Library On/Library Off

Nicolibrarian explores the secret life of information

Beth Andrews – Profiles in Awesome

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Confession: I have not always thought inter-library loan (ILL, in industry speak) seemed all that exciting. In fact, the few times I had dealings with the back-end of the processes of ILL, I was mostly just worried to mess up what seemed a really complicated system with a lot of moving parts. And then I met Beth Andrews, who not only loves ILL, but has an infectious positive attitude about this part of the LIS field. Beth and I are colleagues in the University of Illinois’ GSLIS program. She has changed my mind about being afraid of ILL and so it is my pleasure to introduce her to you:

Nicole Forsythe: Tell me about your background and your current work.

Elizabeth (Beth) Andrews

Beth Andrews: I currently work in the Interlibrary Loan department at Loyola University Chicago; specifically, I run the lending side of things, which means responding to requests from other institutions that want to borrow our materials. I really, really love ILL — I run across awesome books every day, I get to communicate with libraries around the globe, and I like that I’m helping people with their research. I’m also lucky enough to work at a library that gives me lots of professional development opportunities; I’ve sat on two job search committees, worked on a Strategic Planning task force, and currently serve on the Public Relations and Outreach committee. I highly recommend working somewhere that lets you see and contribute to the big picture, because you learn a lot and get a break from your daily routine.

My background: I have a BA in both French and SCMC (Studies in Cinema & Media Culture) from the University of Minnesota, and I also completed the University of Chicago’s Master of Arts Program in the Humanities with a concentration in Cinema & Media Studies.  Clearly, I love film, but also television, literature, dance, music — any mode of self-expression that inspires and brings people together. My original plan was to get a PhD in film studies, but I think library science is a much better fit for me. I love that I’m constantly surrounded by books and ideas, but also get to do practical, tangible work that helps people. Librarianship is very much a helping profession and I’m very interested in that aspect of the job.

NF: What made you want to go to library school?

BA: My mom has worked in a public library since I was a kid, so I spent a lot of time there in the summers and have always loved the environment. I worked at various university libraries for six years as a student employee and truly enjoyed it, but I never thought of becoming a librarian because I was so focused on becoming an academic. Working full time at Loyola exposed me to librarianship as a career — I never realized how many different kinds of librarians there were, and how many different things you could do with the degree.  Getting the MLIS seems like a natural next step, as I want to move forward, have more responsibility, and be involved in decision making processes.

NF: What do you hope to do with an MLIS?

BA: Broadly, I want to work with people and improve ease of access.  The specifics of that will vary depending on the setting, but the impulse behind it is this: we are currently surrounded by an astonishing amount of constantly shifting information, and if we’re overwhelmed by this as information professionals, how must the patrons feel?  I think libraries can provide a lot of solutions to problems of organization and access, and I’d like to be part of that discussion.  (I’m not tech-savvy, though, so don’t expect me to design the Great American OPAC or anything.)  Though I’ve been an introvert all my life, I’ve found that I genuinely like working with people, including patrons, co-workers, or colleagues from other libraries.  I have a great respect for knowledge and education, and love to see what students are working on and help them get the resources they need.  If I stay in the academic environment, I’d love to work in a film or performing arts library.

NF: What do you see as a big issue in the world relating to LIS – challenges for the field itself, info challenges for the rest of the world, or challenges for individuals?

BA: There are way too many answers to this question, so I’ll go with a topic that doesn’t get enough attention: marketing.  Libraries don’t always know how to market themselves, which is a shame, because we have so much to offer our communities.  Libraries worry about how to compete with Amazon and Google, but I think we’ve got an automatic advantage: the ability to forge personal connections.  I don’t necessarily mean that in a warm-and-fuzzy way, though many patrons do like that.  Google is very easy to search, but it can’t help you interpret the results, or teach you how to choose the best search terms, or remember that you’re writing a paper on André Bazin and e-mail you a week later with a list of potentially helpful resources.  Our patrons love technology, but they don’t always know how to harness it to their best advantage, and they don’t realize that we’re here to help alleviate their frustrations.  Hence the need for good marketing!

NF: What might “information leadership” mean to you?

BA: In regard to our patrons, we need to step in and teach them not only how to find and use information, but how to evaluate its veracity, relevance, and credibility. As a whole, we need to remind our non-library colleagues that as we all adapt to the new information environment, librarians have been tackling issues of organization and access for over a hundred years, and we will continue to make our voice heard and work as hard as we can to provide solutions and meet our patrons’ needs.   We don’t need to be defensive or proprietary, but we also shouldn’t take a back seat and let other information providers make all the decisions.  The idea of partnering with these companies to problem-solve and create new information technologies is pretty exciting.

NF: Where do you get information to stay on top of LIS issues, or issues in a sub-field you’re into?

BA: ALA’s weekly American Libraries Direct e-mail is a good for general news items.  Otherwise, I’m a big fan of blogs (like this one!) because RSS feeds make keeping up on them outlandishly easy, and I enjoy the mix of news, opinion, and discussion.  In terms of Interlibrary Loan, there are actually a couple of old school listservs that are massively helpful (and often quite entertaining). I also find that my fellow GSLIS students are really good about sharing information via Twitter, Facebook, or class forums.  Hopefully we can maintain these connections after graduation, because we’ve got a good network going!

NF: Is there anything else you’d like to say?

I’m super flattered that you wanted to interview me!  It will be really interesting to read this in a year or two and see how my thinking has changed.  I’m totally overwhelmed (in a good way) by everything I’m learning in school and excited to see where my career takes me.

****

Are you interested in being profiled in “Profiles in Awesome” or know someone you’d like to see here? Have a good idea for a question to ask? Email me at nicolibrarian{at} gmail {dot}com.

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Written by nicolibrarian

February 14, 2010 at 8:32 pm

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