We had the pleasure of interviewing Rachel Finn for this month's myMETRO Spotlight. Rachel one of the 2013 winners of SLA NY's Ellis Mount Scholarship, which is awarded to promising library school students who plan to focus their careers on special libraries. Congratulations, Rachel!
Rachel Finn is currently enrolled in the Pratt Institute School of Information and Library Science, where her studies focus on rare books, special collections, and archives. She has Bachelor of Arts degrees in French and History and a Master’s degree of Education.
In addition to her studies, Rachel is a food writer whose work has appeared in Gastronomica, Chicago Sun-Times, Seattle Weekly, and The Root. Food writing inspired her to create a food-focused nonprofit called Roots Cuisine, with the mission of creating a physical library with a digital presence dedicated to documenting and supporting research on the foodways of the global African Diaspora and Africa.
Rachel has written and presented on African and Afrodescendent foodways around the world. She curated a museum exhibition for the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana in 2010, and traveled to Turkey to speak on the topic at the behest of the U.S. State Department.
1. When did you first join myMETRO?
I joined myMETRO last winter when I entered library school at the Pratt Institute. I kept reading and hearing great things and finally I decided to join. I’m really glad I did.
2. Describe your work experience prior to joining the profession. What has been your most rewarding experience as a professional so far?
Before deciding to become a librarian, I had a few former lives. I was a high school history, French, and social science teacher in the Chicago Public School system for about seven years, and a program administrator at an independent school in Seattle.
I left teaching entirely and moved to France to become a journalist, which led me to food writing. I wrote my first food article for Gastronomica and subsequently began to freelance food writing and editing. My most rewarding experience was getting that first article published because I was so naïve about the process; it changed the course of my life and work and is, in many ways, why I am entering the field of librarianship.
I still do freelance work, primarily book reviews and encyclopedia articles and I am branching out into libraries as a topic. I am scheduled to write a chapter for book on cultural heritage librarianship in the next year.
3. What drew you to your particular line of work?
My first job in libraries took place at Northwestern University Library in Evanston, IL. I was part of the Interlibrary Loan department, back when RLIN was still a thing. Northwestern helped me develop my research and public service skills in the context of libraries. This benefitted me as a teacher and as a writer and researcher.
As for food... well basically, a relationship drew me to it. I wanted to buy a gift for a man I loved and settled on Algerian pastries. I'd never had them I set out on this adventure around the city to discover the best ones I could find. My first article came out of that experience, as well as obsession with Algerian pastries. It also led me to think more about food and heritage, and the diversity and interconnectedness of the global African Diaspora. All of this now informs not only my food writing but also my library studies and interests.
4. Tell us a little about the projects that capture your interests these days (either for yourself or an organization).
I am working on building a library dedicated to African Diaspora and African foodways, which is connected to a nonprofit I started called Roots Cuisine and part of what brought me to library school. I’ve been able to do lots of planning and building through my LIS coursework. Also, since starting library school I have begun to feel pretty passionate about the power of libraries and librarians. I am convinced that knowledge of librarianship and what it entails could be really be empowering to youth who are struggling and disaffected. With a classmate I am developing ways to share information about the profession with kids in our poorer urban schools, particularly kids of color. Librarianship is powerful, you know? I think that would be really appealing to children and young adults who live in constant state of feeling and being disempowered and ignored.
5. What are your favorite ways to stay on top of industry trends?
I follow trends by staying involved in various organizations, including myMETRO. I serve on the editorial committee for SLA NY’s new Bridge 2 Excellence, for which I recruit writers and develop themes for issues of the publication.
I am connected on Twitter with a really interesting group of librarians and libraries around the country and throughout the world.
6. What do you find most valuable about your myMETRO membership?
So far, I’ve taken advantage of the resume review service, and I’ve been selected to receive a Library Juice scholarship for an RDA class in November.
I have also met some pretty great people, and I’m excited to get more involved in the organization once I’m done with my program in the spring. I’m really pleased to be part of myMETRO and I’ve encouraged several of my classmates to join as well.
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