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John Teskey, Director of Libraries at the University of New Brunswick, was awarded the 2014 CARL Distinguished Service to Research Librarianship Award in recognition of his numerous achievements and contributions to the Canadian research library community. ProQuest sponsored the award, which is given annually to an individual at a CARL institution who has made a substantial contribution to research librarianship at the local, national, or international level.

We wanted to learn a little more about John, so he is featured in this edition of Meet the Librarian.
Congratulations on receiving the 2014 CARL Distinguished Service to Research Librarianship Award! How do you feel about receiving this honor?
Receiving the CARL Distinguished Service to Research Librarianship award came as a real surprise.  I am very honored and humbled, especially when I review the list of recipients, I am very pleased and honored that my name will be included in great company!

What inspired you to pursue a career in library and information science?
After graduating with my Bachelor degree, I ended up working for the Canadian Government on a “retro-conversion” project, where I converted Family Allowance records from KARDEX to online. This exposure to the opportunities of automation peaked my interest in library science, and it was then I decided to attend Western to obtain my MLIS.  My intent was to become a systems librarian; now as I approach retirement, I realize that I never achieved my career goal!  

What do you find most exciting about the future of library and information work?

Libraries have always taken leaps forward by taking risks on new technology.  We have witnessed significant changes in “library land” during my career, but I believe the changes that will occur in the next few years will eclipse the past 20.  The decisions to adopt new technologies have always focused on improving the user experience.  The fact is that we are not guided by stockholder demands for the bottom line. Rather, we view our role as enhancing and improving the experience that we deliver; this is what really sets libraries apart.  Remember the articles of the late 1990s forecasting the demise of the library?  Today, the number of users crowding our space is nothing short of remarkable. Whatever happened to those big-box bookstores that were going to take our place? The evolution of our discovery services, our spaces, and most important our services, keep our users coming back in person or virtually. Business is booming!  

What do you see as the main issues facing librarians and library staff today?
The perennial challenge is funding, and the fallout from the 2008 financial meltdown is still with us. There is not enough funding in the pie to ensure our requirements, so advocacy needs to be part of our every day. Our various levels of government created deficits, and I am not sure when our primary funders will work their way out. I don’t believe we have seen the end of the cost-cutting activity needed to retire the debts. As budget reductions are mandated, libraries need to be increasingly creative both in terms of service delivery and developing new revenue sources. But we can’t allow cuts to stop us from taking advantage of strategic opportunities. Our liaison model is stretched, but there are new services that we need to add, such as data services. The trick will be to select the right activities to disband; these will be difficult strategic choices, and probably different, for each library.

What is the best piece of career advice you ever received?
As I look back, I was so lucky to have a great group of colleagues in my first job! It was a remarkable group where I learned so much. I have a long list of individuals that I consider mentors.  I admit that I didn’t have a career plan, but I was ready to take advantage of opportunities as they arose. Additionally, I have always found great questions, sometimes answers, and always ideas, by reading widely in our literature as well as in business.  

What career advice would you give to a current LIS student interested in your career?
When I meet with students or others who are interested in pursuing a career in Librarianship, I am fairly cautious in giving advice. The conversation revolves around their answers to a lot of questions. But the growth areas that I see include knowledge or experience with GIS and Data, in addition to general technology.  I also stress that it is an advantage to be a risk taker -- it is the only way our profession moves forward.

Finally, what can you tell us about yourself that we might never guess?

The goal for the next phase of my life is to become a great guitar maker. I assume that it will take more time than I estimate to actually achieve this goal.  I have enrolled in a guitar-building class that will take place this October, and if I complete the class with a respectable guitar, life will be good! If it is unplayable, time to develop plan B!

25 Jul 2014

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