Meet one of OLA’s 5,000 members. An interview with random OLA member #19: Lorna Rourke.
Lorna Rourke is the Library Director at St Jerome’s University at the University of Waterloo. Since Lorna lives in Guelph, we took the unorthodox step of meeting in person at the Second Cup. I pulled out my notes and Lorna pulled out hers. I was ready to meet my match.
Courtney Waugh, a librarian at Western University, and my most recent interviewee, chose you for this interview because she said she knows you mainly through Facebook and wanted to get to know you better. She said you seem to share a lot of common interests. Let me put you on the spot. What are some of those common interests.
We have two sons and we are left-leaning liberal librarians. I met her once at a CAUT (Canadian Association of University Teachers) conference and we realized immediately we were both politically radical when we both flew into a rage about something two minutes after meeting.
Tell me about the moment that clinched your decision to become a librarian.
Yes, the moment.
I had finished my Masters in English and moved out to Vancouver and I was working as a receptionist for a talent agency there. Then I moved back to London and applied for law school and library school. I was accepted to both schools on the same day. I decided to go to library school because I had worked in libraries in high school and university. Oh, and the program was shorter.
What kind of talent agency?
All kinds of talent—actors, models—in fact, many clients got their start with us, including Michael J. Fox.
So have you ever had any regrets about your decision to choose library school over law school, or about leaving the talent agency?
No. Because I wouldn’t have met my husband if I hadn’t gone to library school and I’ve had a happy and interesting career as a librarian. I’ll be a librarian till the end. But I suppose if I’d become a lawyer I’d be richer.
People might be interested to know about the pros and cons of working as a solo librarian at St Jerome’s University.
It gives you great power and great responsibility. I get to make a lot of decisions in consultation with my team, but I’m responsible for a lot and that can be difficult and challenging. I do miss having colleagues to ask questions and work on projects together. I’m lucky that the other librarians at the University of Waterloo are supportive and inclusive but it’s not the same as having librarian colleagues in the same library.
Did anything surprise you about being a solo librarian?
Yes, what’s surprised me is how much I’m a part of the faculty here. I work very closely with faculty and I’m on all the faculty committees and faculty are on the library committees. At least 10 faculty come in every day to the library to talk with me. That’s the nature of being part of a smaller organization.
What can you say about kids these days?
Kids? I think they’re great. . I feel really hopeful about the future. I think there’s a smaller separation between the generations today. I have friends on Facebook who are much younger than me. I’m really grateful for how nice both my kids’ friends are—mind you, my kids are not really kids anymore—they’re 20 and 22—but they’re open, kind-hearted and lovely people. I also really enjoy the students at St. Jerome’s. I get to know them quite well, especially the ones who work in the library. I just attended the wedding of one of our former student employees
What’s the scariest thing about working in a library?
Teaching classes, which is one of my favourite things.
What makes it scary?
The stage fright, the preparation, keeping their attention…but when it goes well, it can be the best thing.
What would you love to learn, given unlimited time, energy and money?[Without missing a beat]. I would like to learn meteorology. I love weather. I can’t do math and I think math is involved, but if I had my life to live over I’d love to be a meteorologist.
I think I got it from my father who was also crazy about the weather. He was a sailor on the St Lawrence. My favourite thing to watch on TV is the weather channel. I like big weather. I think it’s fascinating. I have a bunch of weather apps on my phone and it’s the first thing I check when I wake up in the morning. I check the weather locally, and in Saskatoon, Tampa, and Edinburgh.
Yes, I check the weather where my friends and family are. This morning I checked the weather for Las Vegas where my son is and it’s 42 degrees. That’s hot.
What were you really passionate about when you were 20?
Books, movies, friends, swimming, writing, university, and my boyfriend.
All of the same things, except the boyfriend, and I’m no longer a student in university. Now I would add: my family, and poker.
I’m in a women’s poker group. I’m famous for not having a poker face, so I’ve only won once in the last 10 years we’ve played. But I really enjoy it and I love how this group travels together, goes to each other’s cottages, and we love to go skinny dipping!
What’s the farthest you travelled in each direction?
North to Iceland, south to Mexico, east to Sweden, and west to Hawaii. The best trip was a family vacation that included a week in Iceland and a visit to 12 other countries in Europe.
What’s the highest you’ve jumped?
I don’t jump, although I sometimes use the trampoline in our backyard, but I did hurdles in high school.
Besides getting Michael J. Fox into the biz, have you had other brushes with celebrity.
I was thrilled to meet Margaret Atwood when she was at University of Guelph convocation. I walked up to her and told her how beautiful she is. I also got to meet Regina Spektor at a concert in Connecticut. My son and I entered a Facebook contest to meet her backstage and won. We were briefed that we weren’t allowed to ask her any questions, but I told her she smelled nice. I also met Burton Cummings, but I think I might be one of his last remaining fans.
What’s your sleep routine?
Before I go to sleep I set the Sleep Cycle app on my phone and it records my sleep patterns, so I can confirm whether or not I’m tired in the morning.
What’s the biggest thing you’ve ever won?
The Ontario College & University Library Association Lifetime Achievement Award!
Are the winters getting longer?
I hope so! I love winter. “She was not afraid of mice – she loved winter, snow, and ice.” Do you know where that’s from? Madeline.
My final two questions come from previous interviewee,Courtney: What’s on your personal soundtrack, and what makes you break out into a fit of giggles?
Music is something I think I also have in common with Courtney. I like folk music. When I was five I shared a room with my older brother who often played Bob Dylan records and that influenced me. My son, Sam, is a musician now and he also loves Dylan. He’s in a group called Bedsheets that plays locally and has already produced two albums.
How did they get the name Bedsheets?
Originally they were just going to do covers. Now they write their own songs.
I’m not much of a giggler, but if I did giggle it would be something funny with my cats, at the dinner table with my family, or maybe when hanging out with my poker or faculty friends.
So how about those notes of yours. Would you like to add anything we haven’t talked about today?
I would really love to mention that my son, Joseph, spent last year at the University of Iceland. I also thought you might ask me more library-related questions, about books, and my involvement with library associations.
Fair game. By all means.
I’ve been on the Guelph Public Library board, I was an instructor at the Faculty of Information & Media Studies at Western University, was OCULA President, and I’m currently on the Canadian Library Association executive council and on the executive of the St. Jerome’s University Academic Staff Association. I was also going to mention a parent-son book group I was a part of when my kids were younger as well as a writers’ group.
Thanks for bringing the “library” back to the Random Library Generator! Can you give us a teaser about the next OLA member you’ve picked to be interviewed for this column?
I met Marilyn McDermott (Mohawk College) on the OCULA Conference planning committee in 1989 and then we worked together on OCULA Council. We still meet up for dinner every year if we are both at the OLA conference. She is a spunky, smart, fun-loving librarian who has never lost her enthusiasm for the work or for the students even after 35 years!
Robin Bergart is a User Experience Librarian at the University of Guelph Library. The Random Library Generator column interviews OLA members; the current interviewee was selected by the previous interviewee.