2020 ULS Candidate for Member-At-Large: Mea Warren
Tell us more about yourself and how you became an academic librarian.
I am the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Librarian at the University of Houston, and have been here since I graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with my MSLS in 2015. I’m one of those science librarians who have definitely learned a lot on the job! My undergraduate background was in history and African-American studies. In library school I worked as an intern at the Environmental Protection Agency and that experience (along with a general curiosity about science I would not be in a lab doing myself!) helped me into my current position.
My journey to librarianship was more or less a straightforward one. I took a career aptitude test in high school and librarian was the second or third career listed! I volunteered at a public library before graduating from high school, but it didn’t energize me the way I thought it would. When I started college, I worked in interlibrary loan at my university library, and happened to meet my subject/liaison librarian on a bus on campus. Once she found out I was interested in librarianship, she took me on as a mentee and the rest is history!
How long have you been involved in ULS and what attracted you to the section?
I’ve been a member of ULS since I started my professional career in 2015, and became more involved about a year after joining. I joined the membership committee, where I contacted new members, promoted mentoring on the fly, and represented ULS in the ACRL Engagement Fair at the 2017 conference. I was attracted by the idea that ULS is a section for everyone working at a university library, and wanted to learn more about what different universities were doing. Once I joined, I noticed that a number of high level administrators and deans would post on the listserv discussing their current issues and asking for ideas and solutions. Being able to see how people were making decisions at that level as a new librarian was eye opening and made me feel like one day I could also be a leader.
In your opinion, what are some of the most interesting topics or trends we’re seeing in university libraries?
One of the best trends we’re seeing in libraries is an increased focus on diversity and inclusion both in working with our patrons as well as in the profession. The more we can have our profession look like the communities we serve and have librarians from a range of backgrounds, the more new ideas and innovations we can create in order to better serve our patrons. This extends not only to having more diverse librarians in libraries, but also in our professional organizations and in leadership, and retaining those people beyond their first few years in the profession.
Another interesting trend is the changing space of university libraries. What was once buildings full of books now have coffee shops, meditation rooms, and walking and cycling desks. We encourage collaboration and ensure that students have access to all the technology they need to complete assignments in a truly digital and media focused world. We are changing our spaces to better reflect how our students can use the space as another home, a third space for them not only to pursue academics but overall well-being and knowledge.
What goals for the section would you have if elected to this position? How do you envision committees and members helping the section achieve those goals?
I aim to better understand how to promote ULS to new librarians and librarians of color. When I mention ULS, many people don’t know why they would join, even when working in a university library. I think we should focus on how to promote what the section has for its members and the leadership opportunities for those who want to be more involved.
Where do you see ULS going in the future? How does it need to change and evolve to stay relevant to academic librarians?
I see ULS still being a place where university librarians can come together, network, receive mentoring, and participate in ACRL as a leader. We need to listen to our members as well as new librarians to stay relevant with content and activities that they would like to participate in and ensure that we are hearing from a diverse group of people. We also should ask those who want to be leaders in university libraries the kind of training they would like to have or skills to develop in order to grow, and have current deans and administrators share their path and insights.
Tell us something interesting about yourself that not very many people know.
I spent a summer during college in Cape Town, South Africa, as a magazine intern for a HIV/AIDS awareness nonprofit! It was one of the most impactful experiences of my undergraduate career.