PLIG Presents: A Day in the Life…

‘A Day in the Life’ is a feature by BCLA’s Public Libraries Interest Group. The aim is  to highlight  interesting folks from around the province who are doing amazing things in public libraries. If you, or someone you know, would make a good profile, please email Heidi Schiller at [email protected].

PLIG_AChanName: Anita Chan

Your Job Title: Librarian – Web Coordinator, Burnaby Public Library

How long have you been in this role? Three years and a smidge

Describe your job in three sentences or less:

I’m the website-databases-ebooks-social-media-sometimes-marketing-reference librarian, which mostly means finding ways to make the library available, accessible, and useful to our online patrons. I also put fires out with coffee. Sometimes I spill coffee on myself, on purpose.

What do you do on a typical day?

Before I leave the house, I tune into the CBC’s The Current. It’s like my current events multivitamin. I learn about diverse perspectives that keeps me curious and primed for the day ahead. Plus, Anna Maria Tremonti’s interview tactics never fail me at the reference desk. (I’m serious. Try them.)

Otherwise, I don’t have a typical work day as I’m on a fast-moving website redesign project. Right now I’m designing and delivering content strategy training, coaching team members, researching library users and their needs and tasks, analyzing our current website and analytics, liaising across library and City departments. I have my regular duties like overseeing our current website, administering and troubleshooting databases and e-books, co-managing social media, training new staff, and assisting with some promotional/communications stuff. It’s a full plate but I make sure to put aside planning time everyday so there’s less fires (and spilled coffee) to put out down the line.

What is your favourite thing about your job?

Hands down, I work with top-notch peers. I get to be around and learn from some of the sharpest, most engaged minds and empathetic souls in this here library business. These folks are always open to bouncing around ideas and coaching me through tough questions and decisions, in offices, parks, coffee shops, busses. I’d be going back to bed after The Current if they weren’t there.

If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be?

I’d trade in a few of my many hats for a large umbrella: dedicated, ongoing research in user-centered design. It’s an area better associated with academic libraries, and I’d love for public libraries to incorporate some degree of this as a regular practice, too. And not just for web design, but for designing library services and spaces as well.

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about your job?

That a huge part of my position is about working with people and not just technology. I have a very front-line, customer service-oriented job, which can be surprising because it’s part of a “closed” Systems department. It’s an interesting dichotomy because systems/web/database/[insert technical role] librarians don’t really come to mind when things are working; we usually get called upon when things aren’t, and there’s an impression that we quietly swoop in and fix technology as they go awry. But my job is also very much about providing customer service and thinking about user experience when coaxing gremlins out of a stubborn e-reader or digging into some problem code. Getting into the minds of our users is what drives how an e-book troubleshooting session unfolds, or how a piece of web content is designed. So I think people would be surprised to hear me describe my job as taking technology and making it human friendly and accessible, on top of making sure that our technology is running like it should.

If you weren’t in the library profession, what would your fantasy job be?

I’m going to be sneaky and tell you my fantasy career twist instead. Can I talk about my mad respect for Susan Rogers? She started as a sound engineer for Prince at 22, got her high school diploma at 44, her Doctorate in Psychology in her fifties, and in her sixties is now the Director of the Berklee Music Perception and Cognition Laboratory. She became a scientist when most people are planning their retirement. Best career twist ever.