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You were recently awarded the 2013-2014 Distinguished Career Alumni Award from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro School of Education. Tell us about your career in the library industry.
Prior to joining ProQuest earlier this year, I spent 17 years working in the U.S. Federal government in a variety of positions. Most recently, I was the Library Director at the U.S. Geological Survey for seven years. My career with the Federal Government started at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, first as an Internet Librarian and progressing to National Library Network Manager with 28 field and headquarters libraries. I then went on to serve as Web Analytics Manager for the General Services Administration and the Website usa.gov.

What inspired you to work with libraries?
Well, I am actually a third-generation librarian. My grandmother was a branch librarian in East Tennessee and my mother worked in both the school and public libraries that I used as a child. I was a student worker in my college library during my undergraduate studies. I graduated with a business degree and went on to manage a bookstore while I pursued my Masters in Library Science. I have always been inspired by puzzles and I see library science as a great profession for those that like to fill in the holes and connect the dots for our customers.

When did you first hear about ProQuest?
I was introduced to ProQuest products in school, as well as many of the products that are now a part of the ProQuest family. I remember being taught search strategy using the dial-up Dialog service and using University Microforms to do research. I also remember the irreplaceable value of Bowker Books in Print as a bookstore manager. As a library manager, I was a ProQuest customer and bringing Cambridge Scientific, Dialog, and Serials Solutions products to my researchers in the federal government helped us move from a physical library to providing a digital library to our users.

How did you come to be at ProQuest?
I was recruited into a new position within a new business unit at ProQuest. PQGPS is focused on driving our strategy and maximizing ProQuest’s business in the Government, Public Library and Schools segments.  I have responsibility for our business in the US Federal Government. That gives me a great opportunity to have a unique lens on how we work with our customers to serve their needs by looking at the ProQuest assets from across the company. 

What is your role within the organization?
My role is as an analyst, liaison, and leader within the company on behalf of both our current customers and the market potential we have within the federal government. I work across the enterprise to support efforts that will address issues our federal government customers are faced with every day and make sure that ProQuest offers them solutions that fit their missions. I am also one of six segment managers within ProQuest, so we work together to ensure that our efforts are aligned and complement one another.  It is a really exciting time to be working on something like this.

What do you like most about working at ProQuest?
The thing I like most about working at ProQuest is the commitment I witness every day from everyone across the company to our customers and to libraries of every type. The value of libraries within government agencies is directly tied to the value of products and services that ProQuest provides. Everyone here wants our customers to succeed.

You are well known for your leadership in professional associations and your advocacy for public and special libraries. What advice can you share with other librarians or colleagues that might motivate them to become active in organizations?
It is true that my career in libraries hasn’t been only about the positions I held. I have been an active member of the library community since prior to graduating with my Master’s Degree.  Over the past 18 years, I have served in leadership positions both locally and globally in organizations like the Special Libraries Association, the American Library Association, and the District of Columbia Library Association. I have also been a personal supporter and advocate for public libraries, serving as President of both my branch library Friends and the Federation of Friends for the District of Columbia. I continue to be an active leader in the library community today, serving currently on the Board of Directors of the Special Libraries Association and running for election in the spring for the Council of the American Library Association.
The only advice I can offer is to believe that your career is made up of more than the positions you hold; it is also the contributions you make to the professional community at large.  You don’t have to be elected in order to lead. Just step up, get involved, and contribute what you can to support libraries, librarians, and the projects and programs that will sustain our profession for generations to come.

What do you believe to be one of the greatest challenges facing librarians and library staff today?
I think one of the greatest challenges that libraries face today is a growing acceptance of “good enough” by their customers. We want researchers and library users to continually challenge that standard and pursue the best research and information they can get for making critical decisions. Libraries are constantly improving and continually identifying, tagging, and describing resources that will improve the results for their customers. I also see ProQuest constantly working to improve our products and services, all in service to the same goal.  But if customers, teachers, managers and leaders don’t value these improvements, they may stop with something that is simply “good enough.”

What do you find most exciting about the future of library and information work?
I am most excited about the opportunities I see from the digitization and digital publishing that we are seeing today. I think the opportunities for researchers to do more comprehensive research are simply going to explode in the next few years. I would love to see this greater access move libraries around the world into more collaborative relationships, both with other institutions and with the researchers they support.

What can you tell us about yourself that we might never guess?
The only thing that comes to mind is that I spent my teenage years wanting to be in theater. I actually attended college for Business Management in order to someday manage a theater company, not to become a library manager. I even spent three months away from home at 17 as an intern in a summer stock theater company. The sad truth is that after college, I never did another production, but I remain a theater fan to this day. 

11 Dec 2013 | Posted by Tara Shepard

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