Congratulations are starting to roll in, so I ought to get this written, ASAP, I guess!
I’m extremely proud to have been named one of Library Journal’s 2009 Movers and Shakers (though, as I said recently to some friends, I think being an LSW Shover and Maker might be more fun). I like this particular honor because someone has to nominate you, and knowing that my peers admire and value my work means more to me than having my name up in lights. (Though, really, that’s pretty damn cool, too.)
I worked as a marketing writer when I was in college, and so I have a very clear understanding of the quirkiness of interviewing people for professional writing. Interviews are like mist, hard to grab onto, once they’ve moved from your mouth to the writer’s fingers to the editor’s lens. So in the interests of clarity, I thought I’d take this forum to expand on what I said to Sarah Bayliss, the writer, who was then edited for space constraints by LJ. That process produced a few printed nonsequitors that made me giggle, so here are the fuller responses for anyone who’s interested.
What do you bring to your present work from your previous work experiences? From your background in English literature?
My background in literature — particularly as taught at a rigorous undergraduate institution, and as taught by my professors, who challenged the notion of canonicity — made it easier for me to think critically about our collections and our collecting policies. What’s *necessary* for a collection in literature to support our English majors? What’s just *nice* to have? What are the emerging pedagogical trends in the subject? How will those impact our collection needs? And once you learn to think that way for one field, you can apply those lessons, thought patterns, and analyses to other subjects. Which is what a good collections librarian in an academic library dedicated to serving the curricular needs of its students must do. It’s harder to apply those ideas to a field not your own, but librarians are consummate generalists. We’re teachable. 🙂
Tell me about the evolution of your ideas about coordinated collection development, which seems to be one of your main issues. How, specifically, is this venture working?
It’s working slowly, as might be expected. SUNY is a huge higher education system, but it’s an amazing one, with huge potential in our libraries. The size of the system and uniqueness of the various institutions involved in the project mean that we can’t act with laser focus or with lightning quickness, but we’ve been able to leverage our similarities as four-year institutions into something that we can build on over time. In the first five years I was with SUNY, my director and I talked wistfully about how much we’d love to see someone jump-start SUNY’s efforts toward cooperative collection development… and then last year, with her support and the backing of the SUNY Council of LIbrary Directors, we made it happen. A dozen committed directors dragged their collections librarians to a meeting, and in a conference room we sat down, stared at each other, and talked through our initial concerns, our big ideas, our hopes, and our reservations. I think we all expected the other librarians to say “It will never work”, and instead we all shared our excitement and realized that we could, we thought, DO THIS. And we made a small plan with goals we thought we could achieve — reduce duplication in new orders — and a specific request for resources from our directors — a group subscription to WorldCat Collection Analysis — and we just moved forward. We just *did it*, without a lot of dithering or meeting or worry. We put together a wiki, a listserv, and three meetings each year, and we’re just doing the work. Making it happen, as we’re each able at our home institution, but sharing the same goal. Some libraries have lagged, some have surged ahead, and others have joined in. And we’re making progress, and we’re all proud of what we’ve done. And of what we’re going to do.