Member of the Week: Paula T. Kaufman

Paula T. KaufmanPaula T. Kaufman is Juanita J. and Robert E. Simpson Dean of Libraries and University Librarian at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Urbana, Illinois. Paula has been an ACRL member since 1985, is the winner of the 2012 ACRL Academic/ Research Librarian of the Year Award, and is your ACRL member of the week for July 23, 2012.

1. Describe yourself in three words:  Energetic, practical, fair. Or The Diminutive Dynamo according to a donor when I was at the University of Tennessee.

2. What are you reading right now? I rarely read only one book at a time.  I just finished reading Gone Girl on my Kindle and Ratlines (an advanced proof copy of which I picked up at the ALA exhibits), both of which filled the hours of my airplane flights to and from Anaheim.  I’m also reading On Being Presidential by Susan Resneck Pierce and Anne Tyler’s Beginner’s Goodbye.  I recently finished reading our new Andrew Carnegie Medal winner Catherine the Great.

3. Describe ACRL in three words: Essential, professional, opportunities.

4. What do you value most about ACRL? ACRL provides so many opportunities for academic librarians to learn, to network, to stretch their thinking and to push boundaries.  If ACRL didn’t exist, we’d have to create it.

5. What do you value about academic or research librarianship? Those of us who work in research libraries are very privileged.  We work with top-flight faculty and staff who are dedicated teachers and scholars and with bright students who are full of energy and ideas.  And we work with wonderful librarians and staff who give us hope that future generations will be able to accomplish what we have not.

6. In your own words: Our work fills me with pride.  The people we support make important discoveries and create new technologies and products that ensure our well-being, expand our minds, extend our lives, and improve the quality of life.  It is with our help that they do just about everything and anything to make the world a better place.  Understanding the lives we’ve enriched, the better citizens we’ve produced, and the life-long learning that our work advances more than compensates for the occasional difficult patron, campus politics, or the issues that are memorialized in our “you can’t make this stuff up” files.

I’ve seen many changes during my more than 4 decades in this profession, and there are many more on the horizon.  I’m sure that 40 years from now students will giggle at exhibits of our smart phones just as students looking at our recent exhibit of old equipment giggled over McBee card sorters and electric erasers.  It seems that cutting edges dull faster and faster these days.  When I began my career nearly 44 years ago I never imagined, let alone dreamt, that this height-challenged Jewish woman would someday be leading a major university library.  We’ve come a long way.

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.