Emily Clasper was four years into a Ph.D. in music history and theory—and a part-time employee at the university music library—when she realized she “needed to find something to devote myself to professionally that would really make a difference to people while still being intellectually challenging,” Clasper says. “A career in libraries might be just what I was looking for,” she recalls.
Now the system operations and training manager at the Suffolk Cooperative Library System (SCLS), for the past five years, Clasper has managed the circulation system and maintained the online catalog. She’s also created a tool for the 1.5 million residents of New York’s Suffolk County to self-register for library cards and gain immediate access to online shared resources. And she’s behind a branding scheme for a marketing plan that uses social media to promote online resources available through the system’s shared digital branch.
“Emily is an innovative, intuitive, creative techie,” says Lisa Richland, director of the system’s Floyd Memorial Library in Greenport, NY. “I wish I understood all the things she does to make 49 libraries and their disparate needs work smoothly technically. But I don’t have to, because she figures it out and makes it happen.”
Clasper also trains staff in all member libraries and launched an online learning community incorporating her training documentation and a technical-support wiki to bolster ongoing learning. Even those who claim to be computer illiterate are soon up to speed, says Ruth Westfall, SCLS’s administrator for technology services. “She gently prompts reluctant users to be more forward thinking and open to change, as she recognizes the inevitability of a future library that most definitely will not resemble what we think of as a library today.”
“I’m the person everyone loves to hate,” admits Clasper. “I’m the one who comes into your workplace and moves your cheese. But I try really hard to connect with the staff in our libraries on a personal level and make transitions as easy as possible [by] get[ting] everyone on board with the direction we’re taking.”