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Carolyn Caseñas – New Westminster Public Library’s New Chief Librarian

Welcome to the library, Carolyn, we’re so happy you’re here!

Can you tell us a bit about your connection to New Westminster?

New West is a special place for my family! My parents got married here and my mother spent most of her nursing career here as well. And I had one of my first postings as a librarian here!

Oh really? When was that?

Yes! After my degree in archive and library science, I worked in archives for a few years. Then I switched to libraries and worked at NWPL from 2008-2011 as an auxiliary librarian.

That’s so great! I’m sure there are some staff in the library who you remember and maybe some specific events?

Yes, that’s one of the things I am excited about with the NWPL – there are quite a few long-serving staff members which indicate a sense of stability and that the organization must be doing something right! I’m really happy to see some familiar faces here. When I worked here previously I often did storytimes in the children’s department, which I know are ongoing today. I remember one storytime in particular during the 2010 Olympics when there was so much excitement about the Games. We read sports stories, acting out the different winter sports, and energy was so high and so positive. That’s the kind of connection the library is all about.

That’s wonderful. Have you always had a passion for libraries?

I’ve always been a reader and a user of public libraries from a young age. My parents always encouraged the seeking and gaining of knowledge and the public library was a big part of that. I also consider giving back to the community to be an important part of everyone’s responsibilities, and libraries are a great way to engage in that. I didn’t always know I wanted to be a librarian, but when a classmate at university was accepted into library school at UBC, I thought I could do that too!

What has brought you to this point in your career of leading a public library?

I have worked all through the library and archives sector in special collections, archives and public and academic libraries. Just before I came to NWPL, I was the Assistant Head and User Services and Engagement Librarian at SFU Fraser Library (that’s the SFU library at their Surrey campus). The through-line of all these organizations is that they are all about community and connection. The institutions have meaning to and are in service of communities, bringing their stories and interests together. I’m excited to bring my professional experience together to help the NWPL meet its mission and vision and to be the library it’s meant to be.

What do you think are some of the biggest challenges facing libraries in Canada?

There is definitely a tension between different visions for what libraries can be. There are great needs in our society, and sometimes there’s conflict between those different needs or between those needs and traditional library service. Navigating a course between these competing needs and visions is a challenge for organizations and for staff.

What are your hopes for the NWPL? What are you most looking forward to?

The vision that was laid out in the NWPL Strategic Plan (from 2021) is really exciting – as a Filipina Canadian, it is exciting to see myself personally reflected in a strategic plan with a radical vision of inclusion and diversity! I look forward to continuing to bring the vision of this strategic plan to the people of New Westminster, and I hope that this will help us become a model for other libraries.

What are you reading right now?

For me, reading serves different purposes. At work, I read to get up to speed and for professional development. It’s a time of intense learning and transition for me. But at home, I need to relax, and so it’s cozy mysteries all the time! Particularly ones that feature feisty library directors who solve all the crimes! I also love listening to audiobooks of middle grade fiction (aimed primarily at kids in grades 4-7) as they have super fun stories and amazing narrators.

What’s your favourite place to read?

Wherever there’s a chair with enough room for me and my dog, Coco, and enough light, I will happily read a book.

Thanks for sharing with us, Carolyn! We look forward to working together!