At the end of last year, I met Lisa Worobec at Glasgow Women’s Library. Here, she explains what brought her from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, to Scotland.
My path to libraries should have been obvious: it was one of my favourite places as a child, and a teen, and during university I would always be happiest immersed in the stacks and doing research before finally tearing myself away to write the darn paper. But it was after a couple of degrees, in English Literature and Women’s Studies, and taking my masters in English Lit, that I found myself looking for work and back at Starbucks in my hometown – at the campus where I’d previously been a student, no less! But while stopping into my community public library I saw a woman requesting an employment application form and it suddenly occurred to me this was a place I could work too! Four years later I was happily leading programs for teens, tweens and toddlers at a busy community branch of the public library as a library assistant, and decided I would love to take this on more fully with some more responsibility, planning and input, and try make a bigger difference in the community and take my MLIS training.
How did I get to become part of the Glasgow Women’s Library on an internship? When looking for library schools, initially I was trying to find a school that could include an international component. It was then I came across an online program at the University of Alberta – the first online program in Canada – on which I was offered a place. It seemed to be a perfect opportunity to pursue an opportunity abroad during a program like this. I’ve been taking courses part-time while working, and then was able to find (lots of Google searches) GWL and fall in love with the programs and events I saw on offer – it seemed like such a perfect fit – and also I could see that they accepted international interns.
I was fortunate to arrange a placement for a few weeks in November. At GWL, my supervisor Wendy’s entry on this blog explains a bit more of what they do – for me it’s a powerful example of how passionate workers and volunteers can create some really impactful, important and innovative programs with and for a community.)
My internship took place during what became my “self-directed term abroad” – a chance to learn from the school of life in a backpacking trip that also included some WWOOFing (volunteer organic farm exchange), attending an international library conference in Lyon, France (IFLA), the Frankfurt Book Fair, French classes, and time at an ecovillage – and visiting as many libraries as possible along the way! I’ve made a point of this, sometimes to snap photos or chat with staff-for professional interest and for pure enjoyment, certainly, but also for immensely practical reasons – as a traveller, there is no better place than a library to pop in for a newspaper, internet access or wifi, for free public toilets and at times, a sanctuary from inclement weather. In short, I’m re-remembering why I love public libraries so much. During my stay in Scotland I signed up for not one but three library cards – at GWL, the Glasgow Public Library, and the National Library of Scotland – doing a bit of family history digging while here, and making use of the excellent staff and archives at the Mitchell Library near Glasgow City Centre too.
I’ve been thinking about the uniqueness of GWL and imagining what it would be like to have a Saskatoon Women’s Library back home. The most similar space and service is the women’s centre at the University where I had been a volunteer, where we managed a small collection of books. Other women’s spaces, such as a Mother’s Centre in a new community centre Station 20 West, are similarly driven by support from the community. As a smaller organization, and a non-profit model, there is great freedom and also less security in operations – such an incredible range of programs on offer, and involvement from volunteers and community.
My stay at the Glasgow Women’s Library was really inspiring, energizing and refreshing – I’m so excited to bring new ideas back to my work at the public library and to my studies as I continue my MLIS program.
Best wishes to Lisa for the rest of her course. If you want to read more about her time at GWL, she also wrote about it on their blog, or you can leave comments and questions below. Lisa is on Twitter @FlatlanderLisa.