was changing and merging into something more than what it had been in the past. I took some time off and pursued my Masters in Library Science and the rest is history!
RO: What is your least favorite aspect of being a librarian? What is your favorite aspect of being a librarian?
AB: I think my least favorite thing about being a librarian has to be the stereotypes. The wide-eye stares and to the point questions like, “You need a MASTERS to be a librarian?” Or “Why would you need a degree to do this, don’t you just Google things?” This misconception that all librarians do is sit around, reading, and shushing is laughable. Librarians have to be able and willing to wear multiple hats at any given time, and we are expected to know everything, always! Which in a way, is my favorite aspect of being a librarian. I love that my job encourages constant learning and adapting to new trends, technologies, and education. It constantly keeps me on my toes, every day is different, and I am able to use and expand my thinking constantly. It also doesn’t hurt that I can rock literary tattoos, superhero shirts, and a picture of Edgar Allan Poe on my lapel with no one blinking an eye!
RO: Librarians have been pegged with several stereotypes. Are there any that you find particularly amusing?
AB: I sort of touched upon this while answering the last question, but I think I went a bit on the ranty side. I find many of the stereotypes amusing. I especially love the fact that people think we spend time “shushing” all day. Let me tell you, I do not have time to “shush,” nor do I want to. I do, however, have time to very directly use my teacher voice and explain that how you are acting is inappropriate. I was working in a high school this past Halloween and my two coworkers and I dressed up like librarian stereotypes. I was the “hottie,” my coworker R was “the shusher,” and my coworker K was “the bun.” As you can see from our picture, we all have props, including cats, rulers, and Facts on File which have not been used for many, many years. It was incredibly fun to participate in since for as long as I can remember people have always pushed that stereotype on me. Especially in college. I’m sure you can imagine why.
RO: What is your favorite database/online resource? Why?
AB: My favorite resource might surprise you, I really use Goodreads so much more than I ever thought I would. I do a lot of readers’ advisory at my job and I am constantly searching for readalikes, and I can’t tell you how helpful Goodreads has been. If someone needs to know what the next book in a series is, I can easily search Goodreads. Recently, I was weeding my collection and recycling some old dusty books and there were some I was on the fence about, I simply searched Goodreads to see their overall rating and used that information to help me make my decisions! In terms of professional databases offered in the library, I love helping patrons use ancestry.com, it is incredibly fun to help them as they garner information on their family.
RO: What book are you currently reading, or have recently read, that you would recommend? Conversely, what book are you currently reading, or have recently read, that you would not recommend?
AB: I am currently reading an advanced copy of Mortal Heart, by Robin LaFevers, and I honestly cannot recommend this series enough. Assassin nuns. Enough said, am I right? It is so, SO excellent. I am also reading The Swan Gondola by Timothy Schaffert which is said to be The Night Circus meets Water For Elephants. I am not too far in but so far it is really intriguing, so check back for my full report! I also just finished the first book in an adult fantasy series by Scott Lynch, The Lies of Locke Lamora which honestly blew me away I loved it so much. I’m going to stop myself, you asked for a book – singular – and basically recommending books is my favorite thing EVER! A book that I would not recommend…if I am being honest, I try very hard to only read books that I know I will enjoy since I really have limited time to read, but I did mark my very first “did not finish” book this year, and I was very upset over having to do so. The book is Sea Change by S.M. Wheeler and the premise is just fabulous, it talks of a childhood friendship between a lonely girl and a kraken. The novel, however, was terrible. So terrible that I tried to pick it up more times than I can count over the past year and I just can’t get over how terrible the writing and concept is. I only got about halfway through and I gave up. Honestly just thinking back to it makes me a little angry!
RO: What is the best (most challenging or however else you may define “best) reference question you have ever been asked? What is the wackiest reference question you have ever been asked?
AB: My favorite questions are the ones that really make you think and research. I once had a woman ask me for birth and marriage records for her research of her family tree. The town hall in which they were housed in Pennsylvania had burnt down and it took us months to track down an archive that held the information. It was a long but rewarding process. I love when patrons come in with very little hope that we can help them and when we do, though it takes a little time, they are so overjoyed. That is one of the best things about my job.
RO: We all know that kids say the darndest things. As a Children’s Librarian, what is the funniest/silliest thing one of your littlest patrons has said?
AB: One of my favorite things about working in the Children’s Department is when the kids come running in screaming “ YAAAAAAAAAAY!!! I LOVE THE LIBRARY!!!” However, my favorite and funniest moment as a Children’s librarian happened a few years ago while I was leading a storytime in a very small library, with children ages 2-5. In Litchfield county where I was working at the time, we have a lot of hikers, many of these are “barefoot hikers” which makes them stand out a little more. At this time, there was a large group of hikers and campers who were hiking part of the same trail as the so called “Leatherman” (for more information on the Leatherman, go here) many of these people had not showered, or shaved in months, and looked like they were accustomed to mountain living. Well, as I was in the middle of reading The Stinky Cheese Man to my kids, one of the very bearded, barefoot hikers walked through the library with his huge pack on his back. He stopped and looked around at us in surprise, and we stopped and looked at him, my hand paused between turning the page. Then, he winked at us and walked out. Without skipping a beat one of my kids looked up at me, shrugged his little shoulders and said “WELL, everybody’s gotta be doin’ somethin’, Miss B!” To this day I can’t get over the 5 year old quickly responding to an event that stopped everyone else in the room.
RO: In your blog, Books Take You Places, you explore all things bookish, including give reviews. What prompted you to start your blog and take your love of books beyond the library’s walls?
AB: I have my Bachelor’s in English, so I have always loved reading and reacting to different forms of literature. While in graduate school, blogs were really starting to become popular, and one of my classes had us discuss which blogs we used for resources and why. I honestly only found two to be much help as a reader and library professional, so I decided to start my own! I promised that I would only do it as long as it was still fun for me, and I wouldn’t conform to become more “popular.” It has really always been more about what makes me happy and not the “perks” that go along with having a blog. Another plus is that it has really helped me forward my career as I have gained more knowledge of different technologies through my blog and Twitter.
RO: What is something librarians do that, in your opinion, should be considered a superpower?
AB: Oh, so many things! We spend our days working with the public! In that sense, I think it is a superpower to always be “on” and able to deal with any type of person or situation despite how tired/busy/hungry you are. Additionally, I can’t tell you how many times people in my personal life call me with the most random questions simply because, “You’re a librarian so I figured you would know.” Well, we don’t always know everything! Given time, we do, however, have the (super)power to be able to find that information for you. I often do feel like a superhero, education does that to a person!
RO: Going off of that question, if you could have a skill that is traditionally considered a superpower, what would it be?
AB: The superpower I want more than anything…is to be able to read while riding in a moving car. BAM. Or, teleportation, whatevs.
RO: Lastly, what advice would you give to someone who is considering going into the library science field?
AB: Ohh this one is a tough question. One thing I can say is that it is absolutely imperative to have hands on experience. I can’t tell you how many people I went to school with who had never even volunteered in a library. It is an incredibly hard field to get into, job-wise. There aren’t many jobs, and so many applicants. You need to stand out, be able to adapt, and be unique. Always keep learning, and reading. Learn that technology, and focus on changes that you know are coming, but haven’t completely hit home yet. Most importantly, be sure that it is something you really want to do, which goes back to the hands on experience. It is not an easy job, and it is incredibly easy to get burnt out if you aren’t happy being around people all day!