7 questions with Shiloa Thomas

June’s installment of 7 Questions features Shiloa Thomas, Director of Library Services at Northern Lakes College.

1. What is something interesting you learned in the last month?
I attended the WILU conference at U of A in May. I learned a lot of interesting things, but in one session the presenter gave me a whole new perspective on the search results we find in the catalogue. She quoted a passage from Virginia Wolf’s A Room of One’s Own. The passage was in reference to Shakespeare’s sister who died young and is not mentioned in most biographies of Shakespeare, but she could have been a poet in her own right. Virginia writes, “She lives in you and in me, and in many other women who are not here tonight, for they are washing up the dishes and putting the children to bed.” The presenter said that this quote made her think of all the people who are not found in our library catalogue and that now when she gets No Results Found, she wonders why they are not represented and that could be a topic worth researching in itself. So now when I am searching in the catalogue, and keep trying different subjects and keywords with no success, I will stop to think about why this might be. Perhaps this awareness could be a first step in changing attitudes towards non-traditional sources of knowledge, and finding ways to access them?

2. If you had to work on only one project for the next year, what would it be?
I would like to take a look at best practices in providing Information Literacy online. The majority of courses at Northern Lakes College are taught online, we are the distance college of Alberta, and our students are spread throughout the province, but mainly in the Northern communities. The challenge for the library is finding ways to incorporate our services into their Moodle courses and to be an online presence when they need us. I am sure that there are many good examples of how other online institutions are providing library services and information literacy, and I would love to be able to dedicate a year to working on a strategy to develop and implement some of these practices at NLC. A good start might be attending the 18th Distance Library Services Conference in San Antonio, TX!!!

3. What is your best piece of life advice?
Try to live in the moment and consciously make time for what really matters to you.

4. What is your proudest work-related accomplishment?
I was once asked this question in an interview and after I gave my answer one of the younger panel members said, well that happened a long time ago, do you have anything more recent to share? I was a little insulted by this remark because to date my proudest work-related accomplishment is the work I did as the first College Librarian at North Island College in Courtenay, B.C.

I started at the college in June of 1991, when the college was building physical campuses for the first time. Prior to that NIC had only taught distance courses or “correspondence courses” as they were called then. I was hired to set up a fully operational library system and to open the physical library at the main Courtenay campus by September. Yikes! That was a huge challenge for anyone, but I had just graduated with an MLS from UBC and this was a great opportunity for me to put everything I had learned into practice, and to do most of that in a couple of months. I am pleased to say that I was able to do this successfully, but of course I did get a lot of help from my colleagues at other institutions and particularly from the Distance Learning Department at the University of Victoria Library, as well as a great library technician who I hired to help me with the cataloguing and processing of our opening day collection. I gained an incredible amount of practical experience in a very short period of time, and I will never forget the support and the welcome I received from the library community in BC.

5. What is your favourite quote?
“We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves.

I wish for all this to be marked on by body when I am dead. I believe in such cartography – to be marked by nature, not just to label ourselves on a map like the names of rich men and women on buildings. We are communal histories, communal books. We are not owned or monogamous in our taste or experience.” ― Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient

6. What is your favourite cake and why?
Welsh cakes, hot off the griddle and dipped in sugar. They are not really cake as most people know it, more like little, fluffy pancakes with black currants in them. I love them because they are delicious, and they bring back memories of my Welsh grandmother who made them all the time and would have them waiting for me after school with a cold glass of milk.

7. If you could live anywhere in the work, where would you go?
If money was no object, I would live in a few different places, I would for sure have a cottage in Wales near the sea because I lived in Wales until I was 11 years old, and I miss the countryside of England and Wales, there is nowhere else quite like it. A house overlooking Nanoose Bay in Parksville B.C. to come back to when I was missing the views of mountains, forests and ocean that are unique to Vancouver Island, and finally to escape the rain in Wales and BC, I would have a little villa in the Camargue Region in the South of France. Yes, I know keep dreaming!!

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