Tracey Johnson, MLIS – Alumni Spotlight

iSchool Graduation Date

2013

Professional Organizations/Affiliations

American Institute for Conservation (AIC), Southeast Regional Conservation Association (SERCA)

Current responsibilities/How are you using your information skills?

As an assistant conservator in a state archives (Georgia), I am responsible for gathering and analyzing temperature and humidity information from environmental data loggers to ensure a stable environment for our collection. I also conduct surveys to assess the preservation needs of the collection, including the degradation of the reference microfilm and identifying candidates for digitization and removal to a more appropriate storage environment. A good portion of my job is performing conservation treatments on collection items to provide access to and stabilize them for use by researchers. I also assist the Conservator with developing and maintaining policies and procedures for emergency preparedness, preservation, etc.

What is the best professional advice you can give?

It’s the same advice that was given to me early in grad school: get out of your comfort zone when deciding on a specialty and try things you don’t think you’re interested in to make sure that’s really the case. I thought for sure I was going to be a cataloger in a public library, since that’s what I had done during my undergraduate program and really enjoyed it. Following this advice, I chose a practicum in digital preservation in an archives and loved it. When I started working in an archives shortly after, I was introduced to conservation and fell into my dream job!

How do you encourage innovative ideas?

By encouraging others to experiment and really explore their ideas no matter where it takes them, and by being open-minded about new ideas myself. We had an intern in the conservation lab this year that we were teaching bookbinding to and she was really disappointed with one of her books. Instead of giving up on it, we encouraged her to keep working with it and she ended up creating a small volume to collect sample materials in for reference during her conservation training. By continuing to work on the oddly shaped volume, she better understood how to work with complications a volume from the collection might have.

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

I have had several excellent mentors in both my library and conservation training. Sure they taught me the day-to-day specifics of the work, but they also taught me how to be an excellent leader by demonstrating patience, understanding and importance of the larger picture, and how to support other staff and departments within the institution.

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

I wish I had gotten more involved in professional organizations and networked with colleagues. By being on various boards, I feel like I’ve contributed to the profession in a meaningful way. I wish I could have broken out of my shell earlier so I wouldn’t still be chiseling away at it.

How and where do you find inspiration?

Looking at leaders in the field of cultural heritage and adapting their ideas in ways that are attainable and/or appropriate for my institution. Looking at different fields and how their methods or materials might work for archives conservation. And talking with people I come in contact with from all kinds of professions to figure out how our careers and ideas might overlap.

To what values are you committed?

Dependability, Creativity, Growth, Dedication

How do you balance your work and home life?

Because the bulk of my job is treating collection items, much of my work physically stays at work. I am very passionate about what I do so it isn’t a burden when these overlap. However, I am very aware of burnout and take steps to prevent it, such as spending quality time with my family, knitting, and reading novels.

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

Funding will always be a challenge. When state and federal budgets get cut, cultural institutions are the first to feel it. My institution is an example of this that after the economic downturn from the pandemic we were asked to decrease our budget significantly. With very little fat to cut, the result was a few layoffs and several other positions remaining indefinitely vacant as well as deferred maintenance of our facility.

How can the library remain important to the community?

By helping the community understand that we are curating and caring for collections specifically for their use. As information professionals, we analyze the communities we serve and create programs and exhibits, highlight collections, etc. that we hope they will find interesting. We exist to serve them.

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

The C-Word is a podcast by conservators for conservators covering a broad range of topics from a real-life perspective. Sometimes brutally honest about the life and experiences of a conservator, I think this podcast would be of interest to anyone in the realm of preservation.

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?

I am surrounded by open-minded people, so I don’t have to defend liking anything I read. In fact, many of the books I read are recommendations from friends. One such recommendation was The Kingkiller Chronicle series by Patrick Rothfuss, which is amazing!

It’s not so popular now, but I really disliked Fifty Shades of Grey. I was working in circulation in a public library when it came out and I decided I should read it to better understand the interests of our patrons. There was no suspension of disbelief for me and I struggled to finish it. The storyline seemed very flimsy and the characters totally unrelatable. I’m not against the genre, but I simply couldn’t understand what made this series so worthy of being made into movies over the many other novels of its kind. I still regret the 20 minutes I spent trying to get into the first movie before finally giving up.


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.

Ken Burhanna, MLIS – Alumni Spotlight

iSchool Graduation Date

1994

Professional Organizations/Affiliations

Association of Research Libraries, Academic Library Association of Ohio, Association of College and Research Libraries, American Library Association 

Current responsibilities/How are you using your information skills?

I oversee the University Libraries of Kent State as Dean. I also oversee Kent State LaunchNET (entrepreneurial firm focusing on innovative mindset development and student-startups) and the Kent State University Press.  

What is the best professional advice you can give?

Cultivate a growth, learner mindset. Always ask questions and know you are likely more wrong than you are right.  

How do you encourage innovative ideas?

Ask questions and encourage experiments. Put resources behind the experiments if you can.   

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

 I have had several mentors filling several different roles. It takes a village and it’s an active process. Mentorship doesn’t just happen to you. My mentors have influenced me by supporting me, showing me the way and listening to me.  

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

Forgive myself for my mistakes.  

How and where do you find inspiration?

Reading, writing and exercising outside — anything that helps me stop and reflect.  

To what values are you committed?

To be open, inclusive and innovative.  

How do you balance your work and home life?

Wow, this is not a question that can be easily answered in a few lines. It takes a type of selfish discipline that I have yet to entirely master. The pandemic has really blurred the lines too. At this point, the best start for me is not to check email after I stop work for the day and not on Friday nights and Saturdays.  

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

Privacy of user information. The spiraling costs of information resources. Equitable access to information (Internet) for all. Educating users to apply critical thinking to the information they encounter. These all, by the way, are connected in an almost perverse way.    

How can the library remain important to the community?

By constantly responding to their users’ needs while maintaining the values of our profession.  

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

Scholarly Kitchen, Fast Company, Charleston Hub, and any number of library-related podcasts. You can easily find many on Google. A good starter list can be found here: https://player.fm/podcasts/Librarian.  

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?

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – liking 

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation – disliking 


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.

Mary Schreiber, MLIS – Alumni Spotlight

iSchool Graduation Date

2003

Professional Organizations/Affiliations

• American Library Association
• Association for Library Service to Children
• Currently serving on the 2021 Randolph Caldecott Committee

Current responsibilities/How are you using your information skills?

• Collection Development Specialist for Cuyahoga County Public Library in the area of youth selection

• Presenting at the South Central Library System (WI) virtual staff development day in October on the topic of Partnering with Parents for Early Childhood Success

• Adjunct Professor at Kent State University’s iSchool.  Taught the Selection and Acquisitions class in Spring semester 2020

• Published a professional development book, Partnering with Parents: Boosting Literacy for All Ages through ABC-CLIO.

What is the best professional advice you can give?

Always return emails and voicemail in a timely manner.  I shoot for 24-48 hours even if the response is simply that I’m still working on getting an answer or finding a solution.  Your co-workers and community partners will really appreciate the courtesy.

How do you encourage innovative ideas?

We’ve had a lot of retirements over the last few years, so there are many new librarians and support staff working in the branches.  It can be a challenge to get to know everyone, but I feel it is important to keep the lines of communication open so branches know they can ask for materials to support their programming idea.  For example, when Baby Club was started, the branch staff asked to have reference copies of the board books they would be sharing with families.  This was something I could happily do.

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

I’ve had several mentors throughout my career.  Some have been formal mentors that have helped me make decisions about next steps in my career.  These were set-up through my library’s mentoring program.  Others have been more informal, including managers who were strong and supportive leaders and were examples to me when I was a supervisor.  I’ve also been informally mentored by ALSC members through the various committees I’ve served on.  This has expanded my network and comes in handy when my library is looking for outside advice on new products or services.  Specifically, I learned how to work with a board and leadership team when I served on and co-chaired the ALSC Public Awareness Committee and was involved in creating board proposals and the Championing Children’s Services toolkit.  I’ve also served as a mentor and learned a lot from my mentees.  Their creativity and enthusiasm inspires and energizes me.

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

Taking a little time to think before saying yes to an opportunity and knowing it’s fine to say no when a project doesn’t really interest you or the timing isn’t right. If it’s meant to be, they’ll ask again.  If it’s a must do for your job, then speak up to your boss and ask for guidance.  It is okay to ask for help prioritizing projects when what you’re hearing is that everything is top priority.  They can’t all be #1 and a good boss will help you manage your to-do list so you can get them what they need when they need it.  I’m stilling working on this one. 
😊

How and where do you find inspiration?

I read a lot and get inspired by books all the time.   Listening to authors and illustrators talk about their process brings additional joy to favorites.  I also find professional development rewarding.  Whether it is attending an ALA or OLC Conference or a webinar, I love to learn from others and then see how I can bring at least one thing back to my library to implement. 

To what values are you committed?

As a selector of materials, I’m committed to intellectual freedom and access of information.  I work to find and add a wide variety of diverse titles to the collection.  I feel it’s very important to have books that reflect and expand a child’s experiences with the world.

How do you balance your work and home life?

In the past, I have not brought work home much, and tried to limit out of work time spent checking email.  Using the out-of-office feature lets people know when they can expect to hear back from you.  Since March, I’ve been working more from home and so I’ve been pretty strict about turning off my work computer at 5:00 and staying off email in the evenings.  I enjoy spending time with my family, reading (the lines are a little blurry on this one), and traveling when I’m not working.

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

With the pandemic it has really highlighted the importance of digital access and broadband for all.  I think this is an area that library professionals will be working with their communities to expand and improve.  There will also be a need to see how it permanently influences libraries.  Will people permanently move to ebooks?  What will programming look like once large in person groups are safe?  Will there still be some author/storytime events online?

I’ve worked in libraries for 25 years.  Services, programs, formats, and technology have changed and shifted to the point where some areas of librarianship are almost unrecognizable to the libraries of my childhood.  I’m glad the library is more of a community space rather than a quiet, sacred space.  I think being flexible and embracing change are characteristics information professionals will continue to need in the future.

How can the library remain important to the community?

As COVID-19 has shown, libraries are where people go when they need reliable Internet and computer access.  They go to libraries for job searching and for help applying for benefits.  I gained firsthand knowledge of the challenges of applying for unemployment when my library went on Shared Work Ohio for a couple of months this Spring.  Libraries are perfect partners for community organizations like senior centers and schools to support reading and lifelong learning.

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

I like the Mile High Reading blog and Heavy Medal Mock Newbery blog. To keep in the know about what’s being published, I subscribe to the Shelf Awareness and Book Pulse e-newsletters.  

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?

I was a huge Babysitters Club fan as a child and a librarian told my mom that she should make me read “better” books.  Thankfully, my mom didn’t listen.  This has made me a champion for kids having access to the materials they like – graphic novels, comic books, cartoon/superhero beginning readers, video games, etc. Caregivers can set limits for their kids, but library staff never should.

I never was able to make it through Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.  I tried reading and listening to the first book, but just couldn’t get into it.  When asked, I say that teens know about the series and they’ve never really needed me to recommend it.  I also read the reviews so that I would have good background knowledge for parent concerns.  Twilight was hot right before I left branch life and moved to collection development.  With Midnight Sun arriving in August, I purchased many copies to meet the customer demand and in lots of formats.


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.

Julianne Bedel, MLIS – Alumni Spotlight

iSchool Graduation Date

I graduated with my MLIS in 2006. I was part of a scholarship cohort guided by Dr. Carolyn Brodie and Dr. Greg Byerly through the Laura Bush: Librarians for the new millennium IMLS scholarship grant. If memory serves me correctly, half of us aspired to teen librarianship in a public library (that was me!) and the other half of our scholarship cohort planned to do the same in a school library setting. I’ll always be thankful to Drs. Brodie and Byerly for the wonderful experience I had in the program! I’m happy to say that I still see a few folks from our cohort around the library community and it’s always wonderful to catch up.

Professional Organizations/Affiliations

OLC, ALA/PLA, American Association of University Women, and Chi Omega

Current responsibilities/How are you using your information skills?

I am presently the Director of the Medina County District Library (Ohio). We’re a county library with six branches and a bookmobile. I’ve held the position since February of this year. What a wild six months it’s been! Prior to that I was the system’s Assistant Director starting in July 2018. Is it just me…or do you also find yourself relying on both basic and advanced information literacy skills sometimes even more in your personal life than at work (some days) as a library professional? I’ll blame the relentless 24/7 news cycle.

What is the best professional advice you can give?

The following was shared with me many years ago, and I think it’s still evergreen. Change can be achieved by either evolution or revolution. There’s a time and place for each. Choose wisely.

How do you encourage innovative ideas?

By not being afraid to admit mistakes and change course when needed. I always put in the honest work to research, plan, and exercise due diligence. However, when things run amuck, I try to be frank about it. Don’t point fingers, just fix the problem and move on! Nothing kills innovation more quickly than fear of blame. That’s not to say I don’t hold myself and others accountable for inadequate planning or poor decision-making if that occurs. It’s all about honesty. I just try to encourage creativity by reducing the fear of failure by being open and honest with mistakes. Of course, when things DO end in success, shine the light on all those who were involved. Make sure that kudos are given to the entire team – not only those who were directly responsible for the innovation, but also those who supported the work in ancillary ways. Recognize “the village” that contributed to the success.

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

The library director who gave me my first management position (20+ years ago) still takes my calls. I’ve kept in touch with her through professional good times and tough periods, even though I only ever actually worked for her for less than a year. She was also the adjunct professor who taught my KSU library management class. I’m not sure she knew I unilaterally appointed her as my mentor way back in the day, but she’s certainly lived up to the role. She’s influenced me by her professional example as she’s directed several library systems in our region and been actively involved in OLC and ALA leadership roles. I’ve been particularly thankful for her willingness to listen and talk through complex situations…always offering insight and guidance but never advice.

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

I wasn’t aware of the practice of mindfulness until fairly recently. I’m still very much a work in progress in that regard, but I do wish I had started thinking about that much earlier in life.

How and where do you find inspiration?

Professionally, my staff is the biggest inspiration to me at this stage in the game. Their ingenuity, dedication, and tenacity are the reason that I look forward to doing my own job. Ensuring that they have access to the resources they need to get the job done today and in the future is my number one priority. And not just in a pandemic.

To what values are you committed?

Speaking on an individual level, I strive to live with personal integrity, empathy and kindness. Thinking about values organizationally, last year our library’s staff developed a Culture Statement – and I have to admit that I kind of love it.

How do you balance your work and home life?

Most times I would say that I categorically do NOT have a balanced work and home life. It depends on what’s going on and where, really, which way I lean at any given time. For me the key to long-term sanity is knowing when to unplug long enough to recharge. If you’ve got the secret to balancing work and home, please give me a call!

How can the library remain important to the community?

As we always have: by staying responsive to our local community’s needs. By providing the services and resources they need – not that which we think they ought to want. By listening. And 2020 of course is putting a whole new twist on connecting with our communities in the ways which are safest for patrons and employees alike.

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

Right now I’m enjoying Higher Ground: The Michelle Obama Podcast on Spotify (including the free version) as it is focusing on the relationships that make us who we are.

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?

Back in my very first library job, when I was a high school sophomore, my manager could hardly bear to include “trash romances” in the library collection. I think she may even have described them that way and said that at least they (the paperback romances) got some folks in the door who otherwise wouldn’t come in. She just hoped that sometimes they also grabbed some “decent reading” while they were here, too. I must have internalized that judgement because some years later I accidentally read Jude Deveraux’s Knight in Shining Armor (1989), which started me on romance reading, and I became a fan of the genre – but certainly wouldn’t mention it at work! (Yes, I made sure she didn’t see me borrowing “those” kinds of books.) I originally picked up the title because I thought it was time travel fiction (it is) rather than a romance (it really is). At the time I was support staff working through my undergraduate education, and in hindsight it still surprises me how long I carried that attitude. I think in the long run it made me super sensitive not to do that to any of my own library patrons! What book do I dislike? I just can’t stomach any kind of horror. Even the most basic. But I’m not going to defend that…because I know you won’t judge me for it!


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.

Ash Faulkner, MLIS, MBA – Alumni Spotlight

iSchool Graduation Date

2013

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.