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Linda Braun
Educational Technology Consultant, LEO: Librarians and Educators Online
President-Elect, Young Adult Library Services Association, ALA

1. How do you describe what you do as a librarian to your family or to people at a party?
It’s changed over time. When I first became a librarian I would whisper that I was a children’s librarian and that I bought books and led storyhours for kids. Now, it’s actually harder to explain because I don’t do traditional library “stuff.” I start by saying I help librarians and educators figure out the best way to integrate and use technology with kids, teens, students, etc. I get lots of blank stares but it’s the best I’ve been able to come up with.

2. What special projects, initiatives or committees have you been or are involved in? How did you first get involved? What experiences in ALA have been the most rewarding?

I first got involved in MA when I was a member of the MA Library Association Youth Services Committee and then the Chair of the Committee. When I worked for the Eastern MA Regional Library System (which no longer exists) I was accepted in the first class of YALSA Serving the Underserved Trainers. That was a great experience because I got a really good sense of how to help others understand what working with teens was all about and why working with teens is such an important part of library service.

However, what really got me involved in YALSA was technology. I was fortunate enough to be able to help YALSA get the Division’s technology feet wet. I worked on their first ever divisional web site and then also developed, with a committee, their web site for teens – Teen Hoopla – which is now defunct.

Any experience in ALA, in particular YALSA, in which I was able to help the Division come up with new ideas for meeting the needs of teens have been most important – that includes the web site development mentioned above but it also includes working on the blog, the Division’s MySpace, developing guidelines for technology use, and so on. I feel like in these instances I really get a chance to help model some technology pieces for librarians and I get to help the Division move forward.

That said, the other thing that’s been really important to me in YALSA are the opportunities I’ve had to meet like-minded librarians from around the country. I’ve made some really good professional and personal friends through work in the Division. It helps me to know that I’m not alone and there are others struggling with the same challenges and having successes in some of the things that I hope to see libraries accomplish.

3. What advice would you give to up and coming librarians?
Don’t be afraid of the cliques. Don’t be afraid of speaking up because you think you are new and other people know more than you do. Know that people who have been in the field for a long time have something to offer – at least sometimes – but that you also have something to offer. Be willing to take chances and make mistakes. Don’t pigeonhole yourself into thinking that there is one and only way to get something done. And, be open to jobs, that you might never have thought you would be interested in participating in/doing.

4. What do you think are the top three issues facing librarianship (positive or negative) that could change the course of things? If we want to try to change that course, how should we go about it?

1) Fear – for some reason librarians tend to be afraid of making mistakes of being seen not to be perfect of worrying about what might be the case as opposed to seeing if that’s true for themselves.

2) History – we tried that once and it didn’t work is something I hear a lot. As a library director once said to some school librarians, you didn’t try it with me so lets do it again and see what happens. This also relates to educating the public about what the library of today is about. Librarians think members of the community know what the library is and is supposed to be. That’s not the case. We have to constantly talk to people about the library and what it is and not assume that because of some historic sense of THE LIBRARY that people know what we do and what we are about.

3) Too much focus on ourselves and not enough about the customer – almost every day I have librarians say to me things like, “I don’t like that technology” or “I don’t like to use that” and that is really a problem, it’s not what I like but what the customer likes and wants.

One thing we need to do is to make sure that those going to library school are the “right types.” I once had a student say to me that she had worked in a really stressful position for many years and she realized that as she was getting towards retirement the library would be a perfect place to work because it was so much less intense and stressful. That person shouldn’t be a librarian. Somehow library schools need to find the people who are going to not get bogged down in old-ideas and fear.

Also, we have to weed out those librarians that just can’t keep up and aren’t willing to move into the 22nd century. I know that’s not easily achieved, but all these librarians that propagate the stereotypes are doing more harm than good. At some point we have to say, you know what, you aren’t going to be able to change with us so it would be best if you move into another profession, job, something.
And, as I mention above, we need to be willing to get out into the community and educate and be proactive about the library. I’ve thought for a while now, that if a library is having funding troubles then it’s not the town’s fault necessarily, perhaps the library staff hasn’t spoken up and gotten the community to let them know exactly why the library is important. We can’t live on “Oh I love the library!” That’s just a sentiment not $ and cents.

5. Tell us from your own experience, what is the most valuable lesson you have learned in your leadership role/s?
Not to be afraid and that goes with being willing to take chances. However, part of taking the chances is figuring out what the people you are leading actually can and will hear and framing your message so that it is heard.

6. What values (personal traits or characteristics) do you look for and admire in a leader?
Fearlessness, courage, mentorship, listening skills, sense of humor, willingness to make mistakes, willingness to acknowledge mistakes.

7. How do you recognize contributions of others in your library and in your community?
I guess I actually recognize myself as a mentor more than a leader and it’s in the mentor role that I think I most get to recognize others. I do this by connecting people that I think have something to give/show each other, I do this by writing and blogging about people doing great things, I do this by suggesting people publish – in some format – what they work on, I do this by helping people get involved in various organizations.

8. What or who influenced you to become a librarian?
I became a librarian by chance. During my senior yr of college I realized that my plan for my life was off and when I took a class in children’s literature the second semester of my sr. year I thought, oh maybe I’ll become a librarian. (I’m one of those people I’d say shouldn’t go to library school today.) But, what made me into the librarian I am today are the various people I got to work with who gave me the chance to try things out, make mistakes, and move into positions I never thought I’d want to take on.

9. If you could do anything in your career differently, what would that be and why?
This maybe surprising or unique but I don’t think there really is anything. I’m really lucky to be doing what I’m doing today. I didn’t plan for it I just took different jobs and opportunities as they came along and that got me here. Of course some things were not perfect, but I don’t think I’d be where I am today without every one of those past experiences.

10. What are the top three things they don’t teach in library school (or did not teach you when you were in library school) that you think are critical?
The way that real-live libraries work, management skills, marketing skills.