Catherine Deane and her grandmother, Elsie Deane, on the family estate in Toco, Trinidad
1. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Trinidad. That’s the larger island of the twin island nation of Trinidad and Tobago. My childhood was idyllic. I lived in the suburbs of the main city, Port-of-Spain, but it was a new development and my house was and still is surrounded by jungle on 3 sides with a creek nearby where I would collect tadpoles and keep them in my Mother’s cake pan in my room (sorry Mum) and feed them tiny pieces of meat, watching them grow into little frogs. My family went on bi-monthly trips to the countryside where my grandfather owned a lot of land that had been a coffee and cocoa estate, but he and my father planted ground provision, cedar and mahogany trees and tropical fruit trees, including pommerac trees and all manner of mango trees. So we all ate a lot of blue food, and fruit, sometimes as many as 20 mangoes or oranges in a day!
2. Why did you select law librarianship as a career?
I didn’t, I specifically went to library school to be a FCIL librarian, not just a law librarian.
3. When did you develop an interest in foreign, comparative, and international law?
In law school, I had studied foreign and international law, studying abroad in Dublin, London and Belgium. I did a joint degree in law and anthropology and graduated with two advanced degrees in three years by going to school all year round (including Summers). My closest law school friend, became a law librarian and she encouraged me to go to library school and to pursue the path toward being a FCIL librarian by sending me an article about FCIL librarianship written by Mary Rumsey. I was very lucky to have Vince Moyer, the FCIL librarian from UC Hastings as my mentor. I interned under him throughout library school and I couldn’t have been happier. Although my first job title was reference librarian, since I was the only full-time reference librarian, I got all of the FCIL questions as well as U.S. law questions.
4. Who is your current employer? How long have you worked there?
I’ve worked at Vanderbilt University for the last three years.
5. Do you speak any foreign languages?
I’ve been code switching from standard English to Trinidadian English since childhood because my mother was a schoolteacher who insisted that we learn standard English, but my grandparents spoke Trinidadian English and it would have been pretentious to respond to them in standard English, even though they understood it just fine. I can have a pretty good conversation in Spanish, and I can read basic French and Portuguese. This year, I started learning some German but I’m certainly not at a conversational level, although I can ask for a beer (priorities).
6. What is your most significant professional achievement?
I think the body of writing that I have done for RIPS Blog, AALL Spectrum Blog and most recently for the MAALL newsletter is my most significant professional achievement. I am trying to change the culture of our profession. As a group we tend to me more focused on instruction than on the physical space of the library. In particular, I think we can do a better job of fostering a climate for diversity within the library. I’d like us to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. Students have been protesting on campuses across the nation about the racial climate on university campuses, as stewards of a space (the library) I think we can do more to ensure that all of our students feel welcome and included. Additionally, as a profession we could do more to support minority law librarians (including invisible minorities and LGBTQI librarians). The more we unveil and get rid of unnecessary policies that have a disparate impact, the more free everyone will be and the more we will enjoy our professional lives.
7. What is your biggest food weakness?
Whoa, this is a difficult category, I’m tempted to just put sugar and salt. I especially love Trinidadian food, not just because it reminds me of my childhood, but also because it is seasoned to perfection. But I also regularly fall for fresh Thai basil rolls which are not complete without a Thai tea as well. And I routinely raid Mary Miles Prince’s bowl of chocolate, she is so sweet, she gets the heath bars because she knows I love them and she gets them in the mini size because she knows I have to pretend that I’m only going to eat a tiny bit (at a time).
8. What song makes you want to get up and sing/dance?
I must sound like a stuck record by now, but I love Trinidadian music, Soca, Calypso and Chutney Soca, seems like every year they come out with great new songs. But I also find it really hard not to dance when the Gorillaz Clint Eastwood plays or when my favorite DJs are spinning (Edmundo, DJ Diagnosis, Airpusher Collective).
9. What ability or skill do you most wish you had (that you don’t have already)?
10. Aside from the basic necessities, what is one thing you not go a day without?
Nothing. I live life very minimally. I don’t really have furniture or much in the way of household decorations. I’m a functionalist, so I guess the thing that I really enjoy having the most is WhatsApp because I left home when I was 18 and my youngest brother was 6. Since he and my parents still live in Trinidad, I am really grateful that current technology allows me to stay in close contact with them for free. It used to be that they would have to try to catch me in my dorm room and they would call me from Trinidad using this thing called a YakJack to reduce the cost of international calls. Now, I can text my brother or my Dad from my cel phone using WhatsApp and I can Skype my Mum from my iPad. So that’s pretty awesome.
11. Anything else you would like to share with us?
I’m really grateful for all my FCIL colleagues, you guys are so smart and generous with your time and expertise. Many thanks for all you have taught me either directly or through your shared materials, articles and books. Please keep writing and feel free to contact me if I can help you or support you in any way.