Ash Faulkner

iSchool Graduation Date


Professional Organizations/Affiliations

ALA, RUSA, ACRL, BRASS (Business and Reference Services Section), IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations)

Current responsibilities/How are you using your information skills?

I currently work as the Business Librarian at The Ohio State University Libraries.  It’s a subject librarian and liaison role so I basically serve as the contact point for anybody in the business college, visit classes for instruction sessions, and help researchers hunt down data.  I often joke about how funny it is that I got into librarianship because I love books but as a business librarian I work almost exclusively with databases, occasionally articles, and lots and lots of financial data.  Books?  Not so much.  (Don’t worry, I have lots at home.)

What is the best professional advice you can give?

Honestly?  I think networking is key, at least in academic librarianship.  Not that ‘who’ you know will necessarily get you places – the ‘what’ is still more important – but I think making connections within your specific field means you always have in mind someone who can help you crowdsource a particularly difficult reference question, and knowing people both in and outside the library on your campus means you might know someone else to connect the patron with, who might be able to help with the question better than you can.  Be friendly, be helpful without expecting anything in return, and keep in touch.  It’s really that simple.

How do you encourage innovative ideas?

I think the only way to really encourage innovative ideas is for there to be little negative consequence for failure; otherwise the risk is too high.  I’ve always been really lucky to work for institutions where I did feel comfortable to try to offer new services and when some of them did fail (as is inevitable) there was no downside to me.  Afterward, I would discuss with my supervisors what I learned from the experiment and whether it was worth iterating on the theme to try to improve success, or if it was an idea to scrap entirely.  And that’s okay too.

Do you have a mentor? How have they influenced you?

I have lots of informal mentors.  Back to my point on networking.  I love talking to people who have been in librarianship longer than I have, or have a deeper pool of knowledge in one area or another.  Mostly, I really just enjoy spending time with my mentors when I get a chance and getting their perspectives on things.  

For me, I never went out of my way to cultivate any sort of official ‘mentor’ outside of people that I just legitimately enjoy as friends also. Just these particular friends know more than me about this, that, or the other thing.  And I learn from them.  I guess the main ways I ‘use’ my mentors is mostly in helping me develop and fine tune outreach ideas or track down really obscure reference leads.  I suppose they’ve influenced me to think about where I’ll grow in librarianship as I get deeper into my career also.  I have consulted with one particular mentor, for instance, when I was considering each of my two job changes to date.  They helped me think through the pros and cons of moving into a new role.  Someone with twenty or thirty years in librarianship really has a different perspective to offer on something like that.

What do you wish you had done earlier or more often?

I wish I had learned a lot more about instruction and teaching theory before I started my first job because as a subject liaison in an academic library, you are actually expected to do a lot of one-shot class instruction sessions.  You can certainly just get up and lecture, but knowing how to provide really interactive and enjoyable instruction sessions is a huge plus.  Also, I so wish I had learned some basic statistics and coding.  I’m actually working on addressing that gap right now.  I took a stats class to get my MBA, but I need a serious refresher for my own research purposes and sometimes to help students understand what kind of data they need.  Coding?  Python, R, SAS, SPSS…  Any/all of those are gold in the job market right now.  Data librarianship is where it’s at.

How and where do you find inspiration?

As far as librarianship is concerned, I guess I’m inspired every time I work with a student to hunt down data and they come back to me and tell me how helpful I was and/or how they didn’t realize the library could do that for them.  I actually really enjoy super obscure data hunts; the hard to find, the better. 

To what values are you committed?

That’s kinda a big question.  If I had to choose one, I guess I go for ‘integrity’, as in my actions always match up to my words.  I say what I do and I do what I say.  I was always taught to consider with every single thing I do: Would I be happy if it was on the front page of the newspaper tomorrow?  (For more modern readers, maybe I should say, ‘gone viral online’ tomorrow.)  If the answer is ‘no’, maybe rethink that.

How do you balance your work and home life?

I’ve actually been really blessed to have only ever worked at institutions wherein work-life balance was valued.  (You can totally ask about this in your interviews!  And don’t just let them say ‘Oh, we value it.’  Ask how they support it.  I dropped out of the running for one job when they wouldn’t give me a concrete ‘how’.)  I’ve never had to struggle for this.  

I do also think you manage some of these expectations yourself.  Generally, I don’t answer work emails outside of my regular working hours. Mainly, I will email you back when I get to it in the queue tomorrow.  If you start answering emails at all hours of the day and night, it’s a lot harder to take your time back later.  Begin as you mean to continue.  If you’re salaried, you’ve agreed that you aren’t necessarily off clock as soon as your eight hours are up (most of us aren’t), but you are always entitled to enough time to eat, sleep, see your family and maintain your sanity.  There might be a few weeks out of the year when things are extra special crazy, but that shouldn’t be the norm.  Don’t let it be the norm. 

What are some challenges that today’s information professionals will face? And tomorrow’s?

If you’re in academic librarianship, I think you’re going to have to know some coding at some point.  Not just the data-heavy areas like mine, but text mining etc. if you’re in the humanities.  Overall in librarianship, I think there’s a lot of uncertainty about what libraries are and what they should be able to do moving forward.  Continuous professional development is probably not a bad idea.  

How can the library remain important to the community?

I think libraries are important to communities.  People overwhelmingly say they support their local libraries.  It’s just that their support doesn’t always translate into monetary support.  When competing priorities are school, police, and fire, the library just doesn’t always reach the cutoff.  I also think we’re not always particularly good at marketing ourselves.  (Also, also, I might not be the best person to answer this question.  I went into academic librarianship partially because I thought there was better job security.  I had a hard time imagining a big university arguing they didn’t need a library.  It’s kinda, you know, part of the vibe.)

What websites, apps, podcasts, or other resources would you recommend to explore?

I recommend getting on the listserv for whatever professional organization is most relevant to you.  Those are the conversations you want to make sure you’re keeping up with.

What is a book you like that you have to defend liking and what is a book you dislike that you have to defend disliking?

Okay.  Legit this question is really hard for me to answer.  I read such an insane mix of stuff.  My kitchen table right now has: an Agatha Christie, a book on police procedure, a book on theories behind increasing dogs’ longevity, a mythology book, a book on caving, a Sylvia Brown book, a book on cadaver dogs, an Olga Broumas poetry collection, and book on detective fiction…. Would any of that cause either a need to champion or defend?

I read YA or even middle grade fiction, so I guess I feel like I have to defend liking that sometimes.  For YA, I really liked Blood Red Road by Moira Young or, for middle grade, I liked Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty.  I categorically refuse to publicly ‘boo’ any books.  (I secretly nurture a far-off dream of being a fiction author someday and my apocalypse brain is whispering to me that anything I ‘boo’ will inevitably lead to me meeting said author at a conference someday and being very shamed indeed.)

Special thanks to the Kent State University iSchool Alumni Network for coordinating these profiles. Learn more about the Alumni Network on their Facebook page and group. Students are welcome to join and participate.

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