Catherine Hakala-Ausperk

iSchool Graduation Date


Professional Organizations/Affiliations


Current responsibilities/How are you using your information skills?

After 32 years working in Ohio’s public libraries as everything from a Circulation Clerk to Regional Executive Director, I’m currently the owner of my own firm, Libraries Thrive Consulting ( I also teach for several institutions, from Kent’s iSchool to ALA, PLA, and InfoPeople. Additionally, I teach several of the courses offered through ALA’s Certified Public Library Administrator program. I am also a CPLA. I travel the country presenting, keynoting and facilitating all kinds of training, most often centered around my seven leadership books. These include Be a Great Boss: One Year to Success (ALA, 2011); Build a Great Team: One Year to Success (ALA, 2013); Renew Yourself: A Six-Step Plan for More Meaningful Work (ALA, 2017); and a unique series of “Leadership Planners,” including Future-Proof Your Team; Win ‘Em Over; Dynamic Discipline, and Hot Ticket Meetings. I’m also the editor of the “By the Book” column in Public Libraries Magazine.

What is the best professional advice you can give?

Lead. Today’s (and tomorrow’s) libraries need sharp, creative, and innovative leadership more than money. More than anything. Develop ALL your leadership skills and then, from any position, put them to use to move libraries forward.

How do you encourage innovative ideas?

The best way to encourage innovation is to never show fear. Try anything and everything! Let your team know their ideas are more than just welcome – they’re worth doing. Admit when something doesn’t work, fix it, and try again.

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

I was blessed with many mentors, some modeling good practices and some just the opposite. Both were invaluable in my career. I was most influenced by those who weren’t afraid to show – every day – how passionate they were about libraries and library services. Their energy was motivational and instructive. Their libraries were cutting edge!

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

I wish I’d started teaching, writing, and speaking earlier and I still wish I could do it more often. It took me way too long to realize not everyone was as lucky as I was to have such great role models and teachers. So many librarians struggle with little or no training. So many of us could be helping them. 

How and where do you find inspiration?

I’m most inspired by libraries that are truly serving their communities. I love reading about the library that opened a branch in a nearby laundromat. I love seeing library staff out in the community, joining groups and listening for real needs. I love learning of libraries that, in a weather emergency, stay open to provide warmth and shelter. I am inspired by leaders who realize that libraries must be open and willing to offer whatever services can surprise and amaze their communities the most!

To what values are you committed?

Respect, professionalism, honesty, and fairness.

How do you balance your work and home life?

I had a boss once who left the library everyday exactly when his shift was over. By showing us how important his family was to him, he assured us we could do the same.  

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

I know I sound like a broken record but…leadership, leadership, leadership. I truly believe that we now need innovative, creative, and courageous leaders more than ever in libraries. If we don’t have people to bring us into this new century effectively, our competition for time and money will win and we’ll be lost. I’m sorry to say the worst and most damaging response to meeting this challenge is happening all too often – libraries are cutting training budgets just when they need them the most! If your library won’t spend time or money to help you build leadership skills – build them yourself, on your own time and with your own money!

How can the library remain important to the community?

Get into it. Get out from behind the desk or in the office and learn what really matters to your residents. Then, have leadership in place that can get past “we’ve always done it that way” and “that’s not our role” to a new era of service and relevance. In the 1800s, nobody needed a passport but, today….

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

I read everything I can find about public libraries, mostly through news feeds that now know me well.

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?

Since the ‘70s, I’ve defended Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying. To me, contrary to its reputation as smut, it is an inspirational statement of women’s strength and independence. I haven’t met a book yet that I dislike. Opinions, maybe. But a book? Nope.

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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