We have decided to spotlight some members of our fantastic library community here at Metropolitan State University. I had the pleasure of torturing one of our reference librarians, Michelle Filkins, with a camera and some questions for our first blog interview.
So we know you’re a librarian, but what all do you do at Metro?
One of the great things about working at Metro is the variety. I am a reference and instruction librarian, so each week I staff our reference desk, in addition to teaching credit bearing courses. I am the department chair for the library faculty and the secretary of the IFO Executive Committee along with serving on several committees and task forces, so I have a lot going on. The university is a dynamic environment and I am never entirely sure what my day will be like, which I appreciate.
Did you always want to be a librarian?
I always gravitated toward books and libraries, but I did not always want to be librarian. As a child, I wanted to be an author. I used to write stories that I turned into little illustrated books. I started to seriously consider librarianship as a career during my last year as an undergraduate English major.
How do you break the “normal” librarian stereotype?
I don’t know that the stereotypes are really valid any longer. Some of the smartest and most eclectic people I know are librarians. I am far more likely to be found at First Avenue than Orchestra Hall, if that counts.
I asked Michelle some High Fidelity style top-five questions. In true form she couldn’t narrow her passion for books and music down to piddly lists of five:
What are your all-time top five favorite books?
It is too difficult to limit to five books. My favorite fiction is written by Louise Erdrich, Toni Morrison, Milan Kundera, Don DeLillo, Denis Johnson, Siri Hustvedt, Herman Hesse, Kurt Vonnegut, Flannery O’Connor, Rebecca Goldstein, James Joyce, and Donna Tartt.
I read a lot of poetry, in particular contemporary poetry. In my life outside of Metro, I am a poetry editor for the literary non-profit Spout Press and I am amazed by the depth and breadth of poetry that is being created right now. So much talent! Here is a list of some of the poets that I appreciate, in no particular order: Kirsten Dierking, Gertrude Stein, Nick Flynn, Claudia Rankine, Leslie Adrienne Miller, Joanna Fuhrman, Gwendolyn Brooks, Adrienne Rich, Wallace Stevens, Sylvia Plath, Ana Bozicevic, John Yau, Brenda Hillman, Wislawa Szymborska, Muriel Rukeyser, Langston Hughes, Mary Jo Bang, Sarah Fox, Tracy K. Smith, Sarah Manguso, Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, and Anne Sexton.
A couple of my favorite authors really test the boundaries of genre, and I find their work really inspiring. The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson is a remarkable book, as is her poetry collection Bluets. I also marvel at the work of Rebecca Solnit, in particular A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Wanderlust: A History of Walking, Hope in the Dark, and her more recent book of essays, Men Explain Things to Me.
What about your top five bands or records?
Music is extremely important to me, and while a few favorites like David Bowie are constants, I like a lot of different artists for different reasons. Here is an imperfect attempt to list a few current favorite bands on an approximate scale of loudness:
David Bowie. Mastodon, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, The Hold Steady, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, PJ Harvey, the Replacements, Dessa, Yo La Tengo, Wilco, Neko Case, Aimee Mann, Leonard Cohen, Suzanne Vega, and Jessy Greene.
If you had one piece of advice for students, what would it be?
Being a student and having a busy life can be a grind, and it can be difficult to see beyond the next assignment, let alone to graduation. Learning really is lifelong, and to the extent possible enjoy the ride, and know that there are a lot of people at the university that care about your success and are ready to help.