I believe in the library an an institution, and I realize we are operating in times in which we have to rethink some of our basic assumptions about the role of the library. How can the library be about “books” when some ebook platforms won’t allow us to circulate them? How do you preserve content in an environment where much of the newly generated content is online and growing at exponential rates? What does reference mean in an environment in which people have access to vast quantities of information from their cell phone? (Interested in answers to these questions? I talk about this kind of stuff all the time in the blog.)
In a shifting profession, we need innovative, smart, and flexible professionals in the ranks who can help us navigate what we’re going through and what’s coming. And we need professionals who care deeply about the power and meaning of the library and want to use their skills and passion to help the field move forward. That is why I am interested in mentoring and it is why I am interested in managing.
I agreed to write So You Want To Be A Librarian, in large part, because of this interest. I tend towards the big picture view and I love being able to speak to people who are considering the field, whether a college student deciding what to do next, or to someone a bit further along who is considering a second career. I’ve also tried to “give back” to my alma mater, by speaking to graduate classes as well as participating in panels for current students.
One of the things I find most rewarding is working with people to help them get where they want to go. Happy librarians make for happy libraries, and that means better service for our users. I’ve worked with several individuals as a mentor, both officially and unofficially in this capacity, and I was part of a panel with Steven Bell, Brian Mathews, and John Shank at the 2009 ACRL conference on “Mapping Your Path to the Mountaintop: Planning Where You Want To Be In Your Career.” We talked about what we’d done to get where we were, and we talked about finding your “mountaintop” or place you want to aspire to.
Obviously, managing can be quite different from mentoring, though I’ve always tried to create supportive work environments that help people reach the goals they’re trying to attain. I came to libraries from student affairs, so it was no surprise that my first library job involved the supervision of over 20 students a semester. While in this position I experimented with various methods of managing such a large group and was able to share some of my findings. I gave several presentations and posters on “Supervising While Away,” a topic which became more and more important to me as I was scheduled for meetings or conferences while my students were working. I also presented on specific approaches such as “Communication Strategies in a Library 2.0 Environment” and “Managing Online” (below) for the ACRL/LAMA Joint Spring Virtual Institute in 2008.
In my first management role at Wake Forest University I supervised a Cisco/University Fellow, Collaborative Technologies Associate, an Instruction Librarian, an eLearning Librarian, and an Adjunct Instructor. During that time I also managed a program that involved approximately half the library faculty and staff. I wrote about this program, as well as our management and support structure, with the Director for Reference and Instruction in Christopher Hollister’s 2010 Best Practices for Teaching Credit-Bearing Information Literacy Courses.
Most recently I built and managed a new outreach team for Virginia Tech University Libraries. I also supervised some positions related to my skill set. Once I was named Director for Learning Environments I became responsible for 26 employees, directly supervising nine people.
Leading by Demonstration
Though I am a quiet person by nature, I recognize the value of share personal experiences with others in the field who might like to see something in practice before training it. That is a large part of why my blog is public rather than a personal notebook, why I participate in Library Day in the Life, and why I agree to write about my own experiences as when I was asked to write up something for College & Research Libraries News on my experience as a first time ACRL Conference attendee. It first became clear to me how this can be useful for others when I was approached to be included in Steven Bell and John Shank’s Academic Librarianship by Design: A Blended Librarian’s Guide to the Tools and Techniques as an example of a “Blended Librarian” in training:
Updated September 29, 2014