7 Questions with James Murphy

This month’s issue of 7 Questions with AAAL Members features James Murphy, Research and Learning Librarian at the University of Calgary.


murphy_james1. What is something interesting you learned in the last month?
I recently went to an amazing exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery about cabins. I find the popularity of the cabin aesthetic interesting at the moment and I think at least part of the appeal comes from the desire to escape the busy, hyper-connected, urban lifestyle. I never thought I could learn so much about cabins in one exhibit but I’ve also learned that I would like one.

2. When was the last time you were nervous?
Yesterday. I was presenting for the first class of a new inquiry-based learning course. Librarians are embedded through the full course and as this was the first opportunity to engage with the students I wanted to really try to give them a big-picture of the issues they will face in their research practices through their degrees. I always get nervous before teaching but I had good responses and they seemed moderately alert and interested so I’d consider that a win.

3. Have you ever had something happen to you that you thought was bad, but it turned out to be for the best?
Before I became a librarian I had an interesting career as a snowboarding coach and instructor. I travelled internationally and spent a lot of time on mountains. It was challenging to slowly realize it was unsustainable in the long term, and a long process to find out what career could come next. One of the things I found frustrating about that industry was a lack of using evidence to inform practice and methodology. Librarianship’s focus on the evidence struck a chord and I’m so grateful to have stumbled on that path. It has been one of the single best decisions to pursue this career and I’m very thankful to all the people who helped point me in this direction.

4. What would you name the autobiography of your life?
SPF 60+

5. What do you do when you’re not working?
One of my favourite things about living near the mountains is all the outdoor possibilities. I love to get out hiking, camping, snowboarding, biking, and generally soaking in all the beautiful natural settings we’re so lucky to have at our doorsteps in Alberta.

6. What is your favourite quote?
“To be hopeful in bad times is not foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.” – Howard Zinn

7. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I seem to visit a lot of islands, primarily mountainous but not exclusively (e.g. Iceland, New Zealand, Japan). I’m also intrigued by what living in Scandinavia would be like. Alberta is home though so all those exotic mountainous places will have to be for holidays.


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