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Eli Neiburger
Associate Director, IT and Product Development, Ann Arbor District Library

How do you describe what you do to your family or to people at a party?
I’m responsible for managing IT and Production at the library, including the public websites, software development, and overseeing Library programming.

What special projects, initiatives or committees have you been or are involved in? How did you first get involved? What experiences, in ALA or otherwise, have been the most rewarding?
I’ve been involved in the construction and equipping of 3 new branches for our system, as well as two new website projects, plus the development of AADL’s gaming program. The branches have been very rewarding because they’re used by such a large range of our patrons; the gaming has been rewarding because we’ve been able to change teenage boys’ perceptions about the Library and turn them into enthusiastic patrons.

What advice would you give to up and coming librarians/information professionals?
Always keep the focus on the patron; understand the basics of database design; find solutions not obstacles, don’t be a format fetishist, and don’t trust a sales rep.

What do you think are the top three issues facing libraries (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. We could be written entirely out of the content distribution chain by the triumph or by the death of copyright, and it could happen almost overnight. Ask a travel agent.

2.The public perception that libraries are no longer relevant or worth the money could become a majority view.

3. Libraries could invest in software development and give as much back to the open source community as we take.

These all point to libraries needing to increase our roles as producers of content, products, and tools. We need to provide unique value to our communities that isn’t tied up in commercial media.

Tell us from your own experience, what is the most valuable lesson you have learned in your leadership role/s?
Turf wars are stupid.

What values (personal traits or characteristics) do you look for and admire in a leader?
Understanding perception, a healthy disrespect for tradition, and a perspective on how far libraries have come and how far we still have to go.

How do you recognize contributions of others in your library and in your community?
Freely giving credit where it is due; always thinking and talking from a ‘We’perspective, and always remembering that the patron knows what they want better than we do.

What or who influenced you to become a librarian/information professional?
A classified ad for a helpdesk job at the right time, and the promise of a non-profit, community-oriented workplace.

If you could do anything in your career differently, what would that be and why?

Hmmm… no regrets!

What are the top three things they don’t teach in library school that you think are critical?
Facilites Design, Public Finance, and dealing with the Mentally Ill.