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What is your professional background?  I graduated from University of Washington’s library school in 1992, just as the commercial Internet was getting started. My first position after graduation was with NorthWestNet, one of the NSFNET networks that pioneered the Internet we know today, and I’ve worked in the high-tech industry ever since.

As a product or content manager, I’ve been involved in the early development and market launch of nine different software products, including three at Serials Solutions. I’ve been at Serials Solutions twice, the first time from 2003 to 2007, and then returning in 2011. In total, I’ve been an early employee at five different software start-ups.

My library experience consists of two years working in the circulation department at Seattle Public Library, and a year as a student worker in the University of Washington Archives and Manuscripts, where I helped organize and catalog the papers of Victor Steinbrueck, who led the battle to preserve the Pike Place Market.

What do you like most about working for Serials Solutions? The best part of working at Serials Solutions is knowing that the work we do is contributing in a very fundamental way to the betterment of society. We help libraries fulfill their mission to provide access to the content resources required for research, learning and teaching in the communities they serve.

What do you find most exciting about the future of the library? Libraries are in the middle of a massive transformation of how information gets created, organized, distributed and consumed. So libraries and librarians have to rethink many of the services and functions they’ve provided in the past. They are straddling two eras, the traditional print-based library services and the increasingly common world of full digital services. Libraries have always embraced and been early adopters of technology, but in most cases it’s been difficult for them to leverage the work done at a local level to have an impact across the entire library community.

That’s why it was so exciting to come back to Serials Solutions and see the opportunities presented by web-scale discovery and management platforms such as Summon and Intota. Applications that affordably scale across all the libraries using them mean we’re now capable of having the same broad impact on meeting the information needs of our users as mass-market applications have. Networked collaboration done at scale, combined with data-driven insights to help inform that collaboration, are two good areas in which librarians can have a big impact.

Who is your favorite author? Whoever I’m currently reading, which right now is Ron Chernow (Washington: A Life) and David Weinberger (Too Big to Know).

Do you have a favorite library? If so, which one?  I have had the good fortune to visit a lot of great libraries, public and academic. For example, last year I got a tour of Amsterdam’s central library, which is truly one of the great public library spaces, and also Delft’s DOK Library Concept Center, a mecca for those interested in innovative public library services. This year I got to visit the incredible library at Peking University in Beijing. That being said, all of those libraries pale in comparison to the bookmobile that would come out to my elementary school once a week to feed my reading habit.

What can you tell us about yourself that we might never guess? I was a partner in a software company that sold a software and data package for people who gambled on Thoroughbred horse races. We advertised in publications like the Daily Racing Form, and I would send out the software (MS-DOS based) and data on a stack of 3.5 inch floppy disks to the buyers.

03 Nov 2012 | Posted by Mary Howell

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