Circle of Friends: Karen A. Williams

The ACRL Circle of Friends acknowledges the sustained generosity of those who have been Friends of ACRL for five or more years. The Friends of ACRL was created to provide a means for the association to take bold steps above and beyond its traditional member programs and services. Rapidly changing demographic, economic, and technological trends are presenting academic libraries and librarians with new challenges and competition that demand immediate solutions. The Friends of ACRL have responded to these new challenges and provided additional support that will enhance and ensure the relevance of our profession. To join or learn more about the Friends of ACRL, please visit the ACRL website.

Karen WilliamsKaren A. Williams is dean of University Libraries at the University of Arizona in Tucson. She is the ACRL Vice-President/President-Elect and has been a Friend of ACRL since 2005.

1. Describe yourself in three words:  Passionate, forward-looking, integrity.

2. Why do you support the ACRL 75th Anniversary scholarship campaign? The ACRL Conference is a stimulating, innovative, member-responsive event that we are fortunate to have every other year. It provides an excellent way for librarians and library staff to share ideas, learn from each other, co-create, sample cutting edge products, work with vendors, find a professional home, and have a blast. This is an especially rich environment for early career librarians and I’m gratified to have this opportunity to support their attendance through scholarships. Those of us who have been in the profession for awhile are re-energized through sharing experiences and gaining new points of view from our newer colleagues.

3. What might someone be surprised to know about you?  I don’t collect books — with a few exceptions. That’s what libraries are for. I read my books and give them away in order to share the joy.  I do collect Mata Ortiz pottery, which has an interesting story, and single malt scotches (although those are for sharing as well).

4. Since you’ve become a member of ACRL, tell us about someone who influenced you in some way? Cerise Oberman parlayed her passion for the value of equipping students with research and information fluency skills into the creation of the Institute for Information Literacy, which has enriched the work of thousands of librarians through its programs and publications. Ray English was like a force of nature in the establishment of the original Scholarly Communication Committee, a very prolific group whose work remains impactful to this day. There are many others like Cerise and Ray who had vision, initiative, grit, and the power of persuasion to rally colleagues and make a difference in our professional lives, and the work we have been able to do on our campuses and with each other.

5. What do you hope ACRL will achieve in the next 75 years? I hope that ACRL will remain vibrant, nimble, and gutsy. If we can do this, we’ll continue to stay on top of the changing forces and remain integral to higher education. We’ll continue to hold the interests and contributions of experienced senior librarians and staff; and we’ll still be a compelling association for new librarians and other library professionals. I expect that what we do as professionals will continue to change radically over the next 75 years, but if we’re intentional about advancing the goals of higher education, ACRL will remain the go-to place for academic librarians and staff.

6. In your opinion, what is the most important work that ACRL does? ACRL provides education, advocacy, leadership, and scholarship — all while keeping a finger on the pulse of member needs.  ACRL is both a visionary and responsive organization.