A 2014 recipient of the ProQuest Innovation in College Librarianship Award, Troy Swanson is the Department Chair of Library/Learning and Resources at Moraine Valley Community College Library.
1. You were recently awarded the ACRL 2014 ProQuest Innovation in College Librarianship Award for your work on the “One Book, One College” program. Tell us about the project.
This is the 10th year for our One Book program. Over this time we have hosted many speakers, panel discussions, films, and other learning events designed to enhance our curriculum. This year’s event was unique because it incorporated a campus-wide, active learning event into the program. This game, World War M: Moraine Valley’s Zombie Apocalypse, brought together departments across campus to create a simulated zombie pandemic that linked the curriculum to the library’s cultural programming and student activities. Nearly 500 students, staff, and faculty participated, utilizing our program in more than 60 course sections that relied on an infrastructure built by MVCC’s information technology department.
2. How did the great idea for this program originate?
The humans vs. zombies games are very common on campuses across the country. We wanted to host one of these games, but adapt it to the curriculum so that it emphasized learning. We were trying to find a way to make an engaging game that faculty could use in a range of classes.
Faculty from a wide range of disciplines created assignments that revolved around the game, including:
-- criminal justice classes in which students completed assignments on potential security risks related to pandemics
-- microbiology classes assigned to construct graphs documenting the game’s rate of infection
-- sociology classes where students wrote essays on concepts relating to whistleblowers
-- nursing classes assigned to study stigma about disease
-- writing classes where students penned personal essays about their experience
3. What inspired you to pursue a career in library and information science?
I worked in my college library as an undergrad, and I was very impressed by the dedication and knowledge that the librarians had. They inspired me to enter the profession.
4. What do you find most exciting about the future of library and information work?
We are in the midst of a great transition between print and digital. We are rethinking many of our services. It is a great time to be a librarian and be engaged in this transformation.
I think that our One Book program and the World War M game illustrate the important role that libraries have on our campuses. We are part of learning, but not necessarily part of the classroom. We are part of the IT infrastructure as well as the learning infrastructure. We can connect with faculty, student activities, and administrative staff. We have an important and unique role to play that focuses on building connections to enable learning. I think it is very exciting.
5. What do you see as the main issues facing librarians and library staff today?
We are in a challenging position of serving a wide range of needs with shrinking budgets. We have to make tough decisions on how best to serve students in a world that still bridges the print and digital worlds. We have a physical space, a social media presence, a role in the classroom, and an online presence. As a librarian, you have to be able to work in all of these worlds.
6. What career advice would you give to an LIS student?
If you are becoming a librarian because you like books, you do not really understand our profession. If you are becoming a librarian because you want to make learning happen within the community you serve, you get it.
7. What is the best piece of career advice you ever received?
The best advice I ever received was from a colleague named Delphine Lytell. She said, “Troy, remember that other people are here to protect you from yourself.” I have never forgotten.
8. Do you have any other projects or plans in the works and if so, can you tell us about them?
Our next exciting adventure is a graphic novel symposium. It will bring together faculty, students, and local comic shops to talk about the value of comic books and comic culture.
9. What advice can you share with other librarians or students that might motivate them to be more innovative?
Be fearless. Don’t live up to the low expectations of other people. Care about the community you serve.
10. Finally, what can you tell us about yourself that we might never guess?
One of my summer jobs during college was picking up roadkill for the local highway department where I grew up; true story.