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.
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.