Joseph A. Salem, Jr., Ph.D. – Alumni Spotlight

Joe Salem

iSchool Graduation Date

1999

Professional Organizations/Affiliations

American Library Association, Big Ten Academic Alliance, Association of Research Libraries

Current responsibilities/How are you using your information skills?

Dean of Libraries at Michigan State University. I am honored to serve in a leadership role within our profession and use information literacy, assessment, and research skills regularly in this role.

What is the best professional advice you can give?

The information professions in general and higher education-based librarianship in particular are opportunities to live a life of impact and to live your values. It may not be all that easy right out of school, but once you have experience and feel free to move about the cabin, be sure to find an organization that allows you to do both and where you thrive.

How do you encourage innovative ideas?

I was able to work directly on this in my last two roles. I try to listen and see my role in leadership as one where I am here to empower, resource, and to facilitate the environment where the colleagues with whom I work can thrive and innovate. I think by creating that environment where ideas can and are encouraged to come from everywhere and where I share leadership within the library, we do get much more innovation and problem-solving than in a top-down organization.

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

I am fortunate to have had several mentors throughout my career and several colleagues who have invested their time and energy into my development. I believe the best mentors for me have helped me to work through issues and opportunities and helped me to develop the confidence to take on new challenges. They have also modeled great mentorship and in an effort to repay their generosity of spirit, time, and expertise, I have tried to mentor colleagues throughout my career as well, especially as I have been fortunate to serve in leadership roles.

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

I wish I would have enjoyed every part of my career more fully. Work is fun for me and I do enjoy it on a daily basis, but I have also been very future-oriented and career-driven, so there have been significant times in my career where I did not take full advantage of the great opportunities of working or living in a great community. I also feel as though I rushed through a few portions of my career. I wish I would have slowed down and enjoyed the ride a bit more.

How and where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration watching my daughter grow and learn and become a young woman and in working with brilliant and talented colleagues who are spending their careers preserving the present and past to build the future she will live in.

To what values are you committed?

I have long been committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion in our profession and within the communities we serve. In my case, that is higher education writ-large and specifically the institutions that I have served. I am also committed to student success, which is a reflection of the same value placed on equity and inclusion, but with students as the main focus in particular. I am also committed to empathetic leadership and building and sustaining work environments that put people first.

How do you balance your work and home life?

This is difficult, especially in leadership roles, but I am fortunate to be sharing my life with my wife, Jamie, and our daughter, Summer, so I do try to balance things a bit. That means a work day that is not the same for me as it is for others. For example, I do try to get home for dinner with my family and spend some time together and then get back to work after my daughter gets to bed. I also try to make time for my own hobbies. I am an avid cyclist and enjoy several genres of music. It is best for all around when we get to enjoy all aspects of our lives.

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

The continued polarization of the country and active disinformation campaigns make our profession more vital than ever and more challenged than ever as well.

How can the library remain important to the community?

The importance of the library in the community is not in question in my mind. If it were, library professionals would not be asked to risk their lives in a pandemic to provide services and materials to their communities. At its core, the library has always offered information resources, the space (virtual or physical) to use them, and the expertise needed to make the best use of those resources and that space. The mix of those three things will change as we go forward, but as long as we stay true to that mission and to that basic concept, we will remain vital to our communities.

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

I have two, recommendations. First, I recommend the Internet Archive as the one Web site to explore, both from a content perspective, but also for the idea of doing things at scale. There is good and bad with that approach. The good is the vast amount of archived and preserved content. The difficult part of scale is context, so I recommend flipping through a section or two and thinking about what a curated approach to some of that content would look like. That is the other end of scale. One app I love in my personal life is Discogs, which you can use to catalog your physical music media, particularly vinyl records for me. I like it for information professionals because so much of the metadata are “crowd-sourced” and yet the app is an extremely rich resource.

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 must have found the right position. I serve as Dean of Libraries at Michigan State University, and one of the things for which we are known is the largest publicly-held collection of comic books and comic art. I like comic books and graphic novels as a genre and for a very long time seemed to have to defend that. I do not actively read many comics any longer, but it is nice to see them studied and taken more seriously. I am not sure I actively dislike a book enough that I have to defend that position very often.


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.

Jo Schofield, MLIS – Alumni Spotlight

Jo Schofield

iSchool Graduation Date

2012

Professional Organizations/Affiliations

ALA, ALSC, RUSA, CORE

Current responsibilities/How are you using your information skills?

Branch Manager at DeHoff Memorial Branch of Stark County District Library (Ohio). I am also a doctoral student at the University of Dayton.

What is the best professional advice you can give?

Get involved, meet your peers, and stay current on emerging research and best practices. Listen to others and be part of professional conversations. Your voice is powerful—use it!

How do you encourage innovative ideas?

I try to support myself, my peers, and my staff by trying (almost) anything once! The best thing a supervisor ever did for me was give me the space and support to safely fail. I have always been uncomfortable with the idea that “We’ve tried that before and it didn’t work.” Time changes our reality and circumstances are never the same! I encourage innovative ideas by asking my team to provide their rationale for trying a new program and service and then provide them the encouragement and support to try it! I also encourage them to trust their instincts and give their ideas the chance to flourish and shine!

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

I have had numerous mentors throughout my career, and I try to connect with people that encourage me to be my best self and the best librarian / manager / leader I can. I have one mentor in particular that not only encourages me to stretch myself professionally, stay current on research and best practices, and articulate, plan for, and meet my goals. Best yet, he respectfully discusses obstacles I have, how to navigate my professional growth, and helps me to see differing perspectives. It’s reassuring to have someone that will cheerlead and support me and my journey!

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

I wish I would have felt more confidence in my voice and my skillset earlier in my career. It is still a struggle at times to feel confident that my instinct and perspective are equally worthy and on-par with my peers. It has taken me years to better understand my perspective and outlook and how these values influence my work. I wish I had been able to better articulate my arguments and opinions earlier in my career so I could feel less like an imposter and feel more confident in my professional identity. 

How and where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration in the people around me and the materials I interact with. My team at the library and the community I serve inspire me every day! They hold me accountable, encourage me, and help me be my best self. My kids (Jackson: 10, Parker: 9, and Amelia Jane: 7) remind me of the value of the work I do and inspire me to create a more just, inclusive, and equitable society for them to find success. Those who know me know that I try to avoid “digging in my heels” and constantly grow, change, and incorporate new information and knowledge into my thoughts and actions. The books I read, podcasts I listen to, and media I consume provides new opportunities to grow my thinking, and I am inspired by all of the creators in the world.

To what values are you committed?

All individuals are an amalgamation of their values, so listing just a few is challenging. Values that I am trying to focus on this year are equity, inclusion, and access. I fundamentally believe we are a better society when we encourage and include multiple voices and perspectives. It is our responsibility as community leaders and professionals to encourage and support equity in our society. Not every individual needs the same assistance in order to be successful. It is our responsibility to help others achieve success by supporting them in the ways they need. Hamington (2017) in the book Compassionate Migration and Regional Policy in the Americas argues in favor of “authentic responsiveness.” I try to live that call to action. I try to provide access to information, services, and resources so I can be responsive to my community’s needs and reduce barriers to success.

How do you balance your work and home life?

Not as well as I’d like! I often view my career as a librarian not as a job but as a calling. For me, this means that everything I read, everything I do, and everyone I talk to affect my professional role. As a kind peer once helped me realize, “Jo- being a librarian is not a job for you. It’s your identity.” While it is a wonderful way to be, it does mean that work/life balance is hard to maintain. I do make lists and set aside time for specific tasks, but I often find that my home and work responsibilities can blend over into each other.

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

Librarians today and in the future will face the challenge of incorporating social justice ideas into the work we do. Our professional mores and ethics prioritize ideas of access, privacy, and intellectual freedom. By extension, ideas around equity, inclusion, representation, and diversity are critical to our profession. As we continue to serve as safe spaces in our community and challenge systemic racism and problems concerning the lack of representation, we will need to continue thinking critically about our actions, programs, services, and collections and how these facets speak to our values.

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

The Project Ready Project at the University of North Carolina is a must. The Association for Library Service to Children (and their blog) is a great resource for programming and research related to children’s librarianship and working with families. I also highly recommend the Harvard Business Review. It offers great research round-ups and practical advice for leaders.

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?

Let me begin by stating that I hate the reality that anyone feels they need to defend their preferences / thoughts about books. We are all unique and shaped by our conditions. For this reason, different books resonate with different people and that is not only “okay” but it is natural. #ventOver

I adore the Twilight book series by Stephanie Meyer. Not because it is a fantastic work of literature that should be taught in every academic English class, I adore the book series because I see myself and my inner monologue reflected in the pages. I have felt angsty. I have yearned for something magical in my life. I have loved those who weren’t necessarily good for me. I have felt in my life that I didn’t quite fit or there is a dissonance in my existence. Never before had I seen these thoughts and feelings articulated, and I read the series at a time in my life I needed to see these thoughts reflected. That is the power of literature and that is why I will always love this series.

Thinking about a book I dislike is a little more challenging. There are titles that I find overrated, but there truly isn’t anything that I can’t find value in or an audience for it. I’m a believer in “there is a reader for every book and a book for every reader”.  


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.

Brock Hutchison, MLIS – Alumni Spotlight

iSchool Graduation Date

2013

Professional Organizations/Affiliations

Ohio Library Council, Louisville Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Trustees, Louisville Rotary, Louisville-Nimishillen Township Historical Society Board of Trustees, Louisville 20/20 Vision

Current responsibilities/How are you using your information skills?

I am the Library Director for the Louisville Public Library. If you are interested in becoming a Library Director, I would highly recommend taking a class in Public Library Management. I remember being given a budget in my management class and told to make cuts and fix the budget. That experience was incredibly applicable during our recent economic downturn due to COVID-19.

What is the best professional advice you can give?

Build a network and make relationships. It’s important for librarians to network with other librarians and even more important to build relationships with other professionals in your community. Don’t be afraid to get out of the library!

How do you encourage innovative ideas?

Don’t hesitate to try new ideas, even if they are not your own ideas. It’s okay to fail.

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

I have been blessed with two great mentors – Babette Wofter and Eric Taggart. I learned so much from Babette, that I always tell people anything you see me doing, it’s because I saw Babette doing it first. As a new Director, Eric took me under his wing and is always a helping hand and good friend.

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

So, I have basically only worked in libraries. I started working in libraries as an undergraduate and I’ve never left. I would recommend trying to work every desk and every station at each library where you work. You will never regret the extra experience.

How and where do you find inspiration?

I’m a through and through extrovert. I find inspiration in my family, friends, employees and colleagues. I love sitting in a meeting and figuring things out as a group. And, yes, COVID has made this much harder.

To what values are you committed?

Fairness, integrity and trust.

How do you balance your work and home life?

I’d love to be able to tell you that when I’m home I’m just dad, husband, friend, etc. and when I’m at work I’m a librarian, co-worker, etc., but that would be a lie. True to my millenialism, it’s all one big flexible jumble and I’m okay with it. It’s okay to leave early with a sick kid, but it’s also okay to take a work call on an evening boat ride.

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

As always right now, COVID seems top of mind. In the immediate future, we will have to constantly balance community need and want with safety. Tomorrow’s information professionals will have to adjust to a post-pandemic world. I think there will be an incredible need for everyone to be together again. How does the library fill that need and fill the need safely?

How can the library remain important to the community?

Serve on committees, attend events, and talk about the library with everyone you meet. People often think that the library is outdated, so it’s up to us to get out there and tell them all of the awesome things happening at the library! No amount of social media marketing can do this.

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

Well, if you live in or around Stark County, Ohio, I would tell you to tune into the “What’s Up Stark” podcast. Admittedly, it’s self-promotion, but this a podcast collaboration with two library employees (I’m one of them) where we interview and get to know the movers and shakers in our community and discuss exciting things that are happening.

Otherwise, I would recommend anything local – podcasts, newspapers, radio stations, etc. It’s really important that the library knows what is going on in the community, because we talk to so many community members each day!

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’m a Star Wars junkie, so I’ve read through almost all of the new canon. I’m super excited for the High Republic novels and I’m usually defending this interest.

So, I typically don’t keep reading, if I don’t like the book, but I read the Southern Reach Trilogy. I really liked Book 1 – “Annihilation,” but I really did not enjoy books 2 and 3.


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.

Tricia Bohanon, MLIS – Alumni Spotlight

iSchool Graduation Date

1999

Professional Organizations/Affiliations

Former ALA/PLA/OLC 

Current responsibilities/How are you using your information skills?

My current responsibilities are twofold.  I started a library consulting business this year to leverage my experience, especially in the area of sensory/inclusive programming training, which is my passion in library service.  I’m also working in publishing as an Author Manager.  This is a fascinating switch of perspective to the other side of the books.  In this role, I support the authors I work with throughout their self-publishing process.        

What is the best professional advice you can give?

Let the path unfold before you by being open to opportunities.  A great example of this would be how I became involved in sensory programming in 2008 — totally by accident when I had a conversation with a parent about the absence of programming options for their child with autism.  That one conversation initiated years of research, programming, and training that evolves to this day and has benefited many families beyond Charlotte, NC where it originated.   

How do you encourage innovative ideas?

Innovation comes from a place of safety to expand through trial and error.  Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library was incredibly supportive because serving the customer is at the forefront of their focus, allowing for innovation in Sensory Storytime Programming at a time when it wasn’t yet a library program option.

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

While I’ve not had one mentor throughout my career, I’ve had some amazing managers to learn from over the years.  I recall one manager I worked with who could step out of the library doors and leave work behind with such ease that you could physically see her body language shifting to “home mode” as she walked across the parking lot to her car!  Her ability to do this was something I admired.  

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

I wish I became a library consultant sooner to share my passion for inclusive library services more broadly.  

How and where do you find inspiration?

I find my inspiration in nature and music.  For me the best way to recharge is a hike with Mahler on my headphones.  That’s when I get my best ideas. 

To what values are you committed?

I’m committed to community, service and honesty. 

How do you balance your work and home life?

I’m not the best at balancing work/home life, which is why I admired my former manager’s ability to do this!  I aspire to do this!  Yet I tend to throw myself into my work and working from home blurs the lines even blurrier!  When I do set boundaries, I make time to practice yoga, meditate, journal, hike, and spend time with my kids.

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

Obviously, the pandemic is changing library service as never before, limiting our ability to program and interact with our customers and communities.  I think this will also be tomorrow’s challenge–to keep evolving to the environment around us to stay vibrant and valued.  

How can the library remain important to the community?

The library is wise to adjust in response to our current state of the world – and we are doing this!  It is apparent from the services that are happening during this time — virtual programming, personal shopping, curbside delivery. It’s exciting to see the innovation, even if the impetus isn’t ideal. 

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

As much as I love music and have it on pretty much nonstop, sometimes I need a break and lean on podcasts.  Lately I’ve been catching up on Sticky Notes: The Classical Music Podcast and Curiosity Junkie.  

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?

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli has been and will forever be my favorite teen book.  It’s not that I feel like I have to defend liking it, but it’s an older teen book so it tends to be overlooked.  I honestly can’t think of a book that I have defended disliking.  I’m not one to argue about books. 😉


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.

Stephen Hamilton Cox, Jr., MLIS – Alumni Spotlight

iSchool Graduation Date

2011

Professional Organizations/Affiliations

American Library Association, Association of Zoos & Aquariums  

Current responsibilities/How are you using your information skills?

I serve as branch librarian for the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park & Conservation Biology Institute, where my primary focus is scholarly research. The mission of the National Zoo is saving species, and to that end, I assist its veterinarians, curators (head keepers), animal keepers, and fellows in their important work.  Species conservation is a global effort, so I serve many of the zoo’s curators in their work for the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. To do this, I provide bibliographic curation for half a dozen Species Survival Plans, including literature searches, database hosting and maintenance, citation verification, and bibliographic reports.     

I also serve as the Mineral Sciences librarian at the National Museum of Natural History and provide reference services for the Natural History library.  Because I sit on committees across the Smithsonian, teach research methodology, and am embedded with the 1,000 patrons I serve, my responsibilities closely resemble those of university library faculty.

Since May, I have sat on institution wide COVID-19 committees.  Seeing the explosion of COVID-19 scholarly literature while performing tailored searches, I decided to create a comprehensive coronavirus/respiratory illness citation database for Smithsonian Institution medical personnel, veterinarians, and epidemiologists.  The database currently houses 120,000 citations.           

What is the best professional advice you can give?

Just as librarianship is often a second or third career, so too can it take working in several subject disciplines to find fulfillment in one’s chosen field.  I attended graduate school with a focus in digital preservation, but have worked in biomedical research, university librarianship, federal contract librarianship, and public librarianship before my current role.  Being able to define professional success and hold to that ideal can be scary, especially when your field’s cursus honorum is well-defined.  Most outsiders would not think of librarianship as having inherent risk, but finding contentment in one’s work means being willing to explore different paths.  

How do you encourage innovative ideas?

I spent a lot of Saturday mornings at my dad’s office, watching him tackle international accounting in Lotus 1-2-3.  Dad was an early adopter and advocate for new technologies (e.g., he’s the reason his company invested in sub-Atlantic telecommunication wiring in the late 1980s/early 90s).  I learned that efficiency in purpose and product is key to building strong relationships, and therefore, a lasting, professional reputation.  To that end, I am constantly seeking the most efficient way of serving my patrons, which means long hours testing new software, trying new search methodologies, or reading about peers’ discoveries.   

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

I am extremely fortunate to have four mentors, across academic, corporate, and federal librarianship.  Marrying the practical with interpersonal aspects of our field is the lesson I continue to learn.  By serving not only our patrons, but each other and the broader profession, we improve all three.  My first mentor taught me to ask the question behind the question, in pursuit of thoroughly understanding a patron’s query and motivation for their request. Practically, learning to create effective and efficient search strings, tailoring deliverables to clients, engaging students, and teaching young researchers how to best use the tools at their disposal, emboldened me to eschew the trivialities that hinder service. 

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

This is too easy: I wish I had pursued my library degree earlier.  Whether you believe you are born with specific purpose/fate, or with the combination of traits needed to succeed at a given profession, I have never felt more fitted to a role than that of librarian.  Looking back, there was no other way to achieve my current position, so I do not regret my path.  To be a librarian now, when citation indices, open access publishing, and mass digitization are making access wider and (potentially) more equitable, makes me appreciate my own place in the profession, especially after hearing “stone age” stories from more experienced colleagues.      

How and where do you find inspiration?

My colleagues in the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives.  Their dedication to service and professional development means I am never far from learning something new.  Best of all, they love to share their expertise in intimate seminars or consultations.  I joked before coming to the Smithsonian Institution that it was the big leagues for librarians, but being here, it’s clear this is a daily all-star game.       

To what values are you committed?

Universal access permeates every professional action I take.  The stewardship of knowledge, curation of data, and presentation of information is a trust that must be honored.  Government service has always been my goal, and to do so while working in a non-partisan environment means I can serve the public and my patrons faithfully. 

How do you balance your work and home life?

 I use the commute home on the Metro to unwind the spring in my mind, usually by rating music (in iTunes) or reading.  I’m very color-oriented and use my Outlook calendar to make sure I underpromise on delivery dates and overdeliver on quality and deadlines.  I also make extensive use of Tasks and alarms.  For an overthinker, this was a hard discipline to achieve, but it has made compartmentalizing work much easier.  I have found I’m more productive working from home, while still using Outlook and Tasks to make sure I put work away at 5 pm each night.  Lastly, my home office is in a loft, meaning I can keep an eye and ear on my daughter (i.e., peace of mind), as well as listen to my wife teach virtually, while working.      

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

The exorbitant cost of scholarly publishing means librarians are often more like Tantalus than Prometheus, forever reaching for timely papers or books but unable to afford them.  We strain our consortiums through interlibrary loan requests, even as digital resources could alleviate backlogs of demand if licenses weren’t so often limited to one or three consecutive users.  The open access movement is integral to providing even adequate access.  I’m not so naïve as to think costs for for-profit publishing services are insignificant, but it will take buy-in from authors, non-profits, and governments to counter the conventional wisdom of the scholarly publishing model.  The Berlin declaration of open access, and the subsequent Belgian declaration, are models for publicly financed research to be made accessible without publishers merely selling other people’s writing (i.e., labor).  

How can the library remain important to the community?

The purpose of our profession is to illuminate information, in all its facets and, and as we see with our peers’ pursuit of improvement, emerging services and products will make the library indispensable.  Passionate and sustained advocacy will make sure the public sees the library as such.  Continued support for the IMLS and regional library associations are necessary to make sure that we continually develop our knowledge and skills.   

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

 I can’t recommend Zotero enough.  Coming from Endnote, Zotero contains all the features I desire, especially the ability to create tags and automatically retrieve PDFs of articles (based on DOIs or URLs).  Integration with web browsers and word processors makes it easy to quickly retrieve article metadata and embed citations in documents, all while retaining the ability to change citation styles on the fly.    

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?

While I know the series is immensely popular, I still find myself defending Robert Jordan’s (and Brandon Sanderson’s) Wheel of Time series.  The most common complaint is the length of the books and  series itself, yet that’s one of the most attractive features.  Four million words?  Sign me up!

I loathe A Separate Peace, both the novel and the 1972 movie adaptation.  It lacks any sense of authenticity and, though attempting to present powerful and transformative themes, still manages to utterly lack in sincerity.  This book, along with The Scarlet Letter, is why I chose to focus on modern British fiction during my undergraduate degree.           


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.