February 16, 2018

Rebecca Near | Movers & Shakers 2009 – Tech Evangelists

Rebecca Near, Grand Rapids Public Library, MIRedirected Talents

For Rebecca Near, librarianship began as a way station between her MFA and a teaching career. But as she worked at the Grand Rapids Public Library, she discovered that in a library, “orphaned skills from other careers find useful and unexpected applications.”

Near draws on her research and artistic skills while creating displays of Grand Rapids history with the local history department. Her teaching skills come in handy as she trains library staff to use blogs and Michigan’s Evergreen catalog.

Colleague Marla Ehlers says Near’s creativity “remains core to all she does, whether designing an exhibit, approaching a reference question, or recognizing the potential of a new format for meeting patrons’ needs.” In just one example of her contributions, she developed the GRPLpedia wiki as a way to make it easy for librarians to organize and share their specialized knowledge with the community. “Now neophytes and those resistant to technology are designing wiki pages with ease,” says Ehlers.

For Near, new technologies are simply a means “to provide exceptional service and kick-ass collections that respond to the real interest of patrons.” If it “surprises them and knocks their socks off,” she says, all the better.


Grand Rapids Public Library, MI

POSITION Reference and Adult Services Librarian

DEGREE MLIS, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 2007; MFA, Yale, 1998

WIKI GRPLpedia Grand Rapids Public Library Wiki: www.grpl.org/wiki/index.php/Main_Page

QUIRKABILITY Collects “strange little objects”