Perspectives – Nicollette Davis

Perspectives, an interview series that will highlight the work of librarians in different fields and professional specializations. Our series will focus on the experiences of our participants, what they do, what they have learned, and offer advice to those interested in librarianship and various fields. To our readers, our committee hopes this column will highlight the valuable labor these individuals perform on an everyday basis. Our interviews will provide perspective on what labor in these fields entails and current issues that affect librarianship, employment, etc. On behalf of the Communications Committee, we hope you find this new column illuminating, informative, and inspiring!

Nicollette Davis (she/her) is an Adult Services and Circulation Librarian with the East Baton Rouge Parish Library. She earned her MLIS from Louisiana State University in 2018. Her professional interests include community engagement, diverse community programming and inclusive practices for technological instruction in public libraries.

What aspects of your job do you enjoy the most?

There are many aspects of my job that I enjoy, but there are two that fall at the top of that list: Issuing library cards and working with both internal and external customers. Currently, I’m a Circulation Librarian. I remember when I was young and feeling almost a sense of embarrassment when I owed a fine or if I had misplaced a book. As a teen, the public library was one of the first places I was allowed to go alone. It felt like a big responsibility. I interacted most with the Circulation staff who would check out my items or inform me that my card was expired. I encountered many kind library staff (and some not so much). I want to pay those positive experiences forward. Even if someone owes a fine or has misplaced their card, I want to be able to do what I can to make their experience a positive one! Secondly, I enjoy working with staff. I am passionate about my work, but also compassionate about the people I work with. My colleagues are great and I learn from them everyday!

Can you describe a memorable moment in your career?

Just before Covid, I had managed to speak with a local middle school STEAM faculty about hosting their film presentations. It was absolutely rewarding because it was so great to make strong connections within the community. Around the same time, I was contacted by someone from a local high school who wanted to host a prom dress giveaway. We had planned for all of these splendid programs to happen, but then Covid struck and put an end to all of the work we put into it. While this might sound like a sad ending, it was rewarding because connecting with the faculty was priceless. It felt great to know that they wanted to utilize the library and we welcomed them with open arms. I am hoping that maybe next school year we’ll be able to connect again.

What kinds of professional development do you do?

Quality professional development can be expensive and/or inaccessible all around. Covid-19 has brought about many changes inside the field and across the world in general. I am thankful that many library-related conferences were virtual in 2020 and 2021. Accessibility is so important! I haven’t had the opportunity to attend many in person conferences. I love logging on to Twitter and seeing a Zoom link for a fellow library workers’ lecture or webinar. If I see a topic I’m interested in, I just sign up! I would just like to take a moment and say that all conferences and lectures should be accessible (physically and financially) and readily available!

Is there one piece of advice you have received in your career thus far that stands out the most (that you carry with you in your work)?

Write everything down in great detail and create boundaries for work/life balance. Both of these will carry you far!

What are some things you know now about your job/librarianship, that you wish you had known before entering the field?

Prior to becoming a librarian, I was a library technician and before that a library page. When I became a librarian, I thought I had to know everything about everything as a librarian and as a supervisor. When I didn’t know the answer to something, I was very critical of myself. I’ve had to learn that it’s okay to not know, and also there’s definitely a way to communicate it properly. If someone is coming to you for information they might be at a dead end and not sure where to go. It can feel like a lot of pressure! Even if you don’t know the answer, you can kindly inform the person and ask for time. In that time you can collaborate with others or find other resources that might not have been handy in the moment. This is true for both patrons and staff that you supervise. Reassure them that you’re working on it and stick to your word.

What do you think some misconceptions about librarians/libraries/librarianship are?

I think one misconception is that librarianship is a flawless and simple career. While librarianship seems like an easy career path, it actually has many of the same challenges of other fields. It’s nuanced and requires some thinking outside of serving patrons and developing collections.

What professional advice would you give to graduate students who are about to enter the field?

I think graduate students should invest some time in critical librarianship. I didn’t learn about critical librarianship until after I had earned my MLIS. Libraries are not above critique and the only way that we can improve is by being brutally honest about our past as well as our future. Libraries are changing, but the change is slow and sometimes it feels like there’s even regression. It’s important to take some time to learn about critical race theory, bystander training, and critical assessment of your library space. When you get that first library job, ask yourself, “Who is excluded and why?”. Lastly, In library school, a lot of us didn’t learn much about leadership or supervising people and of course, many librarians begin their careers in leadership, whether it’s formal or not. I think it’s important to self-educate about supervising and leadership. This involves some internal, personal work as well as professional work via webinars and courses. If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at We Here’s Community School! All in all, my most solid piece of advice is to always lead with compassion and warmth.

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