2023 ULS Candidate for Vice-Chair-Elect: Carissa Tomlinson
Tell us more about yourself and how you became an academic librarian.
I am currently a department director at the University of Minnesota Libraries. Our department, Student Experience, Learning, & Accessibility, focuses on student engagement, information literacy, and the user experience with a focus on undergraduates. When I started at the University of Minnesota Libraries four years ago, I was the Director of the Physical Sciences and Engineering Department. Prior to that I worked in a number of public service roles in the library at Towson University in Maryland including health sciences liaison, first year experience librarian and Assistant University librarian for Access and Outreach Services. I started my career in 2007 in a residency program at Vanderbilt’s Biomedical library.
As a first generation college student, I often felt out of place and overwhelmed by the college experience, but I felt comfortable in the library because of my love for exploring and learning. When I decided to go to library school, I quickly realized that not only could I help support student research and academic needs, but I also could support the student experience. Throughout my career, students have been at the center of my work. I feel strongly that libraries can support community and belonging on campus and contribute to overall student success. I feel honored to lead work in this area in my current role.
How long have you been involved in ULS and what attracted you to the section?
I have been a member of ULS since I joined ACRL in 2008. ULS has felt like a natural home for me because of its broad scope. While all of my professional experiences have been in universities, I have worn a number of hats from access services to reference to teaching to management. ULS has so many different committees and discussion groups that I have always felt it applies to the variety of work I am involved in. As my role has changed and as the issues in libraries and society have changed, I have found ULS professional development opportunities to be beneficial to growing my skills and network.
In your opinion, what are some of the most interesting topics or trends we’re seeing in university libraries?
I think we are at a pivotal moment in academic libraries in many ways. Three years after the start of the pandemic, and nearly three years after George Floyd’s murder, our communities are forever changed, including our university and library communities. In terms of student impacts, we know mental health is a major issue on campus and I believe there are real opportunities for libraries to support student mental health and wellness through programming, resources, and an intentional effort around student belonging and mattering in the library. How can we make sure our spaces, programs, staffing, and resources are inclusive and welcoming? And how can we partner with both campus offices and student groups to build a supportive, student center community? This work, particularly at predominantly white institutions, is critical to moving forward.
At a higher level, we know the political division in our country and the related pressures on our institutions magnifies the role of the library in academic and intellectual freedom. At a time when library collections are called into question and university curriculum is changed by politicians, it is critical that libraries are active in this fight. Libraries cannot be neutral, we must work together along with our universities to protect these rights.
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?
In addition to the excellent professional development and networking opportunities ULS offers, I would like to explore creating new opportunities for new librarians of color through mentorship, communities of practice, or other community building tools. Operationally, I would like to work with each of the committee and discussion groups to do a needs assessment and determine how the section can further their work and the larger goals of the section. Through collaboration and open communication, we can better achieve our goals.
Where do you see ULS going in the future? How does it need to change and evolve to stay relevant to academic librarians?
ULS will need to continue to listen to its members through regular engagement while at the same time staying on top of the very quickly changing challenges in higher education and academic libraries. ULS should also be working closely with other ACRL sections and interest groups to support issues that span the academic library.
Tell us something interesting about yourself that not very many people know.
In addition to my work with ULS, I started the ACRL Health Sciences Interest Group and the First Year Experience Discussion Group. ACRL has been a home for my professional network and development and I would love another opportunity to give back.