1. Describe yourself in three words: Determined, empathetic, and collaborative.
2. What are you reading (or listening to on your mobile device)? I’ve so much on my reading plate right now–it’s the best kind of problem! For pleasure I am reading John Adams by David McCullough and Abigail Adams by Woody Holton, while White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi and Almost Famous Women: Stories by Megan Mayhew Bergman are up next. I’m on the hold list at Los Angles Public Library for Helen Oyeyemi’s new collection of short stories, What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours–I’m eagerly waiting my turn. I’m also actively reading the comics Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson, Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughn, and Southern Bastards by Jason Aaron as each issue is released.
I was recently awarded a USC Libraries Research Grant to study William Faulkner’s time in Los Angeles. So for that project I am reading Faulkner: A Biography by Joseph Blotner; Becoming Faulkner: The Art and Life of William Faulkner by Philip Weinstein; and William Faulkner: Seeing Through the South by John T. Matthews, among other books.
3. Describe ACRL in three words: Professional advocacy (and) leadership.
4. What do you value about ACRL? I’m an early career librarian who is new to ACRL. Thus far, I’ve been impressed by the scope and leadership of the organization. Librarians tend to listen when ACRL has something to say, or when the organization chooses to put their weight behind scholarship in a particular facet of librarianship. ACRL also advocates for its members while offering robust professional development opportunities for librarians at all stages of work–who doesn’t value that? For example, many of my colleagues identified their participation in the ACRL Immersion program as a key moment in their professional development. In fact, I’m very much looking forward to participating in the Teacher Track of the program in July. I also value the way that ACRL encourages its members to explore existing and emerging areas of librarianship to further hone their craft through its publications. I also must give a shout out to ACRLog–blogging for them as part of the First Year Academic Librarian series has been a highlight of my career.
5. What do you, as an academic librarian, contribute to your campus? I am the dedicated social work librarian for just under half of the approximately 3,000 graduate students enrolled in the School of Social Work at the University of Southern California. I work with all of the “on-ground” students, those who are not part of the virtual academic center (a distance program with its own dedicated librarian). I support five of the six academic centers for the School of Social Work located in San Diego, Orange County, and two locations in Los Angeles. Essentially, I spend most of my time providing library instruction and research assistance to students and faculty and developing library interventions for these populations. More broadly, I spend a significant amount of my day offering advice, instruction, and guidance to new students who are not accustomed to the complexity and rigor of college-level research.
I also participate in USC Libraries’ reference, orientation, and instruction programs, including the undergraduate and graduation orientation committees. But my proudest accomplishment so far is founding the First Generation College Student Initiative, the first program of its type at USC Libraries. I am interested in exploring the ways librarians can help first-generation and under-represented students succeed in an often bewildering and alien university environment.
6. In your own words: Life as an academic librarian has been rewarding and even bewildering at times. Prior to academia, I was a library assistant in a public library after years working in the corporate sector. The jump from public to academic libraries has been challenging to navigate, but I feel fortunate to have a robust background in the public service arena. I have certainly tapped upon that wealth of knowledge many times while working with students and faculty. I believe there exist connections between academic and public libraries that should be explored further. I also enjoy working in a field where intellectual curiosity is valued and my interests are not contained to a single subject area.
I’ve been with USC–my first academic library job–for just over a year. Finding my niche has been challenging and jumping on the bandwagon of the latest trend has seemed appealing at times. But I think every academic librarian has a wealth of knowledge to contribute to scholarship and scholarly conversations, even if that wealth falls outside of the traditional academic box. All experiences have value. It’s vital to explore ideas in search of where your niche lies. But it’s also important to be yourself. That sentiment can get lost in the shuffle. And I’m always guiding my work with the question, am I really helping people.
Editor’s Note: Are you an ACRL member? Would you like to be featured as ACRL Member of the Week? Nominate a colleague? Contact Mary Jane Petrowski at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.