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What skills, events, or other opportunities have you found most useful to your career?
My husband and I moved quite a bit between 1985 and 1997, so I was constantly being forced to find new work in a new community. This meant that by the time I started library school in 1999 I had literally worked in every job a library offers. The biggest impact, however, came from something I did on my own—join in the experience that was Harry Potter fandom circa 2004, when it was a daily explosion of creativity, sharing, fun, study, and experimentation. I not only gained friends worldwide, I was able to see firsthand how this group of book-obsessed youth and adults discovered itself at the same time it embraced social media and all its tools.
Is there a colleague or mentor who has helped you in your career, and, if so, how did they help?
There isn’t any one person. I would list Sally Margolis, the children’s librarian when I worked at the Deerfield Public Library, and their Director Jack Hicks. Sally wasn’t afraid to take chances, including reconfiguring the Dewey section of our children’s folklore collection so that it was organized by country of origin. She was also a book reviewer for School Library Journal and I loved watching her research every book review. Jack taught me what a responsive director looks like. Every Saturday he was in the reading area of the library listening to any and all who wanted to talk about the library in their lives. He also spent weeks every summer doing long projects with the kids like teaching them how to make a dugout canoe.
My most memorable professor in library school was Stu Glogoff, who created an amazing reading list that opened my eyes to the challenges libraries are facing as we look to the digital, dis-intermediated future.
I have also been influenced by my current supervisor, Jen Maney, who is one of the most effective administrators I’ve ever known. She has an uncanny ability to cut through red tape and help make things happen. From her I learned how to adapt gracefully to change, in fact one of her mottos is “Designing for uncertainty,” and it’s true, she does. She even makes it look easy. I also learned a lot about doing great presentations from her.
And finally, since “the web” isn’t a person, I would say that my fellow webmasters in Harry Potter fandom (most of whom were half my age) taught me about how to approach new tools and ideas with joy and not fear, and always with an eye to what it might do for our online conversations, whether it was podcasting, vidcasting, or online book clubs.
Do you feel that any of the equity gaps — generational, gender, racial, educational — in the library world have affected your career’s trajectory?
Very rarely. I’ve been extraordinarily lucky in my own career, but I have also enjoyed watching the success of the University of Arizona’s Knowledge River project which has enriched the base for cultural knowledge and understanding nationwide. I won’t say the system is perfect, but all the libraries I have worked at have reflected the communities they served and been respectful of all differences, not just the variations present within the mainstream. The equity gap I see is more rural vs. urban due to the unevenness of library funding from one community to the next.
What do library schools have to do to better prepare graduates for the job market?
First, recruit from the publishing industry and tech world, as well as from arts education. Encourage classes in visual culture, such as graphic arts, video production. Also areas like entrepreneurship and hacker culture. We need more staff who can make the library as visually and creatively literate as it is textually literate.
I’m not sure how, but we also need to have students thinking about how one manages change while protecting what is important about the core of what libraries do. An aside: I wish more libraries were thinking creatively about how to preserve a part of the library as a quiet place for study and contemplation. I am a wholeheartedly behind the idea of libraries as creative (and noisy) spaces, but I also think the value of offering a quiet place is being underestimated. I’d love to find a way for us to offer both.
Where would you like to be in five years professionally? What’s your dream job?
It’s hard to say. I am working not one, but two dream jobs right now, and have resisted chances at promotion that would mean that what I can do at work is more proscribed. Right now my dreams are not focused on my career so much as they are all about doing what I can to ensure that Pima County is aware of the full tapestry of what our library offers, partners with us on our trip into the future, and trusts us enough to understand that not all of our experiments will work.
What was your biggest failure as a librarian and what did you learn from that experience that helped you grow?
My biggest failure happened before I was a librarian when I was acting director of the Lower Valley Branch of the El Paso Public Library. Let’s just say it was a gross violation of a patron’s privacy that I have regretted ever since. It did not have enormous consequences, but the idea that one patron lost her trust in the library has always disturbed me. This taught me a valuable lesson— not to value materials, rules, or “the collection” over people.
Any words of wisdom for those coming into the field?
If your library job is not what you expected it to be, or not an outlet for passion or skills you want to use, dive into it anyway on your own, keep talking about it at work, and never be afraid to ask for a chance when you see an opportunity. Your library may catch up to you. I believe there is a very good chance that the ideas that will “save” libraries will come from outside library culture. I guess that is also a plea to library leadership to listen to our dreamers and square pegs, and give them a voice in what the library is.
|Lead the Change is a library leadership seminar that brings together library thought leaders to show participants how today's top libraries are leading change and transforming their communities. Attendees are lead through a series of exercises to help bridge key thoughts to individual leadership objectives to help them harness their ideas, their innovation and their ability to lead.|