In the spring, we highlighted five of the librarians who staff the reference desk, but there are five more that you might recognize from visiting the library. These librarians sit behind the Ask a Librarian desk and are ready to answer your questions and help you with your research. (Check out the previous interviews!) Today we’ll hear from Will Martin, the Head of Digital Initiatives, Systems, and Services at the Chester Fritz Library.
Where did you grow up?
In the suburbs of Denver, Colorado, but mostly in my own head.
How did you make your way to the Grand Forks area?
I graduated from library school in August of 2009, straight into the teeth of the worst recession in recent memory. So I was happy to get a job anywhere.
What is your favorite place to eat in Grand Forks area and what do you usually order/recommend?
Well, I would have said calzones at the Green Mill (slow, but tasty!) … except that the Green Mill just got closed down for health violations. So … uh, Hu-Hot? Beef, parsley, water chestnut, sugar snap peas, mushrooms, maybe some onion, then four scoops of Bekter’s Ginger, one scoop of Five Village Fire Szechuan, and one scoop of garlic oil. Top with bits of peanut and serve on white rice.
What is your favorite spot in Chester Fritz Library?
I don’t get up there very often, but the old staff lounge in the original part of the building, off the back of the East Asian room is very peaceful.
Why did you decide to become a librarian?
The original plan was to become a professor. I loved teaching! But the closer I got to completing graduate school, the clearer it became that professors are not paid for teaching, and do not get job advancements for teaching. It’s all about the research. And although I’m reasonably good at research, I lacked the sustained passion for one specific area that becoming a professor demands. I’m just too much of a generalist.
But I still wanted to work in academia. I love being around so many young people out and discovering the world on their own for the first time, and I believe educating people is important to the health of our democracy. Becoming a librarian let me serve that goal, in an environment I enjoy, and simultaneously lets me help lots of people with research on lots of different topics, which scratches my generalist curiosity itch pretty thoroughly.
What is the craziest or most interesting job you’ve ever had?
Street cast at the Colorado Renaissance Festival. First year I was an outlaw minstrel; second year I got promoted to Crown Prince. Only at the Renaissance Festival do you get job advancement like that! Third year, though, I busted myself down to elf, which was fun. But I had glitter coming out of my pores for months afterward.
What strange skills do you have that many other people don’t?
Let’s see. I can whistle pretty well. I know how to make chain mail armor starting with nothing but wire and pliers. I can paint little fantasy figurines (28 mm tall generally), which is difficult to do well because of the scale. I’m good at programming (web stuff, mostly), and tolerably decent at graphic design. I can do Olympic-style weight lifting, though only at novice level. I know Anglo-Saxon, Middle English, Latin, and have smatterings of Old Norse and ancient Egyptian. In a pinch I can make stone tools (but not very well).
What skill or talent do you wish you had?
I could do with learning some lower-level programming languages – perhaps Rust, I’ve pre-ordered a book on that one. And there are a bunch of front-end languages and tools that I need to master, things like SASS and Node.js and so on.
Also I’d like to be able to make a wall out of field stones without mortar. Just because.
What do you think your life’s theme song would be?
Of my whole life? How should I know? Ask me again in forty years!
What book do you think everyone should read and why?
A Gift Upon the Shore by M. K. Wren, because too many of our conflicts are artificial.