1. Tell us about yourself, the standout qualities that lead LJ to choose you as a Mover and Shaker. And don’t be shy! Did you realize you’d been nominated?
Yes, actually I did know that I was nominated. A huge amount of thanks goes to Alene Moroni for submitting the nomination and Kaite Stover for her kind words in my write up. When nominations came out, I was about 20 months into my job as Director of the Emily Williston Memorial Library & Museum in Easthampton, MA. We serve a community of about 16,000 people and are housed in a building built in 1891. It definitely has some challenges, but I wanted to focus on making sure we were giving the community what it wanted. There was a lot of analysis, especially while creating a new strategic plan. Plus I wanted to make sure that the library was not just a place that existed in the community, but one that was known and discussed!
2. What is your background? Did you come into the profession straight out of grad school or from another field? If from another field, in what ways did your former career help prepare you for the librarian profession?
I received my degree in 2003, about ten years after graduating college. Before that I spent ten years working book retail (go figure), along with tax preparation and municipal bookkeeping. I have always loved number crunching, so when I decided to go back for another degree, library science was actually my second choice – I was going to try to be a math teacher. I ended up in the library science program, however,and discovered cataloging, which seemed a great combination of my love of numbers and reading.
3. Where are you currently working? What do you consider special about it, or how would you describe the needs it fulfills?
As of today, I am finishing my last days as director of the library in Easthampton. My last day is March 31st, and on April 2 I will begin as the Advisor to Small Libraries for the Massachusetts Library System. We handle delivery, ILL, and continuing education throughout the Commonwealth.
4. If you have an MLIS, would you say your school offered enough forward-thinking courses to prepare you for the profession? Are grad schools doing enough? Is the MLIS degree even necessary, in this high-tech world?
My MLS is from just over ten years ago, and we were working with Lexis Nexus and CARL for database retrieval. I would hope that there was more emphasis on reference research, reader’s advisory, and basic programming. I think all of these skills are important, even with a “high-tech world”. We are still dealing with people, who have an extreme range of backgrounds and skills, so we cannot shrug off the personal touch of our skills for computers
5. What continuing education would you recommend librarians pursue?
I definitely think that continuing education is important. I would hope that librarians and library staff are finding resources for their particular skills, whether in reference, tech services, technology, programming, or reader’s advisory for all age levels. I believe CE can come from traditional classes, state and national organizations, conferences, and your own PLN (Personal Learning Network).
6. Which websites, blogs, periodicals, etc., should librarians be reading?
I think a lot of what librarians should be reading should cater not only to where their position lies, but somebroader looks at librarianship as a whole. Currently some of my favorites are Stacked (stackedbooks.org) for YA books and discussion, RA for All (raforall.blogspot.com) for reader’s advisory, Letters to a Young Librarian (letterstoayounglibrarian.blogspot.com) for posts from librarians about what they have learned across the field, plus fun interludes by owner Jessica Olin, and Library Lost and Found (librarylostfound.com) for discussion by library leaders.
7. What do you think are the biggest concerns facing libraries today? Are we moving quickly enough to head them off?
Obviously the digital divide is still a concern: not only for patrons and community members that do not have access, but rural and small libraries that do not. How do libraries help their community members with issues that they cannot always provide the answers to? I think that collaboration will become a key component of this as we move forward.
8. How would you like to see the image of libraries and librarians shift? Are old stereotypes damaging public opinion as to our relevance?
I think for every piece that comes out that states “libraries are passé” there is another one that proves it wrong. Unfortunately I think that sometimes social media allows vocalization of less weighted opinions to be bolstered, just by carry through. It behooves us to make sure we are leaving smart commentary on the bias, and keep doing what we are doing!
9. What mistakes are libraries making? How can/should we change course?
In my honest opinion, I think libraries need to make mistakes. People learn from mistakes, and so can a library: budgetary strains lead to expanded outreach, failed programming leads to new ideas, unused collections lead to weeding stagnant titles or increased promotion. Each opportunity is a chance for libraries and staff to learn something new, and be proactive about it.
10. How can we battle budget cuts? Any tips on making the most of limited resources?
Being able to resource share is a very efficient way to keep resources available, if not on your shelf. I think the time has come, and shown, that we can no longer “do with less” and with the creation of EveryLibrary and other organizational support many libraries a successfully meeting the challenges on budgets. Obviously, it is still a long road ahead
11. Why did you become a librarian? Were you a heavy user of libraries growing up?
I was a very heavy user of libraries growing up, both in my schools and in the community. I went the book retail route after high school, and worked through college and beyond for ten years. After my children wereborn, I decided to go back to school, originally planning on being a math teacher. However, I didn’t have the undergraduate credits I needed, so I discovered the Library Science program at SUNY Albany (NY) and paid out of pocket for one course, to see if I wanted to do this. I loved it and never looked back.
12. Finally, the ubiquitous question: Are you an avid reader? Any books or authors you love that you could recommend to us?
I would consider myself a pretty avid reader, and I am trying to broaden my reading scope, as I tend towards science fiction and fantasy, plus mystery. As a Library Journal reviewer, I definitely focus on books! In my beloved genre, I would recommend Red Rising by Pierce Brown, L.A. Gilman’s Retreiver series, and Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. I think that if I keep going, my book recommendation would be as long as the answers I have given!