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Naomi House’s interview with Tom.
Naomi: How did you come to work for SLA? (technically, I’m a volunteer with SLA).
Tom: When I started working at Hazen and Sawyer, a New York City environmental engineering firm, I realized that I would need to find a resource for tapping into the expertise of other librarians since I was relatively new to the profession and the only librarian in this company of about 500. I was also working with a rudimentary library (one computer with a green screen and a home grown system of organizing the book collection). So I needed advice. I tapped into the SLA Solo Librarians Division email list and got a lot of great ideas. As a result of that positive experience I feel a great deal of empathy for other solos and started volunteering for this division in the last several years. I’ve been Membership Chair and have now taken on the responsibility of Division Chair in 2013.
Naomi: How can librarians volunteer with SLA?
Tom: It’s quite easy really. If you’re interested in volunteering for an SLA Division or Chapter, you can contact the Chair or President (of the Division or Chapter) and let them know how you’d like to help. I’m sure they would be thrilled to have you. I would be thrilled to have new volunteers for the Solo Division!
Naomi: Can you speak a little about your experiences with libraries? Any favorite libraries or experiences with them?
Tom: My mother was a voracious reader and when I was a kid we would go to the book mobile to check out books until a branch library was built near us. When I was about 9 I was fascinated by birds and checked out many books about them. The librarian noticed this and invited my mother and me to follow her through the back office and out the back door where she showed us that a robin had built a nest in the eaves above the door. I think the attention of the librarian meant more to me than seeing the bird nest. Consequently, I’ve always seen libraries as a welcoming and safe space.
Naomi: Favorite book(s)?
Tom: I’m not very good at keeping track of the books I read, but within the last few months I’ve read some good books: Economix by Michael Goodwin, Dance of Stones, A Shamanic Road Trip by Kenn Day, and Doing Time In the Garden by James Jiler
Naomi: Are there any blogs or websites we should be following?
Tom: Well, of course, I think people should be following the relaunched Flying Solo Blog to read about our members as well as guest bloggers like you, Naomi!
Naomi: Any job hunting advice?
Tom: I got my current position through networking and visibility within the community, so I would emphasize the importance of volunteering, especially anything that give the impression that you are a leader in the community. That doesn’t mean that you have to commit to a large role, leadership is also taking on small roles at the local level.
Tom Nielsen is Member Services Manager at the Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO) where he develops benefit programs for all members, and plans professional development workshops, meetings, and special events. Prior to METRO, Tom worked as a solo librarian at Hazen and Sawyer, PC, an environmental engineering firm. While there, Tom transformed the almost forgotten library into an up-to-date information center implementing a web-accessible library catalog, intranet website and records management database in service to over 500 engineers in 13 offices along the East Coast. Tom is the Chair-Elect of the SLA Solo Librarians Division and a weekend farmer.