The talent at work in libraries should make anyone optimistic for the future—not only of libraries but of the varied communities they serve. As the latest class of LJ Movers & Shakers demonstrates, the field is rippling with energetic, committed, innovative people addressing issues to create ever better service. It’s important that today’s leaders guarantee an institutional dynamic that will keep up-and-coming visionaries like these happy in libraries, allow them to flourish, and enable the best to step forward into larger roles.
As a line on a résumé, the title of library director looks straightforward enough: the highest administrative role a public library has to offer; one that comes with great responsibilities and challenges—but also the opportunity to map a future for the library. In reality, a director’s duties vary widely from one system to another, as do the paths that lead to the role.
When she arrived to direct California’s San José Public Library in 2013, Jill Bourne faced the effects of years of decimating budget shortfalls and service cuts. The effectiveness with which Bourne spearheaded her Library Access Strategy, opened the libraries, built new relationships with and support from San José’s civic leadership, and leveraged partnerships and fostered innovation—and is now reaching beyond the library to a new citywide Education and Digital Literacy Initiative—has won over a newly inspired staff and convinced our judges to name her the 2017 LJ Librarian of the Year, sponsored by Baker & Taylor.
Nick Higgins emailed me the other day. He was a student in my class at what is now called the School of Information at the Pratt Institute in New York City, graduating in 2008. One of the joys of teaching is the continuing contact with students as they progress through their careers. In our profession that contact is especially gratifying.
Librarianship, as a field, has a major diversity problem. According to the American Library Association’s Diversity Counts, in 2009–10 (the most recent year for which we have numbers), 85.2 percent of credentialed librarians and 72 percent of library assistants were white. Two years ago, St. Paul faced a similar problem. Citywide, the workforce was 82 percent white. Yet the city population is only 60 percent white, and the school age population, 22 percent white.
“We are all walking stories, so it’s vital that as librarians, we learn the art of listening to story…” says Irvin, an assistant professor in the library and information science program at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. “[We need to be] willing to share our own stories so that we best relate to patrons, communities, and stakeholders.”
How do we find that perfect hire? A recent email from Kit Stephenson, head of reference and adult services at Bozeman Public Library, MT, got me thinking: “I am trying to find the best questions to find a full-stack employee. A couple of attributes I require are compassion, team player, and thrives on change. I want someone to be a conduit, connector, and a discoverer.” That call back to Stacking the Deck raised this question: How do we find a well-rounded person amid a virtual pile of résumés and cover letters? Please consider the following as part of your potential discovery sets for future interviews.
Most academic librarians stepping into a position can model their work on that of their predecessors. But not Thomas Padilla. On his appointment in April as the first humanities data curator at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) Library (and the first in the entire University of California system), Padilla has had to draw on a number of different disciplines to shape his role of working with data throughout its life cycle, creating a support plan for digital humanities researchers, and providing research data consultation.