Suzanne Carlson-Prandini, Librarian

Thanks for joining us on WhatcomWorkflow, Suzanne! What type of work do you do with the library?

I work full-time as a public services librarian and very part-time as an academic librarian.

How long have you been a librarian?

I’ve been working in libraries since 2003. I became a librarian in 2014 after I earned my Masters in Information and Library Science and applied for various librarian jobs.

What’s a unique word or phrase that describes how you work?

“Enthusiastic Curiosity.”

Tell us about your desktop computer.

I’m a cross platform kind o’ gal in that I work on various PCs at the Bellingham Public Library and Whatcom Community College. My home computer is a MacBook Pro.

What software applications do you use to get your work done and why?

Interesting question! I’m not sure I can list all the software I use as I may not be aware of all of it. I rely on a complex system maintained by IT staff at the City of Bellingham and Whatcom Community College. They keep all of it talking smoothly. I benefit because I can then focus on using the tools that allow me to get my work done. Technology has radically altered what librarians do and how they do it. I’ll hit some of my personal favorites:

Digital literacy: Teaching people how to use software and technology effectively and safely is part of my job. This happens informally at the public computer stations. It also happens more formally through 1-to-1 Tech Coaching where staff and volunteers provide assistance on basic computer skills and using digital library offerings. I interact with a wide range of people, their laptops, tablets and phones. I don’t always have a working knowledge of all the software, but I am good at finding reliable resources that match the learner’s ability and questions. I’m often learning with the library patron! Bonus – Never a dull day.

Online Resources: OCLC’s QuestionPoint is how we currently provide AskWa, Washington State’s 24/7 online chat reference service. I’m assigned a virtual reference shift. Once I log in for that shift, I can assist anyone submitting a question through the service anywhere in the world. I’ve provided reference assistance via chat to people in Africa and Europe as well as here in the States. It’s so much fun to provide a list of suggested reads to a teen in Liverpool and then three minutes later be helping a college student in Texas locate peer reviewed resources for a term paper. A single online session might involve multiple software uses: Sharing a screen capture via Jing or SnagIt, checking my spelling in Word before pasting the text into the chat box, or converting a document into a .pdf and then emailing it.

Finding Stuff at the Library: The public library uses SirsiDynix’s Horizon software as its ILS (Integrated Library System). When I’m checking materials in and out for patrons, or looking for items in the catalog, I’m putting Horizon to work. However, if I’m tutoring people about how to use the catalog online, then I’m working with BiblioCommons, frontend software that provides a “skin” over the less user-friendly Horizon. Horizon provides the skeleton and muscles; BiblioCommons is the pretty face that makes it easier to find what you want. I also use Microsoft Office programs to design flyers, submit news releases, create reports, create and track collection budgets, and write grants. And don’t forget search engines like Google!

When I’m at Whatcom Community College, the ILS is Voyager and I help students navigate Canvas as the LMS (Learning Management System) for online classes. I earned my MLIS as an online student and that’s where I learned how to use Canvas; it’s a pretty slick learning environment!

Home time: I like to use software like Audacity and iMovie to create and share short films with family and friends.

What mobile phone and/or tablet do you own?

Sssh, it’s a secret. I don’t have a phone of my own. I like my downtime to be down. However, I often borrow my husband’s iPad so I can catch up on the latest Vinyl Cafe podcast or listen to a good story via Audible. Sometimes I need to check When to Work to make sure I am where I’m supposed to be.

What apps on your phone can’t you live without?

If I did own a smart phone I would want to download the Washington Anytime Library app so that I could borrow library materials and listen to stories galore!

What are some struggles you currently face with your technology?

Cost of hardware and continual updates.

Besides your phone and computer, what else (analog or digital) can’t you live without?


What artists do you listen to while working, and what music source do you use?

While I enjoy music, I find that when I have a chance to listen to something I choose stories in the form of well dramatized books, radio shows, or podcasts.

Pop quiz: Describe your dream workspace and technology. No budget limitations. Sky is the limit!

Seriously? Do you know what you’re asking? A new public library that incorporates adaptive learning spaces, allowing for a range of learning needs across the age spectrum as well as learning mediums. This well-lit, climate controlled dream library would provide quiet reading rooms, a beautiful browsing collection of print materials, tutoring spaces, creating spaces, and access to cutting edge technology like 3-D printers. A child could be interviewing a grandparent and submitting that interview to StoryCorps while in another part of the library two friends could be learning programming language and building robots that execute actions using that language.

You could comfortably spend your entire day at the library of my dreams because you’d have access to food, entertainment, education, and social connection through the café, the collections, and the events. Individuals could have peace and quiet at the same time that groups could have rowdy debates. My dream library would have space for all those experiences because all those experiences provide vital learning opportunities.

Where is your favorite place to get work done in Whatcom County?

Any library.

Where do you go to relax in Whatcom County?

We have so many options here in Whatcom County. I love all the biking and hiking trails in our immediate area, but if I can get the time Ross Lake takes the cake.

What does Whatcom County need more of?

Diversity in living wage jobs. I myself did the multiple part-time job dance for years. I know too many people with excellent experience, training, and educational backgrounds who are still working multiple jobs at minimum or low wage.

What is your best time-saving shortcut or life hack?

That doesn’t involve duct tape? Biking to work. I don’t have to budget time to exercise, it gives the introvert in me necessary alone/no speaking time, I’m investing in my long term health, and it makes me happy. Oh, and I don’t waste time trying to find parking!

What are you the best in the world at? Something that no one can take your crown away from you?

Macgyvering – I’m the person you want with you on a long hiking trip when essential equipment gets forgotten, lost or broken. “Wait”, you say, “MacGyver is the king”, to which I respond, “MacGyver is a fictional character with a special effects department. I’m the real deal.”

What books or magazines are you currently reading?

I just finished Mary Roach’s “Grunt” (enthralling narrative nonfiction with humor), Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy (a fast paced, kick-ass space opera with great characters), and Elizabeth Kohl’s “The Sixth Extinction” (a thought-provoking overview of multiple disciplines on the history of earth and human impact; perfect for book discussion).

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

Sleep on it.

Thanks for such an in-depth interview! You can learn more about Suzanne Carlson-Prandini at the Bellingham Public Library, Whatcom Community College Library, and Bellingham Technical College Library.

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