2023 ULS Candidate for Member-at-Large: Tisha M. Zelner
Tell us more about yourself and how you became an academic librarian.
I have worked in academic libraries almost continuously since first becoming a library student assistant in January 1989. I earned my MSLS in October 2000 from the Catholic University of America and have been an academic librarian since January 2006. In my current position as Head of Public Services at the University of Southern Mississippi, I lead and manage access services and research services across three libraries serving a dual-campus, mid-sized R1 university. Over the years, I’ve held professional and paraprofessional positions in information/reference/research services, interlibrary loan, acquisitions, cataloging, serials, and systems, as well as my humble beginnings as a circulation student assistant. I consider this breadth of experience to be one of my strengths when facing new challenges in the library environment.
How long have you been involved in ULS and what attracted you to the section?
At the time of my last renewal, I had 26 continuous years of membership in the American Library Association. I’ve been a member of the ACRL University Libraries Section since 2006. The ULS was a natural fit for me, given my employment at a university; I was eager to learn more about the practice of librarianship in the university environment.
In your opinion, what are some of the most interesting topics or trends we’re seeing in university libraries?
University libraries and higher education have a symbiotic relationship; libraries must adapt and evolve to remain a relevant and valued component of the university experience. As technology, world events (e.g., COVID-19 pandemic), and generational trends change the expectations and experiences of higher education, university libraries must respond to these changes. As information resources have become increasingly digital, libraries have a newfound freedom to repurpose library spaces in support of functions other than collection storage and traditional quiet study. As universities focus on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, libraries have an opportunity to not only follow the trend but become leaders in creating a more accessible environment for the entire university community. Use of generative artificial intelligence, such as ChatGPT, has been recently receiving widespread media attention; librarians are well-positioned to help faculty and students learn to use such emerging technologies effectively and ethically. As always, it is an interesting time to work in university libraries.
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’m running for the position of member-at-large, a position for which the expectations vary from year to year and may include special projects or appointment to ad hoc committees. My strongest motivator is to feel useful and productive, which is one reason the member-at-large position appeals to me. I value hard work and I’m confident that whatever I am asked to do as member-at-large will be something where my efforts will make a difference.
Where do you see ULS going in the future? How does it need to change and evolve to stay relevant to academic librarians?
My earlier response about trends in university libraries hints at the future of the ULS; it needs to be attentive to trends in higher education, as well as trends in libraries, in order to provide members with relevant and timely educational programming and other support. The ULS, like ACRL and ALA more broadly, needs to take steps to attract new members and retain existing members by creating an environment that welcomes librarians with a diversity of identities, backgrounds, and experiences.
Tell us something interesting about yourself that not very many people know.
I’ll share a bit of personal information that also involves libraries. I met my now-husband while we were both working as undergraduate student assistants in our university library.