February 17, 2018

Susan Lanna | Movers & Shakers 2003

Keeping Up with the Times


As the typical “English/art history major from a liberal arts college,” Susan Lanna explored library school after working briefly as a temp. She quickly concluded that librarianship is “custom-built for me. I hate doing the same thing, I have a short attention span, and I love interacting with people. We have such a mix of interesting and unusual people in the profession.”

Lanna’s energy and enthusiasm have taken her, at the age of 30, to head the Carnegie Library’s Humanities Department, part of a new wave of young managers.

Now she’s involved in a major revamp of the Humanities Department. Its first floor space will be renovated into something of a popular library; a central reference desk on the second floor will serve merged departments. As a member of the Urban Libraries Council’s second Executive Leadership Institute (ELI) cohort, next month she’ll devote her ELI project to an information architecture project mixing real and virtual librarianship. “It’s not just the physical layout, it’s the web site, it’s how the staff talks to people,” she says.

Lanna still works ten hours a week on the reference desk – it’s “my favorite part of the job; it keeps me current.” And she still helps lead the department’s book discussion group; for those discussions, Carnegie has started sending out book guides by e-mail. “We need to find new and unique ways to reach people,” Lanna declares. A longtime lover of literary fiction, she now listens to more commercial audiobooks during her daily commute. “It opens me up to books I wouldn’t ordinarily read.”

At a recent focus group, patrons were asked to identify the library as a person. The conclusion: an old man with gray hair, stodgy and old-fashioned, somewhat disheveled but also quite helpful and smart. “We want to do another focus group in a year,” Lanna declares in her mile-a-minute style, “and have it turned around, so they say Carnegie is an exciting person, with the times.”




Current Position: Humanities Department Head, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

Degree: MLIS, University of Pittsburgh, 1996

Leadership training: Selected to represent Pennsylvania, Library Leadership Institute at Snowbird, 2000; Urban Libraries Council Executive Leadership Institute, 2003