Member of the Week: Donald A. Barclay

Donald Barclay

Donald A. Barclay Donald Barclayis Deputy University Librarian at the University of California, Merced in Merced, CA. Donald has been an ACRL member since 2011 and is your ACRL member of the week for January 23, 2017.

1. Describe yourself in three words: Disruptive smart aleck.

2. What are you reading (or listening to on your mobile device)? My serious reading right now is Higher Education in America by Derek Curtis Bok. My guilty pleasure is reading for its humorous/serious insights into twenty-something thinking on pop culture, gaming, politics, and education.

3. Describe ACRL in three words: Best of ALA.

4. What do you value about ACRL? ACRL stakes out the tricky turf that lies between pragmatism and vision. If a professional organization is too focused on pragmatism, on how to keep doing what everyone is already doing, the result is stagnation. If, on the other hand, an organization is all about vision with no grounding in the realities of the people who have to show up for work and do a job every day, the result is a disconnect from membership. Not everyone will agree, but I think the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy is a great example of the balance that ACRL manages to achieve. The Framework is visionary enough to really challenge the profession without being so disconnected that it can’t be applied to the real academic world in which the membership lives and breathes.

5. What do you, as an academic librarian, contribute to your campus? I like to think that my main contribution has been, and still is, to keep my library on a trajectory that looks to the future rather than the past. When I came to UC Merced in 2002, there were no buildings, students, or faculty. Along with a team of smart, visionary, risk-taking people, I got to help invent a research library for the twenty-first century. In planning a new kind of research library we got a lot more things right than we got wrong, and I’m proud of that. As our campus has grown, the daily grind of serving a population of flesh-and-blood students and faculty has made it a lot harder to take the risks required to stay on a forward-leaning trajectory. Harder, but not impossible. One of my cheery managerial mantras is, “If we aren’t looking five years ahead today, we will be five years behind tomorrow.”

6. In your own words: I’ve been an academic librarian longer than some of the people I now work with have been alive. What I love about my profession is that it has allowed me to work directly with students (through instruction and reference), to dabble in scholarly pursuits (writing and publishing), and to grapple with the administrative realities (budget, human resources, organizational management) of higher education. When I started as a professional librarian, I had no interest in becoming a manager/administrator, yet that part of the job has turned out to be both intellectually stimulating and rewarding. It’s hard to imagine a job that would give someone a more wholistic understanding of higher education than a career as an academic librarian. Even though the rigid hierarchy of higher education positions academic librarians far lower in the pecking order than we deserve, it has been a blast sitting at the intersection of learning, scholarship, and administration while doing what I can to influence the direction of my profession, my campus, and the academy writ large.

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 for more information.