Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Member Profile: Shawn Whatley

The work of Goethe Institut (GI) Toronto Head Librarian, Shawn Whatley, is both demanding and rewarding. The library supports the institute's mission “to present German culture abroad and help shape a current understanding of Germany today.”

Shawn's work at the GI Library consists primarily of developing and maintaining its collections, as well as maintaining the GI Toronto website. Shawn uses the knowledge and skills he developed during his undergraduate and graduate studies in German Literature from the University of Toronto in the daily execution of his duties.

Shawn's academic background gives him a strong passion for the collection he oversees. He describes his work at GI as “an absolute pleasure, since my M.A. fits perfectly. I feel lucky to work in an area of librarianship in which I am intellectually interested.”

Shawn's work, however, is not without challenges. The responsibilities of the Head Librarian are many, and require long hours. An assistant librarian would be welcomed, but at the moment GI Toronto is not able to hire another staff member. As a result, Shawn's workdays can be hectic, requiring that he balance priorities with non-essential tasks.

As a special librarian, Shawn appreciates the value of CLA-CASLIS. Over the years, his membership in CLA-CASLIS has given him the opportunity to meet other members, to work with other librarians on various projects, and to network with colleagues. Through connections with the CLA-CASLIS Student Liaison program at the University of Toronto's iSchool, he regularly meets LIS students which allows him to talk to new students, keep abreast of new developments and trends in the LIS curriculum, and to better understand new LIS professionals.

Shawn's experience as a librarian has also allowed him to develop a good sense of what's required to get ahead in the competitive field of LIS. His advice to new LIS professionals is that, “what's important is to get out there, go to conferences, meet people, volunteer. Getting the degree is very important, but don't sweat it if you get an A- instead of an A.”

He adds that an outgoing personality is usually an asset, as it makes it easier to develop more extensive professional networks. However, introverted individuals need not worry. Academic credentials are also highly valuable in the field. A second M.A., especially for academic librarianship, is a good way for introverts to stand out. “An academic graduate degree helps pad a résumé, and shows that you have a brain and are not interested only in librarianship, but have other intellectual pursuits.” It makes for a well-rounded individual.

More information on the Goethe Institut Library can be found at the GI website.

Profile by Yannet Lathrop, M.A., M.Phil, Political Science

CLA-CASLIS iSchool Student Liaison, MI Candidate 2011

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