In Fall 2015, the Brooklyn Public Library’s (BPL) strategy team gained two codirectors, David Giles and Story Bellows—urban innovators with strong backgrounds in government policy. Giles joined the library as chief strategy officer in November 2015, after serving as research director at New York’s Center for an Urban Future (CUF), which in 2014 published Re-Envisioning New York’s Branch Libraries, a report examining the physical and economic challenges facing the buildings that make up New York City’s three library systems. In his new role, he will provide strategic leadership around program development, partnerships, advocacy, and capital planning, among other aspects of BPL’s mission. Leading the strategy team with Giles is Bellows, who became BPL’s chief innovation and performance officer in October. Before arriving in Brooklyn, Bellows cofounded and directed the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics in Philadelphia, an in-house research and development lab aimed at supporting innovative approaches to civic problem solving.
James (Jamie) LaRue, most recently CEO of LaRue & Associates, has been chosen to lead the American Library Association (ALA) Office of Intellectual Freedom (OIF) and the Freedom to Read Foundation (FTRF), effective January 4, 2016 following the retirement of OIF director Barbara M. Jones on December 31. As former director of the Douglas County, CO, Library System and Colorado Librarian of the Year, LaRue will step into his new roles with hands-on library experience at all levels—local, regional, statewide, and national. He has also served on ALA’s Digital Content Working Group and OCLC’s executive council, as well as writing an LJ column on Self-Publishing and Libraries. LJ caught up with LaRue as he was preparing to relocate close to ALA headquarters in Chicago.
Higher ed is changing fast right now, and so is librarianship. Traditional in-person library and information science (LIS) education provided students with a robust network of peers for support. Over the last couple of decades, however, trends in higher education have reduced that automatic peer group—not only asynchronous online courses but also “unbundling,” in which students take classes at their own pace and from a variety of institutions. Postgraduate professional development opportunities, ranging from one-day conferences to workshops to certificate programs, were already more isolated, and these, too, have felt the further distancing impact of the digital shift. In addition, the proliferation of new competencies in librarianship can mean that a given librarian’s coworkers may have few if any points of overlap with what they do every day or need to learn—especially if they’re the sole representative on staff of a new library function.
Kelvin Watson last month was named Chief Innovation and Technology Officer for Queens Library (QL) in New York. In addition to his prior position as QL’s VP of digital services and strategy, Watson’s background includes positions at companies and organizations including The Library Corporation (TLC), Ingram, Borders, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He is also the current president of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA).
In the spring of 2014, Devin Becker, digital initiatives and web services librarian for the University of Idaho Library, Moscow, was recognized as an LJ Mover & Shaker for his “transformative” work with the University’s digital collections. Shortly afterward, his debut poetry collection Shame | Shame was selected from a field of 500 manuscripts as the winner of the A. Poulin Jr. Prize from publisher BOA Editions, Rochester, NY. Published in April 2015, the collection has been described by Guggenheim Fellowship and Whiting Award winner Michael Ryan as “a drop-dead funny book about desolation.” LJ recently caught up with Becker to discuss his debut.
Colorado’s Anythink libraries are anything but traditional, and that goes for job descriptions as well; positions there include wrangler, concierge, and guide. The work they do also tends to range outside the box, and Hannah Martinez, a concierge at Anythink Wright Farms in Thornton, has been awarded the 2015 Lucy Schweers Award for Excellence in Paralibrarianship for just that kind of creative thinking. Martinez, who has been at Anythink since 2010, was recognized for spearheading AnyAbility—an inclusive set of library programs for adults with cognitive and intellectual disabilities. The activities Martinez has helped to develop include crafts, story time, gardening, and a book club, all specifically designed to accommodate a wide range of abilities.
Rick Osen is the newest member of the five-person board of trustees at Bellingham Public Library (BPL), WA, but he is no stranger to the library world. Osen served as interim dean of libraries and assistant dean for library administration and planning at Western Washington University for 35 years, retiring in 2014. In February he joined chairman J. Robert Gordon, Rachel Myers, Marilyn Mastor, and Tom Barrett to serve a five-year term on the BPL board, and LJ caught up with him to find out more about his transition from academic librarian to public library trustee.
Ann Thornton was appointed as the new university librarian and vice provost of Columbia University in May, replacing university librarian emeritus James Neal upon his retirement. Thornton has a long history with prominent New York City libraries, having previously served for nearly two decades at the New York Public Library (NYPL). Since starting out at NYPL’s Science, Industry, and Business Library as its first public training coordinator in 1996, Thornton has occupied a number of senior leadership positions. Most recently she served as Andrew W. Mellon director, where she was responsible for collection development, preservation, reference and research services, and exhibitions for the system’s four research libraries and 87 branch libraries. Before coming to New York, she worked at the University of Houston Libraries as a systems librarian.
Librarians have always taught patrons how to use the tools that serve their information needs. We had to explain card catalogs, vertical files, microfilm/fiche, photocopiers, and OPACs. The fundamental difference about the tech needs of the 21st century is the ever-changing variety of personal devices that patrons use to access our services. Some libraries are lucky enough to have dedicated staff with special training to serve these patrons directly, but most of the time it’s a library generalist fielding question after question about something new every day. How do frontline staffers with self-taught or very basic knowledge of technology stay savvy about the latest and hottest gadgets? How do we train nontechnical staff to troubleshoot effectively and train our patrons to use their own gadgets?