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Meg Canada
Senior Librarian, Web Services and Public Training, Hennepin County Library

The essential skills for success in this field are curiosity and compassion. Become a facilitator rather than a gatekeeper of information.

How do you describe what you do as a librarian/information professional to your family or to people at a party?
When they hear I am a librarian, people most feel the urgent need to tell me how much they love books. In my work as a public librarian, I feel it is more important to love people than to love books. I love literacy, reading, and books, but I am less involved with physical collections and more interested in social interaction, technology access, training, and the library as a public commons.

What special projects, initiatives or committees have you been or are involved in? How did you first get involved? What experiences, in ALA or otherwise, have been the most rewarding?
After receiving encouragement from some great librarians including Gretchen Wronka (Past President of ALSC) and Patrick Jones (Author of YA Librarianship books and YA Lit.), I joined ALA in 2004. I served on the Technology for Young Adults Committee, part of Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA/ALA) as a Committee Member from 2004 to 2006 and as the Committee Chair from 2005 to 2006. I worked with Linda Braun on the YALSA Website Taskforce 2005. I have been an infrequent contributor to the YALSA and PLA Blogs.

For me, the most rewarding part of ALA has been connecting with professionals around the country. I actually started blogging so that I could attend the OCLC Blogger Salon. Now, I chat with colleagues around the country. And when I need information and advice, I have a network of folks to contact.

What advice would you give to up and coming librarians/information professionals?
The essential skills for success in this field are curiosity and compassion. People are dealing with so much information and input; remember to treat others with humanity and respect. Become a facilitator rather than a gatekeeper of information.

What do you think are the top three issues facing libraries (positive or negative) that could change the course of things? If we want to try to change that course, how should we go about it?

1. We have a unique role in supporting youth development. I believe that public libraries around the country can take this one step further by appointing a student member to their boards. Have young people at the table, not as token members, but as active participants.

2. Funding is obviously a key issue for many libraries. The only suggestion I have is to continue to advocate for libraries. Quantifying outcomes such as the ratios of dollars spent to investment in the community is an excellent means of expressing the value of libraries.

3. Branding ourselves is also paramount. If we want to reinvent the modern library, it will take a more proactive approach. OCLC tells us through their research that books are our brand. What else is the library? How are we telling that story?

Tell us from your own experience, what is the most valuable lesson you have learned in your leadership role/s?
There are no easy choices floating out there. You can never make everyone happy all of the time. Making the right decisions, however, is easier if you get good input and have the stakeholders at the table.

What values (personal traits or characteristics) do you look for and admire in a leader?
I value transparency, open communication, and risk taking. Leaders also develop and trust staff.

How do you recognize contributions of others in your library and in your community?
The biblioblogosphere and library publications keep me in the know about my peers and leaders in my field throughout the country. In our County system we recognize leaders through organization-wide employee recognition

What or who influenced you to become a librarian?
In my first interview to work at Hennepin County Library, a librarian asked if I had plans to go back to school. I replied yes without thinking. After a couple of weeks at the library, I knew I was here to stay. Where else can you have sane working hours, intelligent colleagues, and challenging work? I pursued a degree online from the University of North Texas while working full-time at HCL.

If you could do anything in your career differently, what would that be and why?
I have no regrets. I made a decision to join a new department that did not survive and returned to my former department. I am grateful for the opportunity and it is through those kinds of experiences that I can grow and learn.

What are the top three things they don’t teach in library school that you think are critical?

1. Cultivate your own continuing education plan.

2. Learn how to speak in front of an audience whether it is children and caregivers or library board members.

3. Look to leaders outside the library for wisdom and mentorship. I regularly read management books outside of our field.