Shoebrarian Extraordinaire: Meet Leslie Howerton-Hicks
by Rachael Altman, INALJ COO
After traveling the world and trying her hand at many different jobs Leslie Hicks finally graduated from University of South Florida with an MLIS in 2011. Leslie Howerton-Hicks manages the Footwear Materials Library at the World Headquarters of a large Athletic Footwear and Apparel Company that is based in Oregon. It is a fully functioning library, but instead of books the library has materials needed to make shoes. Designers use the space to decide what materials to put on their shoes. In her role, Leslie manages the day to day operations of the space, provides reference services, via email, phone, and in-person, and works with raw material suppliers to secure materials for the library. In her spare time she likes to travel, read, run, knit, and grow weird heirloom vegetables. She is mom to two Tiny Humans, two semi-evil cats, and one adorable but clueless dog. You can find her on Twitter as @librarianninja
Please describe your educational background.
l have a B.A. in Anthropology and History from Western Oregon University and an MLIS from the University of South Florida
Please describe your library-related work background (or any other jobs that contribute to your library-related skill set)
Before I went into a LIS program I worked in Jinan, China for two years managing an English school. While not a library job, it did provide me with a lot of managing and administrative experience. Since my goal is to one day rule the library world, this was great experience. In my last semester of my MLIS program I got a job at the Hess Technical Library in Houston, TX. That was my first experience with corporate libraries and I loved it. When we moved back to Oregon I worked at Salem Public Library as a Library Assistant III in the Circulation and Teen Library for 10 months before starting my current position as the Footwear Materials Librarian aka “Shoebrarian” at a large Athletic Footwear and Apparel Company that is based in Oregon.
Did you have any work-related experience in libraries before you got your degree? If not, what made you get your MLS/MLIS?
Yes, In high school I volunteered at my local public library. The librarian there, Lynn Frost, was an inspiration. She helped me through high school–I probably would have not gone to college without her help. At Western Oregon I was able to get a work study job in the circulation department of the library. As an Anthropology and History Major, I went into my MLIS program with a goal of working at a Museums Library. Funny how things change!
Did your education prepare you for your job duties?
Sort of. I work in a very specialized library, trust me there are not that many Shoebrarians out there so it is unreasonable to expect to be fully prepared for it. My MLIS program didn’t have any classes on corporate libraries, so I have learned a lot just by doing. I do use things I learned in my library administration, reference, and knowledge management classes.
Do you have any advice for those who want to be, or are already involved in the field?
If you want to be involved in the field: Don’t just look for “traditional” library jobs at Universities, Public Libraries, and School Libraries. There is a whole world of special libraries that hire info professionals. Want to work at a Zoo Library? Want to be a Wine Librarian? Want to be an Archivist for a film company? Those are all actual jobs. Sometimes companies don’t know what they are actually asking for are librarians so the job postings won’t have librarian in the title. SLA and INALJ are great places to look for these sorts of job postings if you are interested in the “special” side of librarianship. If you are in the field: It is okay to look for your “library happy place” find the sort of library job that makes you happy! While I know it is hard to get that library job you don’t have to stay in a job that you don’t love, or isn’t right for you. As much as I love public libraries, I will be the first one to admit I was a horrible public librarian. I am an amazing Shoebrarian though! When you are happy in your job it shows. Let yourself find your library happy place, even if it is way, way different than what you thought it was going to be when you went to library school.
Twitter! I love Twitter and have met the most amazing people/librarians on there. You can follow me @librarianninja I also love conferences. I love meeting new people, and hearing about their jobs and the libraries they work at.
Best piece of job hunting/career advice?
NETWORK! I know it is hard, I know that you don’t like doing it. But it works. I got my current job through networking. Don’t stop networking once you get a job either. I have made connections that have helped me professionally even after I got my dream job. Get involved with one of the professional organizations. I belong to SLA and I have made great connections there and gained valuable professional experience by volunteering on committees.
Favorite Library you have been to?
Szabo Ervin Library in Budapest is amazing. The Central Library of Istanbul University, was beautiful. The library at Moldovita Monastery in Romania was glorious. The British Library and the Bodleian Library in England are also wonderful. I always try to visit libraries when I travel.
Like most librarians it is hard for me to pick just one. I have too many to list. I am currently re-reading Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel Books and really enjoying the experience. I just finished Amy Pohler’s book, Yes Please. I have a goal of only reading books authored by women this year.
Favorite website/blog (it doesn’t have to be library related)?
I love Jessica Olin’s blog Letters to a Young Librarian and Tracy Z. Maleef’s blog The Library Sherpa. I also love Food in Jars which is a blog about canning.
Favorite thing about libraries/library technologies?
I love how libraries make information available to the public. I love my public library so much. It has so many amazing programs and services to offer our communities. My childhood was richer because of my local public library. It makes me happy that now I can take my two tiny humans to our local library to check out books and go to storytime.
If you could take any of your hobbies and create a job of it or integrate it into your job, what would it be? And how?
I already incorporate my love of shoes and running into my job, but if I could add somethings else it would be gardening! I love growing heirloom vegetables. I have a huge garden at my house. Last year I grew 55 types of heirloom tomatoes. If I could be some sort of seed librarian, or gardening librarian that would be amazing. I am very interested in the history of plants and seeds and the preservation of different heirloom vegetables so combining my love of gardening and librarianship would be a amazing.