February 17, 2018

Steven J. Bell | Movers & Shakers 2002

A Passion for the Profession

“Our future is strongly linked to our ability to become partners in the educational enterprise.”

Those who know Steven Bell know him as both a leader and a teacher passionate about the role of the academic library in an increasingly technological world. “My most profound influential experience,” recalls Bell, “was taking a job as a reference librarian at the Lippincott Library of Penn’s Wharton School of Business in 1986. This was my first foray into librarianship, and since then it is all I’ve wanted to do.”

In 1997, Bell took an important next step in his career as a librarian, completing his Ph.D. in education from the University of Pennsylvania. “Our future is strongly linked to our ability to become partners in the educational enterprise,” says Bell. “Librarians today have a tremendous opportunity to redefine how the library contributes to the academic enterprise.”


Current position: Director, Gutman Library, Philadelphia University

Degree: MLS, Drexel University, 1978, Ph.D., Education, University of Pennsylvania, 1997

Web site: staff.philau.edu/bells

By all accounts Bell is off to a strong start. Just after earning his Ph.D. he took the job of director at the Philadelphia University Library, a fulfilling position for the lifelong Philadelphia native. But he also teaches library and research-related courses at Drexel and St. Joseph’s universities, organizes numerous workshops, is active at conferences, and is an award-winning writer in the profession. In 2001, Bell’s highly influential D-Lib piece on the pricing and business practices of aggregated database vendors garnered significant attention. “I think I’ve found my match in academic librarianship,” Bell says of his work, “because I’m strongly motivated to be active as an educator and to play a role in the scholarly research process.”

Not content merely to play a role, Bell is working to expand the role of academic librarianship in an age when students and researchers are literally swamped with options. “What does it mean to be a librarian in an age when there are overwhelming information choices,” he muses. “And yet, despite all this power, people are more confused, more frustrated than ever by their inability to find the information they need.” For Bell, it has meant opportunity: to educate, to serve, and to make a difference in student’s lives.

Through the library, Bell has been able to step up to meet the emerging challenges facing academe. Still, the 46-year-old says he is just getting warmed up. “Librarians have to be regarded as having more to contribute than just what we do in the library building,” he notes. “I want to be influential in shaping this transformation.”