MLS ’96, Library and Information Studies
1) What is your current position and place of employment?
I’m the library director and the university librarian at the David A. Cofrin Library at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (UW-GB).
2) What path led you to attaining your current position?
I have had an unorthodox path to becoming the director. After spending five years as a reference and instruction librarian at UW-GB, I transitioned over to the instructional technology side of the university and served as the university webmaster for seven years. During that time, I was able to gain supervisory skills and had various leadership opportunities at the university and across the state. I was fortunate to have a mentor/supervisor who helped ensure that I had opportunities to further my leadership skills. I attended the EDUCAUSE Leadership program and the Leadership Green Bay program offered through the Chamber of Commerce. By the time the position of director opened, I had built a strong resume of leadership, collaboration and management, which made me the successful candidate.
3) How did your education in GSE prepare you for this position?
What I really appreciate about my education from UB is that it provided me with a solid foundation across many aspects of libraries. It allowed me to adapt as I was starting out, and now as a library director, I have an understanding of and appreciation for every aspect of a library. I have been known to state that as director, “I don’t need to be able to catalog, because I have an expert who does that, but I do need to understand that person’s role, the issues he or she faces, and how my decisions as director might impact him or her.” My education helped me develop that perspective.
4) What did you learn in your degree program that was the most beneficial?
It is the same as how my education in GSE prepared me for my current position, that is, to appreciate all aspects of a library. There is no need for catalogers, if there is no one developing the collection, and no need to develop the collection if there is no one to help people with research. Learning how to work collaboratively also has been beneficial. Collaboration was emphasized in graduate school, and these opportunities taught me the challenges of group work and allowed me to learn how work collaboratively, which I now use regularly in my work today.
5) What was your favorite part or your most memorable experience during your degree program?
That is a difficult question to answer because there are a number of memorable experiences, but I think the key element was the faculty and staff. I had a tremendous opportunity to learn from some of the best faculty. Dr. Lorna Peterson’s bibliographic instruction class sparked an interest and a passion that are still alive today, even though I am rarely in front of a class. In Dr. John Ellison’s online class and working for Jill Ortner in the School of Information and Library Studies lab provided me a strong set of technical skills that gave me an advantage over other candidates. Dr. Judith Robinson’s government document course gave me an appreciation for the value of those materials as part of a library collection. And finally, the friendships I developed during that time still last to this day and are what I most treasure.
6) How have you impacted your local community through your work?
As an academic librarian, I consider my community to be the university community. The work that my team and I have accomplished has resulted in providing a better learning environment for our students, and access to more resources for faculty research. Together, we have transformed the Cofrin Library into a place of choice, where students and faculty can come together to not only access information, but for the exchange of ideas.
7) What accomplishments (e.g., awards, publications) have you achieved that demonstrate the work you do?
The Cofrin Library has been fortunate to receive a number of awards over the last several years. I have been awarded the University Founders’ Award for Excellence in Academic Support. Three other staff have also been selected for a Founders’ Award for Excellence. The university archivist was awarded the Governor’s Award for Achievement in Archives. However, the awards of which I am proudest are the ones we won as a team. In 2012, the Cofrin Library was selected as the Wisconsin Library of the Year by the Wisconsin Library Association. In April 2016, we were awarded the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents Academic Staff Program Award for Excellence. These two awards recognized our accomplishments as a team, for making a difference in the lives of the UW-GB students and faculty, for our collaborations with the Green Bay Community, for our improvements to physical spaces, and for additional funding received through grants and donations.
8) What advice would you give to current students looking to enter your field?
I would recommend that first they find something within libraries for which they have a passion. Having a passion will help you build a career and keep it from feeling like a job. Second, look at job postings as soon as you start the program; don’t wait until you are near graduation. See what jobs interest you and what employers are looking for and then seek out those skills as you go through the program. Third, embrace change! The core mission of librarians doesn’t change, but how we go about accomplishing it has changed a lot since I first started, and I suspect it will change a lot again before I retire. If you can embrace change and allow it to spark your passion each time, you will have a rewarding and successful career.