PROFILE: Andrea L. Mitchell and Substance Abuse Librarians & Information Specialists

Andrea L. Mitchell is the Executive Director of Substance Abuse Librarians and Information Specialists (SALIS) and BayNet President. Created in 1978, the SALIS is a small non-profit member organization of alcohol, tobacco and other drug (atod) librarians. Note: “other drug” librarians refer to librarians whose subject specialty is drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, ecstasy, etc.

What is one thing your organization is very good at?
SALIS is very good at efficiently finding the most reliable, and objective information concerning alcohol and other drugs. Together our small group is made up of most of the alcohol and other drug librarians in the Western world; many of us have been doing work in this specialized area for more than 25 years. In the Resources section, our web site will point you to a range of alcohol and other drug data bases, a comprehensive list of the journals, and a “new books” list.

Is there something else about your organization that most people do not know?
We are an international organization with members mainly from the US, Europe, Canada and Australia, however we do have a few members from Africa, Russia, and India.

Who are your most frequent types of users?
SALIS has a private list which is only open to SALIS members. The queries brought to the list come from our members who are asking for assistance usually on more difficult questions. Since we have members from all over the world, who provide services to a variety of users, I don’t think there is a “frequent type.”

Together we have all types from the medical professional, research scientists, county and other government officials, administrators, school teachers, students, to the person who is suffering from an addiction of one kind or another.

What do you like best about your users?
The fact that they come from so many academic disciplines and professional groups challenges the librarian or information professional to view the world of addiction research through a variety of theoretical windows. It teaches one to constantly ask “From which viewpoint does this emanate?”

What is it about your job that most people don’t realize that you do?
Running a non profit has many responsibilities, just as running a library. There are legal matters, financial matters, keeping up with technology, keeping the members (audience) needs front and center, keeping up with technology, running an annual conference, producing a quarterly newsletter, monitoring Website needs and changes, keeping up with technology.

What is most challenging about working in your organization?
Juggling and keeping up with technology.

BayNet Strategic Planning 2008. Andrea is second from left.
BayNet Strategic Planning 2008. Andrea is second from left.

What’s one thing about you that few people know?
I happen to be one of those people who loves books, likes to have them around me and prefers to read their contents by holding them close.

What do you think will be the biggest change in libraries and information services in the future?
Change is the operative word, and it is the constant. How do we manage the inevitable change which is going on all around us day after day in our work as information professionals?

One huge change at the moment is digitization of our libraries. Creating digital libraries, so that all information is readily available is a worthy venture. However, I’m not sure about the way it is being done, nor if we have considered fully the costs to the benefits.

One of the current debates in the library world is how much a corporate entity, i.e. Google, should gain off the back of the public good, and perhaps be allowed to control and profit from digitizing most of the world’s books. What we face as information professionals is asking ourselves how much we want the future of information access to be controlled by corporate giants. The idea of a digital public library, such as it is viewed by Brewster Kahle and others at the Internet Archive, is what inspires me. If the courts decide in Google’s favor, we may see a very different future for access to information.