An ongoing look at people who work in libraries and information services around the Bay Area.
How did you become a librarian?
Well, I was one of those kids who spent weekends in the library, participated in summer reading, and loved to read, so I thought maybe I’d want to be a librarian when I grew up. However, later on, when I started researching librarianship as a career and found out it required a Master’s Degree, I didn’t think that was for me.
So, I pursued a B.A. in English and planned to become a technical writer. When I was a senior I got a part-time job as a library assistant in a corporate library in a semiconductor company and was hooked! As soon as I finished by B.A. I enrolled immediately in library school at SJSU. I then spent the next 20+ years in high tech, managing research libraries at Apple Inc. and Nortel Networks, and was then Director of Operations for a small telecommunications market research firm.
After getting laid off from my last company, I decided I wanted to make a career change and got hired by the Santa Clara County Library as a part-time substitute reference librarian. I found that I loved serving the public and was lucky enough to be hired full-time, eventually managing libraries in Morgan Hill and Cupertino.
Did you aspire to become a director of a library? If not, how did you come into this position?
I never aspired to management early in my career, but always seemed to get promoted to supervisory positions. After managing a variety of different departments in corporations, and managing two libraries for the Santa Clara County Library, being a library director seemed the next logical career step for me. I joined the City of Mountain View as library director in May of last year.
When you left your position as a Community Librarian at the Santa Clara County Library to become the Director of Library Services in Mountain View Public Library, what was the biggest change for you?
It was a bigger change than I expected! When I managed libraries for the County Library, there were a number of functions, like technical services and IT, that were taken care of at administrative headquarters. As a library director I’m now responsible for those functions as well so that has been a learning curve.
I was also a little surprised with the amount of autonomy I have. I get very little time with my boss, the City Manager. He trusts me to run the library and I have the authority to make whatever changes I think are needed. I was also very pleased that there is a very collegial relationship among all the department directors, even during difficult budget times.
What are your plans for the library in the next year? New services?
I think we could do a better job reaching out to our diverse community, so we recently started a series of Internet classes in Spanish. We worked with our local day worker center to promote this and all our classes have been full with waiting lists.
We also need to examine our collection, especially in light of the popularity of e-books. When Jeff Bezos says he is now selling more e-books than paperbooks, I take notice! This could have profound implications for public libraries, and it is a great opportunity for us. We are about to embark on some training for library staff to ensure that we are all up-to-date in this area and then plan to offer workshops and support to the public as more and more of them start to use some sort of e-reader device.
Have the library’s interactions with the community changed? In what way?
We have become a community destination, and I think that will be an important role for us in the future. Our families connect with each other through our story times, our teens hang out and tutor each other in the afternoons, and our adults access the Internet and use our collections for lifelong learning. We have really become a learning and meeting hub for the community.
What was the most memorable experience you had as a librarian?
The most exciting and professionally satisfying experience I’ve ever had was building a new library for the city of Morgan Hill while I was the manager there. It was a wonderful community effort involving library staff, city staff, library support groups, and residents. We all came together to define what the community needed in its public library and worked hard to make it happen. I am very proud of the facility and think it serves residents very well.
Any advice for new librarians wondering if they have what it takes to become a good leader?
I would recommend volunteering for any leadership position that might come your way. Leading a project team, supervising volunteers, and working with community groups can be very satisfying and can help you get experience as a leader. Additional formal education can also be extremely valuable. I went back to school recently and am just about finished with my Master’s in Public Administration. What I learned in the program has helped me a lot to grow as a leader, and I know it was a factor in my getting the job offer for my current position.