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Marilyn McDermott

Meet one of OLA’s 5,000 members. An interview with random OLA member #20: Marilyn McDermott.

Marilyn McDermott is a librarian for the Mohawk/McMaster Institute for Applied Health Sciences. We had a very upbeat conversation on a rather cold and rainy October day.

Marilyn McDermottWhen I Googled your name, I noticed your Twitter handle is “college librarian interested in health sci, info lit and reference; lover of wiener dogs.”

Yes, my husband and I both grew up with wiener dogs. We’re now onto our fifth and sixth: Mindy (12) and Cocoa (15). We adopted them as rescue dogs from the Canadian Dachshund Rescue last April. We have a house full of wiener dog art.

What can you tell me about this breed?

They have lots of attitude, are hard to house train and are cute, cuddly, and silly.

What do you think are the most pressing issues in libraries today?

Certainly for us, the administration doesn’t necessarily see the library as place as important because they believe students are all doing their work at home and on the Internet. There’s less motherhood support for libraries as a common good. Public libraries are doing really well at making their relevance known for every demographic but academic libraries are being challenged to relate to undergraduates and even graduate students.

What’s most fulfilling about your work?

I like creating and delivering LibGuides. I like packaging information in a way that most helps students and faculty in a blended environment. I do lots of library instruction and a fair bit of reference and I enjoy this work with students. I really enjoyed working with students on creating business plans and thinking through that process with them. I’ve always worked to demystify library stuff for students, to teach them in a way that makes sense to them. I try to un-complicate things and be practical.

What surprises you most about your career path?

I certainly didn’t expect to be in the health sciences. Actually, I started off there working in a health sciences library as an undergraduate. I loved working in the library, which is why I became a librarian. But I’ve only been working in health sciences again more recently—over the past 12 years or so. I also didn’t anticipated I’d be working in a college library. When I was in library school, I didn’t know anything about college libraries. I remember a college librarian in my class telling us about her experience delivering reference service to students in an automotive program, and that surprised me.

Are there other careers you thought to explore?

I didn’t explore any other careers. I’m interested in business so at some point I thought of going back and doing an MBA. I‘ve been involved in quite a few entrepreneurial kinds of activities with my husband who’s an immunologist. We started off with a paternity testing business before there was DNA testing and there was a need in the legal community. We’ve sold surfboards and kayak paddles. And I’ve been a Mary Kay consultant for almost 30 years.

Any quick make-up tips from your Mary Kay experience?

Don’t overdo anything. Subtlety is good. And I still hate blue eye shadow!

Is there anything you’ve always wanted to learn that you haven’t got around to yet?

In retirement I’m going to learn to be a better cook. I burned out on formal education when I was supporting my husband through his graduate work and my son was growing up, but I do a lot of entertaining and I like to feed people, so I’d like to improve my cooking.

Are you a risk taker?

No. Well, it depends. I went mountain climbing for the first time when I was 55—real proper mountain climbing out west with crampons and rocks and snow—the whole megillah. We helicoptered in and slept in the snow. The view was like being on the face of Mars. It was the most amazing vista. We earned two first ascents with the Alpine Club of Canada.

Speaking of Mars, would you consider joining a manned mission to Mars?

No, I like hotels. Fancy hotels. If I’m not in a special place, like on a mountain, I want to be in a fancy hotel. Mind you, Mars would be a special place, but space just doesn’t turn my crank. I suppose there’s people for whom the experience is worth the risk. We’ve known people who have died mountain climbing and for them, it was worth the risk. That’s where they wanted to be.

Do you have an identical twin?


Can you give us a teaser about the next OLA member you’ve picked to be interviewed for this column?

Kim Christmas worked with us at Mohawk on a coop term from Western and then full-time as a mat leave replacement.  She is smart, engaged and very techy!  We were very sorry to lose her to Edmonton Public Library when she needed a “real” job. After two years as Digital Literacy Librarian at EPL, she recently landed a job at Richmond Hill Public Library. She is very on trend with the whole “maker” thing too!

Mindy and Cocoa
Mindy and Cocoa

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.

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