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Name: Elisa Sze

Contact (social media): elisasze@facebook.com

Job Title (description optional): Librarian, Collections & Public Services Coordinator (at the Faculty of Information, U of T)

Description of unique interest/hobby: Teaching myself the following crafts: sewing, beading, and decoupage.

What is the most rewarding thing about your hobby?

The most rewarding thing about my hobbies is seeing a project through from start to finish, despite the little training that I’ve had in any of these crafts. For instance, with sewing, while I learned a few basic skills from my mom, most of what I know right now is based on reading sewing books, DIY blogs, watching online video tutorials, and a lot of trial and error. (My favourite sewing tool is definitely my seam ripper!) My hobbies also give me a good excuse to buy and collect instruction books on these crafts.

What is the most rewarding thing about your job?

I love all the different learning opportunities that this job has offered me, and the variety of responsibilities that I get to handle. I am not only a selector making decisions about what to buy for our great library collection, but in the years that I’ve been here, I’ve also catalogued, given guest lectures, run weekly help sessions for INF 1320 (Introduction to Bibliographic Control), participated in planning, co-published a journal article, taught instructional workshops here at the iSchool and at the TPL. Because I am an academic librarian, I also participate in committee work at the Faculty of Information.

How your professional life informs your recreational life?

Because of my busy professional life, I’ve really come to value leisure time: I try to make the best use of every minute of the day.

How your recreational life informs your professional life?

My hobbies encourage me to think creatively. They also inform me of the different ways that people learn a new task. Although the only formal education I have had in teaching has been through a piano pedagogy course that I took many years ago, I find that constantly putting myself back in the shoes of a novice/learner encourages me to come up with new ways of communicating and teaching information to a new audience. This has been helpful when I cover the reference desk, when I plan a new iteration of an old workshop, and when I design a completely new workshop or presentation as part of my work.

What do librarians/you do all day?

My day varies depending on the time of year. Some days can be filled with back-to-back committee meetings and planning meetings. Other days can be spent focused on collections work, helping a student with their questions about cataloguing, pitching in with cataloguing, or responding to a reference question. In August and in December, I spend a lot of time designing workshops that I’m scheduled to teach the following month. As a supervisor, and someone leading a team of three library technicians, some days can be spent on administrative matters, such as learning about labour issues, terms of collective agreements, and providing support to my team. All areas of my work are informed by one mission: to support the academic, teaching, and research needs of our Faculty (students, staff, faculty), and the broader professional community (alumni, librarians, archivists, and other information professionals).

Is every librarian doing the same thing?

No, there are many different types of librarians fulfilling different types of roles within their organization or their community. For instance, as the Collections & Public Services Coordinator at my institution, I deal with not only collections-related issues (e.g., what to buy for our collection, budgeting, answering questions about cataloguing and classification, investigating access problems), but also questions that arise from the public through our interaction with our users (e.g., borrowing policy questions, information that we give out to public users).

How often do you shelve books?

Very rarely, and only the books that circulate from our Course Reserves collection behind the desk.

Do you work at the public desk all day?

No. However, I work at our information/reference desk about one afternoon a week, plus one Saturday a month.

How boring is your job?

Not boring at all. There is always a lot happening, and I only wish that there was more time to the day to address them all.

Is what you do satisfying?


Do you love reading?

Yes. I wish that I had more time to read though! It’s rare to have time to read anything beyond reports and emails while at work.

Do you need peace and quiet to work?

Sometimes. I’m not sure how common it is amongst other people, but I thrive in an open office environment where the energy of other people concentrating on their work rubs off on me and helps me, in turn, to focus on my work. However, there are also times when I need quiet and solitude in order to complete my work—for example, if I am writing a report, or analyzing statistics or concentrating on a densely written document. I also enjoy the hours that I do have working at our information/reference desk because they provide me with a chance to get to know our main users—students and faculty—and really see the immediate impact my assistance has on their particular research need.