This was a somewhat unusual panel because the panelists were all young professionals who have entered the information profession relatively recently. The goal of the panel was to feature the views of a new generation on their careers, how and why they decided to go into the information field, and how they see the field developing in the future. Judging from their presentations, the goals of the organizers were very well met, and the future of the library space is bright.
Mara Blake, Spatial and Numeric Data Librarian at the University of Michigan began by noting that she decided to enter the profession because of a love of research in the library. She originally had an office job but found it very boring, so she went to library school. She began with social science librarianship and is now dealing with data and enjoys the research aspects of it. She is in a smaller library with liaison responsibilities and has learned about geographic information systems. She values working at a smaller institution and was emphatic that she is no longer bored in her job!
Jen Maurer, Library Sales Representative, Cambridge University Press (CUP), took a year off after graduation, then found a job as an editorial assistant at Springer through an ad on Craigslist, and subsequently moved to an account development role. She worked at OCLC and then moved to New York City and works in sales at CUP. She likes the ability to move around seamlessly and finds that change presents many opportunities and is exciting. Sales gives her the opportunity to listen to other people and make connections.
Hannah Scates Kettler, Digital Humanities Librarian at the University of Iowa, came into the profession from a non-traditional background as an archaeologist. She consults and does research on methodologies and platforms and publishes her results in an institutional repository or as a monograph. She also represents the library to various campus departments and describes library resources and special collections, doing lots of talking and meeting new people. She entered the profession because she was interested in differentiated learning and teaching and wanted to use the library. After working 3 years in the library, she wrote a job description for her position, so of course it lived up to her expectations! She fines the openness in the library to be uplifting.
Dan Valen, Product Specialist, Figshare, handles business development and partnerships and supports the sales team. He started in publishing at Springer 7½ years ago, worked in editorial, printed trade publications, and then in licensing to university libraries. He liked to talk to schools and hear what they think of publishers; everybody was talking about open access. He started looking at alternate business models and was an adviser for ReadCube which led him to the digital science world. After talking to a Figshare representative, he joined the company. He believes that you should do business with people who believe what you believe.
The panelists have in common that they are all young, smart, articulate, and poised information professionals. Two are working on vendor side, and 2 in libraries.
Here are a series of questions asked by the Moderator and the panelists’ replies:
How are organizations are doing at assimilating younger workers?
Dan: Nobody at Figshare is over 40. Everybody’s input is valued in a small company. Ideas can be heard.
Hannah: A large institution has a more varied age range. Although there is a tradition of hearing young early career voices, older people do listen.
Mara: She felt empowered with her own ideas, but other resources and people depend on the institution and bureaucracy. Equal opportunity for all ages requires bigger buy-in.
Jen: One of the challenges is finding the opportunities for empowerment and making sure you can grow and seize the chance. There is something to learn from everybody you meet.
Do you envy startups or Silicon Valley companies with a younger freer culture?
Dan: A bigger company tends to have the culture that says “this is the way we have always done things”. A startup lets you be more nimble and grow faster.
Jen: Being around experienced people is a good learning experience. You need to build trust; there is an adjustment period. It’s a challenge to navigate the space I am in.
Mara: Smaller companies have leeway to fail at projects that we don’t have in the library.
What will Charleston programs look like in 20-30 years?
Hannah: They will still be relevant and useful and will discuss access to digital material and more openness in library spaces. Libraries will evolve to knowledge creation–not just finding it but generating it–and be spaces to work together, create projects, talk about hard issues.
Dan: The library will help foster creation of content (not necessarily publishing it) among researchers. Many academic libraries have the advantage of being located in the center of campus. They are the space where knowledge is generated. The internet has democratized everything but academia.
If you “got the keys”, what would you do to make your institution stronger and more vital to students, authors, scholars, and researchers?
Hannah: Figure out how we preserve, present, and publish different types of data outside the norm.
Mara: Work on a geospacial data project—and it’s happening now!
Jen: I would love to see better mechanisms for feeding library projects back into CUP. There is a danger in thinking we know. How can we partner differently and better?
Dan: Being willing to try things and fail was something to get used to. We need to figure out how to pursue our mission.
Don Hawkins blogs about conferences for Information Today and Against The Grain. He also maintains the Conference Calendar on the Information Today website and is the Editor of Personal Archiving: Preserving Our Digital Heritage, published by Information Today in 2013, and Co-Editor of Public Knowledge: Access and Benefits, published by Information Today in 2016. He received his Ph.D. degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and has worked in the information industry for over 45 years.