March 17, 2018

John Watts | Movers & Shakers 2011 – Advocates

Library Journal March 15, 2011: John Watts, Mover & Shaker

Protector of Privacy

When John Watts arrived at the Kimbel Library at Coastal Carolina University in 2009, meaningful fun was close on his heels. His engaging marketing and outreach efforts have included a “de-stress fest” before finals, an Edible Book Contest, a presence in social media, and a video about censorship and a reading from banned books during Banned Books Week. According to his nominator, Barbara Burd, dean of library services, these initiatives and more helped the library become known as a “user-friendly, student-centered environment.”

Watt’s love affair with libraries began at an early age, when his mother took him to story times as a way to cope with his dyslexia. “I learned that librarians are grassroots educators and guerrilla community organizers,” he recalls. “And I wanted a piece of that.”

A background in acting (he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in acting from Webster University in Saint Louis) was also crucial preparation. “I find connections between librarianship and theater every day,” he notes. “I create experiences, keep it entertaining, think fast on my feet, and when I fall down, I get back up and go on with the show.”

It’s a nimble performance but weighty as well. As part of his library’s privacy awareness campaign, Watts created a “Fix Your Face” traveling display that illustrated the risks of posting sensitive information online and provided tips on using Facebook’s complicated privacy settings. He also hosted several roundtable discussions with faculty and staff.

To help students grapple with their social networking identities, Watts designed a presentation about protecting and improving an individual’s digital footprint, as part of his library’s First Year Experience program and for parents and students at Family Weekend. He also conceptualized and cowrote (with colleague Casey Schacher) a script for a short video about cyberstalking.

“Librarians have always worked hard to protect the privacy of our users,” says Watts. “Now that this issue has reached beyond the walls of the library, librarians are in a good position to be a strong voice at the local and national level.”

To that end, Watts has become a spokesperson on the topic of privacy, speaking to local news outlets when concerns arose at the local high school about students’ use of social networking. What’s next? He is scheduled to take his ideas about how to manage a digital footprint to parents at a local middle school.


John Watts, Kimbel Library, Coastal Carolina University, Conway, SC

CURRENT POSITION Reference and Outreach Librarian

DEGREE MLS, Indiana University, Bloomington, 2009

NEXT GOAL Earning an MBA to get a “formal education in the principals of marketing”

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