by Sandra Hoyer, Head Editor, INALJ Washington
Being Daring as a Librarian: Nadia Pazolis-Gabriel on Creating Opportunities for Oneself
I had the pleasure of meeting Nadia Pazolis-Gabriel during a brief, but exciting, time volunteering with the Smithsonian Institutions Libraries Cataloging department. What struck me most about Nadia was that she embodies the clever and resourceful ways in which librarian and information professionals are currently carving out new professional footholds for themselves in the library and information science (LIS) world. As a new information professional myself, Nadia reminds me of the essential nature of stepping out of one’s comfort zone in order to recreate/create oneself professionally.
Here is Nadia’s story and how she reminded me that adventure and opportunity lies out there waiting if only we take the first step:
Hi, Nadia. Tell us about yourself. Where do you originally hail from and how did you come to be in DC?
I was born across the pond, in France. In August 2001, when I was traveling around the US, I met the wonderful person who would later become my husband. After a 5-year long distance relationship, we agreed that life was hard enough as it was prompting my decision to move to DC.
What made you decide to be part of the librarian world?
My answer to that is usually that twenty years ago I was dumb enough to think that libraries would provide the quiet, routine, slow-paced environment that suited my personality. Since then I’ve realized that not only is such a library a myth (if it isn’t, don’t take me there), but also that such an environment would be booooriiing. What I needed was a behind-the-scenes tech services environment. I have since gotten plenty of that kind of environment.
I know you recently decided to make a big career change. How did you handle the process? Would you have done anything differently?
After 6 years of good service, this past March I decided to quit my job at the Alliance Française (a French cultural center downtown DC) and begin a brand new chapter of my professional career. My goal was a complete change of pace, by way of a no-pressure non-supervising cataloging job; a complete career change.
At the same time, I decided to take a chance and began to look for a new volunteering opportunity where I could learn more about indexing – a skill I knew I would be good at but had never previously had an opportunity to use. I first posted a message on the Special Libraries Association(SLA)/DC listserv (more on why I love listservs later!) asking just that. Among the three responses I received was one from a librarian at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). She liked my resume and asked to see me in person. At the end of the talk – it wasn’t really an interview, the proof is I was totally relaxed :) – she said that it would be great to have me on board, but that… they did not take volunteers. I must have thought “Did I come here for nothing?” very loudly, because she added something like “we have to find a way to pay you.” Imagine my surprise! This unexpected connection has since lead to a fantastic opportunity.
So here’s the career change: from non-profit, cultural center, public library-type of collections (kids and adults), get-new-cool-graphic-novels and music and develop the language learning collection, get ready for the next game night tasks… to a government, science, research, high-expectation, multitasking environment. I have to admit, I’m glad it’s part-time. I’ll learn tons of new stuff that will improve my technical skills and strengthen my indexing.
The good thing is, I had plenty of time to handle the change. I even had time to find a (real) volunteer job with the Smithsonian Institution Libraries. Couldn’t dream of a better opportunity.
No, I don’t think I would have done anything differently with my job searching process. Maybe I might have changed the temp/placement agency’s process: for example, for one of them, it took me awhile to understand that you could send your resume for a particular job, as well as send your resume for any job. And not all of them take the time to see you in person, that was disappointing.
Otherwise no, I’m just happy I was so lucky, at the right place at the right time.
What do you like best about what you currently do?
Learning new things and being useful without too much stress.
At the risk of sounding unprofessional: I like to be able to have some non-work time by myself regularly through the week (keep in mind it’s not unusual in France to have 6+ weeks of vacation in a year!). It allows me to stop everything, recharge, and start fresh again. I’m lucky I can afford it.
What advice would you give to those in the library and information science world who may want to venture out on a new professional adventure?
Do what I never have the courage to do: go do some networking in conferences such as those hosted by SLA, American Libraries Association (ALA), or Computers in Libraries. Find opportunities to learn more: there’s plenty of free or affordable tutorials out there, online or in person (for example, CodeAcademy, or Library of Congress’ Cataloger’s Learning Workshops). Create volunteer opportunities: either just for the sake of volunteering (again, learn new things and be useful, meet new people) and/or because sometimes it becomes a paid job!
Vary your professional activities in order to know more about our rich profession: e.g. learn about different types of libraries/collections (museum, academic, public…), different tasks such as cataloging, user services, reference, outreach, etc. It’s also a good way to find out what you like and what you’re good at.
Where do you see yourself in the future?
It’s really going to depend on how I acclimate to my new job with the FDA. Ideally, in the near future, I want to keep the double-hat of a: quiet slow-paced fun volunteer job with the Smithsonian and handling all of the indexing projects FDA has in store for me.
Last but not least, what are your current favorite books, blogs, or websites?
– I’m a listserv person. For the purpose of this article, I counted about 30 listservs I subscribe to – a few from the French library world, most based in the US. Listservs are an awesome way to virtually connect you with the library community, to learn new stuff every day, and to communicate with your peers. As with Facebook, you decide to what degree you want to be involved or make yourself heard. Plus if you use listservs properly, you also learn to manage information overload in a smart way :) The following listservs are my current top three:
- AUTOCAT https://listserv.syr.edu/scripts/wa.exe?A0=AUTOCAT,
- SLA/DC http://www.sla.org/get-involved/wikisdiscussion-lists/chapter-lists/, and
- PubLib http://www.webjunction.org/documents/webjunction/PubLib_Overview.html.
To me, books are primarily a way of escaping. I read mostly fiction, specifically French fiction. After I quit my job, I was asked to join the Friends of the Library’s Board at my local library. Since then I’ve made the effort to read more in English (and if you really want to know, the first book I borrowed was Stephen King’s 11/22/63!)
Professional journals & magazines: on paper, I love ALA’s Library Resources & Technical Services ; online I read American Journal and SLA’s Information Outlook + from time to time articles on other similar publications, through my own web perusing or prompted by others.