#SLAers Flying Solo

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Almost 20 Questions – Deborah Falik

In this month’s edition of (Almost) 20 Questions for a Solo Librarian, Deborah Falik discusses her transition from medical librarian to small business owner, the “L” word, and our ever-changing profession. Deb was an especially good sport and answered 24 of my pesky questions…though I could have had lots more for her. -Holly

1. Where are you physically based?
I live in and work in New York City – specifically Manhattan.

2. Why did you become a librarian?
Because I love libraries and books?! I know, very stereotyped but also very true. It always seemed to me to be the perfect place to work – and I’ve done so since junior high school.

3. Do you have an MLS and if so from which school?
My MLS is from Rutgers although I started at UCLA.

4. How did your pre-library background & life experience help you thrive as a solo librarian?
My family always encouraged me to ‘speak up’, to be willing to take a stand & be independent. More specifically, I like being on my own without lots of heavy handed supervision and this plays into running a solo operation.

5. We understand that you’re changing your job situation. Could you tell us a little bit about your last solo library job & why you left?
This was actually the second time I left a solo position. The first time was just before 9/11 when the ad agency I worked at decided to retrench and closed the library. That’s when I started my own company, The Information Sourcerer, doing archival and general research work. When the economy kind of tanked in the early 2000’s I went to work at a hospital library. I did have a director who was also a librarian but within a year or so the hospital was bought by a larger group which included a med school & I became a solo again albeit I did have to report to those overseeing med school library. I left this past December because I didn’t like the internal politics and games that had to be played by both the library and the hospital itself.

6. Could you tell us about your plans for the future?
I’m in the process of resurrecting my company looking to do archival projects and perhaps some general reference and genealogical work as well.

7. What have been some of your “other duties as assigned” while working as a solo?
I’ve done everything from working at the front desk, fixing the photocopy machine, shelving material to helping people figure out their own programs (a particular problem given that I am in no way a techie!). One thing to keep in mind is that in many ‘solo’ libraries the reality is more that while there’s only 1 professional there are other workers – clerks, volunteers etc. who are extremely familiar with the library’s operations In a sense, it’s perhaps more accurate to say that “solo’ libraries are really ‘small staffed’ libraries.

8. Will the word “librarian” be in your new job title & how do you feel about that “L” word?
Since I own the company I use the term “principal”. BUT – I love the word and the title & have no hesitation in using it to describe what I do. I think it encompasses everything; it’s something that most people know immediately what you’re talking about after which you simply enlarge the description to encompass any special particulars. I think it describes what we do not how we do it or what gadgets we use to do it. I prefer not to be categorized by the technology I use.

9. What’s the most memorable information request you’ve received?
I was asked to try & find verification of a donation plaque at the hospital. I had to look thru the old annual reports which were fascinating: contributions of chickens to help with the food supplies, sheets for the beds, donations of even just 5c were reported in the very early years when they were still trying to fund the building.

10. As solos, we sometimes don’t have the luxury of walking down the hall to talk to librarian colleagues. How do you keep “in touch” with other professionals?
Listservs! Networking thru SLA! Getting involved in both my local NYC group and in various SLA subject interest divisions. Going to conferences was also a major way to make contacts. I’m also member of other professional organizations such as AIIP (Assn of Independent Professionals) and Archivist Roundtable.

11. Why did you join SLA & the Solo Librarians Division?
See #10!

12. What advice would you give to new librarians?
Get involved, get on listservs, ask questions, network! Be willing to ask questions & keep up with the literature.

13. What’s one tool or skill that you wish you could “magically” acquire?
Get better at all the techie stuff.

14. What question have you answered most often for your patrons?
Where’s the key for the bathroom?! Ok, given that I was in a hospital library where most of the Dr’s know how to do online searching in Medline the biggest issue has often been to show them the best way to do this searching as they (like so many) have a tendency to just throw a couple of key words into the database & hope for the best. So… not one specific question so much as a how best to do it question.

15. What advice do you give to your patrons who are trying to find things in a mixed analog/digital information world?
Medical libraries nowadays are so massively digital that I almost have to remind people that not all journals or texts are online and instantly available – sometimes the only way to see something is to read a ‘real’ journal or book.

16. Does social media help or hinder our profession?
Guess I’m of two minds here: it obviously helps when trying to find someone, whether for personal or professional reasons, or simply keeping in touch/networking for these same reasons. But the costs are high in terms of distraction. We’ve stopped having real, interpersonal interactions & all the emoticons just don’t take the place of hearing & seeing the person up close.

17. Do you have a reference “go to” source?
The best “source” I have are the people on my professional listservs. One of the best things about the Solo Division is that it, much like my AIIP group has such a wide range of interests & knowledge upon which I can call. They’re all so very quick and ready to help out – another of the major reasons to belong to SLA & to Solos!

18. What are your hobbies outside of work?
I love going to museums and galleries and am certainly spoiled by living in NYC tho I also make sure to indulge whenever I travel. And, as I collect old mysteries (we’re talking 1880’s to 1950’s) I scour used book stores when I find them as these are often the only place to find the really old works. Another advantage of living in NYC is all the theater & ballet that are to be found here. I’m a volunteer with ATAP (American Theater Archives Project) which works with off-Broadway companies to preserve their archives and I’m a major balletomane – I’m eclectic in tastes & get to most of the companies that appear in the city.

19. Who is your hero (librarian or other)?
My dad for having gone thru so much but still believing in and working for his labor and Zionist values.

20. How do you see the profession changing within the next five years?
I think there’ll be an even faster adoption of online and social media that will attempt to take the place of carefully vetted sources. I have to admit I’m glad I’m not starting out now – when doing research I prefer to take my time and really delve into things but nowadays patrons have learned to expect instant answers handed to them. I’m not sure that this is really in the best interests of either patrons or their clients.

21. What is your favorite library/librarian related movie?
Probably “Desk Set” with Hepburn & Tracy as it so perfectly personifies the clash between tech & people.

22. Name one of your guilty pleasures.
Hunkering down with a good mystery; indulging in chocolate chip mint ice cream isn’t bad either!

23. Read any good books lately?
Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookshop by Robert Sloan

24. What kind of music do you like?
Classic and folk.

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20 (or so) Questions for a Solo Librarian – Laura Pike-Seeley

In this installment of the “20 (or so) Questions” series, we enter the design world and meet Laura Pike-Seeley, Solo at Fossil. Read on…

1. Describe the work done by your employer and how you support the organization’s mission.

Fossil, Inc. is a global retailer specializing in the design, innovation, and marketing of fashion lifestyle and accessory products. Fossil is a distinctive modern vintage design brand, fusing elements of vintage creative culture, Mid-Century Modern design, and contemporary fashion. Perhaps best known for its watches, Fossil offerings also include jewelry, leather goods, sunwear, apparel, and footwear. The company is continuing to grow as it introduces new designs, stores, and product categories. Fossil also creates fashion accessories for a number of other owned and licensed brands, such as Emporio Armani and Michael Kors. The company is constantly developing its multi-brand portfolio.

I support design initiatives by managing the centralized resources that are used by our designers for reference and inspiration. Right now, I manage two major collections. One is a library of books, magazines, audiovisual materials, and other traditional materials, which is used by the art department and product designers. The other is an archive of original samples, which are the textiles, home goods, bags, belts, and other leather goods purchased on shopping trips that are used by our leathers teams for reference and inspiration.

2. What percentage of your collection is electronic?

Most of our traditional library materials are print only. I am currently developing a digital archive of Fossil catalogs. We have also recently converted to digital versions of trend books from providers like Doneger and ESP Edit. These are seasonal forecasts of trends in color and concept for various fashion categories, and they are heavily used. I also am in the middle of a project that involves digitizing and cataloging the archive of original samples.

3. Describe the services that you provide to your patrons.

I’ve spent the majority of my time at Fossil cataloging. The library materials are now cataloged, but I have a long way to go in digitizing and cataloging the original samples. When I first arrived here, the collections were disorganized and not well managed. There was no inventory or way to know where items were located. I convinced my managers that we needed an ILS that would be flexible enough to manage the library materials and the original samples, and they helped me see that designers would respond best to a gallery type, image-centric results view. After investigating over a dozen options and realizing I would need a custom results view, I ended up choosing Soutron Global because I liked the flexibility, interface, and customer service.

When I’m not describing and digitizing resources, I’m providing reference assistance to help connect employees to samples, books, database results, other resources to guide concept and design development. I assemble city shopping guides for those traveling on shopping trips abroad. I manage dozens of periodicals and send out alerts to those who want to know when certain new materials arrive. I train designers on use of the catalog and databases when necessary, and if requested, I will dig through bins to help designers find that perfect sample for a mood board or a presentation. I recently started creating a “Weekly Headlines” news post on our intranet to keep all employees aware of developments in the fashion and retail industries. I expect my role and job duties to expand once I’m finished with the archive digitization project, which won’t necessarily be anytime soon!

4. How many patrons do you serve?

There are over a thousand people working in the Fossil corporate headquarters, and all of them are welcome to visit the library, use the computers, and check out books. But I focus on serving the needs of designers, and there are hundreds of them here.

5. What’s the most used / requested /circulated item in your collection?

For samples, it’s always something purchased on a recent shopping trip, like a bag in a color or silhouette that will be big in an upcoming season. In the library, I would say that one of our most popular items is the 12-volume reprint of the domus journals. Books on midcentury modern design are also requested frequently, since that aesthetic is at the core of Fossil’s designs.

6. How long have you worked there?

I’ve been at Fossil since June of 2011.

7. Do you have an MLS and if so, what school did you receive your degree from?

I have an MLS, with a concentration in Archives Management, and an MA in History from Simmons College. I graduated in January of 2010.

8. What’s the strangest information request you’ve received?

Generally, information requests are design-related, so they are interesting but never what I would call strange. Stuff like, how did the Dada art movement affect typography? The most unexpected request was not work-related; someone was trying to figure out the address of the house he lived in as a child in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He came to me when he didn’t know where else to look for the information. The Albuquerque Public Library had a Local History department that held white pages from the 60s, when he lived in the house, so I gave him the number for the librarian there. He got the information that he was looking for.

9. What databases do you subscribe to?

We subscribe to trend services providers like WGSN and Stylesight, WWD.com, and the Vogue Archive.

10. Have you always been a “Solo”, or did you become one due to organizational change?

I was a Public Librarian right out of grad school, but I was looking for something that would give me more freedom to try new things. When I came to Fossil, I was the first librarian/archivist and am still the only one.

11. Is the library an independent part of your organization, or do you report into a larger department?

I am part of the Brand Team, which is responsible for providing design and concept cohesion for the organization each season. I’m not sure that everyone in the organization recognizes this, especially since I don’t sit very close to that team, so I’m generally regarded as an independent department.

12. What do you do to market yourself as a librarian within your organization?

We have a WordPress-driven Intranet. Like many others, our company is moving away from excessive emails, so I deliver news mostly via the Intranet. Occasionally I will send emails directed just to design teams or leaders who will find the information useful. I do new hire tours nearly every week and trainings when needed. I also post a current awareness newsletter on the intranet each week to promote use of our databases and subscriptions. I set up seasonal displays in the library revolving around the concept for the upcoming seasons we are working on, which is generally a year ahead.

13. Are you involved in any “non-library” activities in your organization? If so, what are they?

Professionally, I’ve got my hands full with library and archive tasks. Socially, Fossil is a great place to work. We have a gym, a Starbucks, and a Café, which encourages me to get out from behind my desk and interact with new people. We also get to enjoy concerts by local musicians, movie marathons related to seasonal concept directions, speakers from vendors and partners like Hatch Show Print, and more. There’s even a company store with discounted products. This is not the type of environment I thought I’d be working in, but it’s rewarding in these and many other ways.

14. Do you currently (or plan to) have any library-themed tattoos?

Love them on other people, but they’re not for me!

15. As solos, we don’t have the luxury of walking down the hall to talk to librarian colleagues. When you have a problem, need advice, or simply want to talk shop, where are some of your favorite places to go?

The Solo listserv was a crucial source of support when I first came to Fossil and had to select an ILS for our collections. This group of virtual strangers became my only sounding board, and they were amazing. I think Twitter and LinkedIn have become great resources for gathering opinions and information. I also talk to friends who are librarians, including the wonderful group I worked with at the public library. Even if they don’t understand everything I do, the people I work with and know here at Fossil are always willing to give me input on decisions I’m facing.

16. Read any good books lately?

Favorites I’ve recently enjoyed include Cloud Atlas, The Book of Lost Things, and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.

17. Name one of your guilty pleasures.

The Mac and Cheese at a restaurant here in Dallas called The Porch is ridiculous. Also, I’m a Pinterest addict.

18. What kind of music do you like?

I’m a Texan, so country, especially Texas country, will always be a favorite. I also love folk, bluegrass and classic rock.

19. What are your hobbies outside of work?

Antiquing is a passion of mine. I love antique and vintage shops, the more eclectic and cluttered the better, and I would go to regional antique fairs every weekend if I could. My husband and I also love going to live comedy shows.

20. What would be your ideal vacation? Have you done it, yet?

Definitely backpacking in Central America. I haven’t done it yet, but I’ve been telling myself that I’ll take a nice long vacation when I finish with the archives digitization project!

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