Megan Garza Ruest
"I love that public librarians get the opportunity to help people directly in the community."
Where are you now? What is your title?
Markham Ontario Public Library, Acting Branch Librarian of the Angus Glen Branch (formerly the Children's Librarian).
What is your favorite part of your job?
I love that public librarians get the opportunity to help people directly in the community. Of all of the tasks I do, programming and storytimes in particular are my favourite. Seeing kids have fun and knowing that I'm helping them make positive connections with books, reading, and the library is the best part of my job.
What are you most proud of in terms of accomplishments related to your career?
I created a system-wide training program for library staff about how to use e-readers and OverDrive e-books. That's something I didn't see myself doing when I graduated and I'm definitely proud of that! This past year, I've introduced the concept and practice of "Fail Camp" to our library. Fail Camp is way to de-stigmatize failure and promote risk taking. It can also be used a tool to evaluate failures and plan more effectively. The whole process has been a lot of fun and I'm really proud of what we've accomplished at the library.
Why did you choose Wayne SLIS?
Out of the two library and information science programs in Michigan, I've been told Wayne State is the better one to prepare students for a career in public libraries.
What area did you specialize in? Why? Did you also get a Certificate?
I had a specialization in Digital Librarianship since I was part of a cohort that was funded by the 2004 "Recruiting and Educating Librarians for the 21st Century" grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services; ironic, considering my previous answer! I applied for that particular program, honestly, because it provided me with a way to pay for my education even though it was not what I had intended to study. That said - digital librarianship was, and still is, an emerging part of the profession with a wide range of application and opportunity. So, although it wasn't what I originally intended, it gave me a wider range of knowledge and interests that I might not have had otherwise. I didn't get a certificate, but the Graduate Certificate in Public Library Services to Children and Young Adults was being created and that sounded like a fantastic way to learn a more concentrated portion of public library service.
What student organizations/extra-curriculars/practicums were you involved in? How did your involvement in student organizations impact your SLIS experience and assist you in the professional world?
I was the graduate student assistant to the director and an intern for digital projects at a handful of institutions as part of the IMLS cohort (Detroit Public Library, Detroit Historical Museum, Walter P. Reuther Library, and the Technology Resource Center at WSU). During my last semester in the program, I was also the Audiovisual Intern for Children's Services at Bloomfield Township Public Library (BTPL), which was an incredible opportunity. Looking back, I do wish I had been more involved in student organizations - I love going to conferences and meeting new people from all walks of librarianship.
What were you most proud of in library school?
Probably that I managed to maintain that schedule for two years and not go crazy... Joking aside, what I'm most proud of was my work with the various IMLS partner projects - particularly with the Detroit Historical Museum and their collection of mechanical toys.
Was there a professor who really impacted your journey into librarianship?
I'm really hard-pressed to pick just one. Dr. Joseph Mika was my professor, my advisor, and my boss during my time in the program, so a lot of his views on the profession (where it's going, what's important to focus on, etc.) have impacted how I see the profession in some ways. Also - had he not suggested that I apply for the IMLS cohort, I wouldn't be where I am today! Dr. Dian Walster was really supportive of my predilection toward children's services while concentrating in digital librarianship, for which I thank her. While she's not a professor, Ms. Marian Rafal (head of Children's Services at BTPL) was really a huge influence on my practice as a librarian in general and how I manage staff. BTPL's audiovisual internship is such a gift and I would encourage current students to seek it out if it's available.
How do specific classes or your specialization/certificate relate to your job? Is there anything in particular that you are reminded of regularly?
Dr. Mika's Leadership in Libraries course is something that I have used quite frequently, particularly now that I'm in a supervisory role. Also, while I balked at it at the time as irrelevant to my career path, Instructional Systems Design is something that has become invaluable to me. I kept the textbooks and I was really glad I did because they were an excellent reference when I was developing e-reader training for my library system.
What advice would you give to folks considering SLIS as their library school or graduates entering the job market?
If you don't feel entirely prepared when you graduate from the program, don't worry too much about it. Most of learning how to be a librarian is on-the-job training. I'm proud of the fact that I've built my career as a children's librarian in a public library with fairly minimal experience in both of those areas. I came to Markham Public Library with a digital background, one storytime, and not quite a year of public service as under my belt. Since then, I think I've made a pretty fair run of it. The administrators who do the hiring for my library system have also insisted that it's not about library experience. The other skills and attributes that you bring to the table: creativity, enthusiasm, knowledge of technology and current trends in the library industry and beyond - that's what will get you hired (at least at MPL). The other stuff - knowing how to do a good reference interview, readers advisory, knowing Dewey (or LC) really well can and will be developed on the job. Actually, I don't know that I'll ever truly get to learn Dewey because we don't use it anymore! (For what we do use, check out Customer Centered Classification).
Finally, what's your favorite website/blog related to the LIS field?
I heavily encourage people to create (and use) a Twitter account. Even if you're not comfortable putting content on the internet, it's a great tool for staying current in library/information world as well as being able to follow conferences remotely. I've made connections with librarians all over the North America just by having a presence there.