Sonia Lewis had just graduated from library school at McGill and was interviewing for a job with the University of Toronto Library Automation System.
It didn’t go well.
The vice-president of the company thought she was too shy and quiet for the job as a marketing representative. But someone else convinced him to give her a chance – they really needed bilingual representatives, and Sonia was fluent in French and English.
“As a condition of employment, they made me take a public speaking course,” she says. “So I trotted off and took this course, but it didn’t change me. It didn’t make me an extrovert.”
As the CEO of Kitchener Public Library, heading an organization with about 150 staff, no one would call Sonia shy and quiet now. But it wasn’t until years after that first job that she learned being funny might be the key to making connections.
“I think I developed a sense of humour at Burlington Public Library. It’s almost a persona – I used to tell people I was an extroverted introvert,” she says.
Sonia and a library colleague would take on the personalities of two older women named Hazel and Myrtle, creating two hilarious characters who could lead training sessions for staff while using a sense of humour.
“I’m not afraid to poke fun at myself. I think it makes me more approachable,” she says. “I use humour to break the ice, and to change the image of the library and librarians.”
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