M. J. D'Elia

Head of Learning & Curriculum Support, McLaughlin Library, University of Guelph

In your professional life, do you consider yourself to be a systems thinker? Someone who thinks outside the box? Does this carry over into your personal life? I definitely have a reputation for being an innovative thinker. Although I think I find more pleasure in helping other people be creative.

What skill is most in-demand for people entering the field today?Librarians need a variety of skills today.  They need to advocate for their services and for their patrons. They need to apply technological solutions effectively and efficiently. They need to measure impact and communicate their value. The list goes on and on. However, the most important thing for people entering the field isn’t a skill - it’s an attitude or a mindset. We need people who are resilient and adaptable. We need people who understand that the information landscape is changing rapidly. We need people who are willing to shape the future of libraries and library services.

Words of advice for MLIS students? Is there anything you wish you had known when you entered your professional that would be helpful to someone entering it today? My advice would be to explore all of your options. Don’t assume that you need to work in a traditional library setting. Consider every opportunity that comes your way and say yes when those opportunities interest you. When you’re interested in something, you’re more engaged, when you’re more engaged you perform well, when you perform well, you get more opportunities. It’s really that simple.

Career tips for emerging professionals? My advice would be to figure out what sets you apart or makes you unique. In business terms, I might even say what is your “value proposition.” Most entry-level job postings will receive hundreds of applications. You have to figure out how to get out of that pile of applicants and onto the hiring committee’s shortlist. There is increasing pressure in libraries to act like businesses – or, at the very least, to use more business processes. Knowing basic management principles can be a real advantage. One last bit of advice would be to ask good questions and listen intently. I have found that you can learn something from everyone. You never know when you’ll pick up something that will be helpful.