Racing Towards Her Goals: Elizabeth Winiarz – McGill School of Information Studies Alumni News Profile

Liz Winiarz by race carElizabeth Winiarz
BSc’75, MLS’78Science Librarian, Claire T. Carney Library,
University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, MA

After studying biology at McGill for five years, I had to decide on a career path. I had observed “reference librarian Joyce” at the Botany Genetics Library and I wondered what it would take to become a librarian. She always appeared to enjoy her work and I was impressed that even my professors turned to her for assistance. She told me that with a science degree and a Master’s in Library Science I would never be without a job. That sounded great so I applied to library school and was promptly rejected because I did not have experience working in a library. Didn’t all those hours working on projects and lab reports at the Redpath Library count?

Being blessed with good luck, I was hired by DuPont Canada’s Patent and Legal Library to write abstracts of patents and classify them. I learned about fibres, films, coatings and, of course, patents! I reapplied to library school and was accepted.

In two short years I was a librarian.

A new librarian’s first steps can be precarious. I worked for a short time at McGill’s School of Nursing demonstration community health centre in Beaconsfield called The Workshop. Funding was running out for this project, so I soon had to find a new job. I was hired to be head of the Patent and Legal Library at DuPont. This was a period of much change in Montreal and the company decided to move its headquarters and my library to Mississauga. Being a native of Montreal, I decided not to move. I did, however, organize the move of the library and provided some training for my replacement. Having been raised as a Girl Guide, I had a sense of loyalty and service and did not want to abandon “my company.”

Again, good luck intervened and I was immediately hired as Biology and Exercise Science Librarian at Concordia University where I worked for 13 years. This experience gave me excellent training in all the sciences and engineering and taught me the importance of colleagues and collaboration.

A sabbatical leave took me to Cambridge, MA, for three months to spend time at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A few years later I was working at MIT, doing online literature searches, including patent databases and making good use of my science background. I eventually moved to the south coast of Massachusetts and now work as the Science Librarian at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. The programs lean toward marine science and technology so I have learned about fisheries and oceanography.

A word of advice to new librarians: volunteer! SLA, the Special Libraries Association, was the first professional organization I joined. I have served as president of both the Eastern Canada and Boston chapters and have many lasting friendships from SLA. To learn more about marine science, I joined IAMSLIC (pronounced I am slick) – the International Association of Marine Science Libraries and Information Centers. This small organization meets each year at a member’s lab. I have travelled from Tasmania to Iceland and Fiji to Rome as secretary and then president for this terrific organization.

Aside from the professional work and association contributions, my personal interest has been in tinkering with mechanical things. I enjoy healthy competition and since 2008 have owned a Formula Ford Swift DB-1 race car. Like a boat, this is a big hole down which to pour money, but it provides many hours of fun and excitement. My driver is known as “The Blue Stig” because he wears a blue driver’s suit. Blue Stig and my car compete in the Formula Ford class of SCCA (Sports Car Club of America), New England Region. This year we have won three times and come second three times. As owner/sponsor of the car, my home garage is known as “Liz’s Speed Shop.” I do much of the prep work on the car myself and the Blue Stig comes to spend a day when heavy-duty work is needed.

Many assume that librarians read a lot. I like to show that there is no such thing as the stereotypical librarian. My MLS has taken me all over the world and given me fine friends and colleagues. I am so glad I chose this path. Joyce the librarian was right. I have never been without a job. I am constantly challenged. Who knows what path the next generation of librarians and information professionals will follow. Hopefully they will glean as much happiness and satisfaction as I have found.

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