Posted on June 30, 2015.
1. How did you get involved in military librarianship, and in DMIL?
I took a long, indirect route! It’s important to start all of this by saying that I’m a bit of an odd duck in that I’m not a librarian at all, nor have I held a job that would typically be associated with membership in our organization.
I first joined SLA a bit over a decade ago when I was a strategy consultant and trying to build out a new research group in our firm and was looking for job candidates. At the time, I was consulting to corporate boards, and was looking for people who were skilled in business and law librarianship. A few years later, I switched firms, and started doing more consulting work to the military and federal government. I joined the Military Libraries Division at that time, largely for the same reason I joined SLA originally – to recruit great candidates. A lot of the work I was doing involved working with intelligence analysts and researchers, and we needed people on our team with those same skills.
Four years ago, I switched jobs again, but kept my affiliation with Military Libraries Division because of my personal interest in the work they do.
2. What positions in DMIL have you held?
My current position is the first one I’ve held: Director and 2015 Conference Planner.
3. How did you become DMIL Director for the SLA Conference in Boston? What experiences from the conference were most memorable for you?
I originally ran for the position years ago, but lost out to a really fantastic candidate. About 14 months ago, she had to step back due to personal and professional obligations, and our Chair called to ask if I might still be interested. I stepped in, and it’s been a rollercoaster ride ever since!
I’ve lived in the Boston area for almost 20 years, and I’m thrilled to see the conference here this year. This is a city with so much history and ties to the military – from being the birthplace of the revolution, to the home of the USS Constitution, to the fact that it’s the center of the robotics industry today. It’s also an easy city to get to from other parts of the East Coast, and as a result, we were lucky this year to be able to get a great speaker from Washington, DC, Navy Commander Benjamin Armstrong, to come and talk to us about leadership.
Commander Armstrong is an award winning author and historian who has published widely on naval history and strategy, including the books “21st Century Mahan: Sound Military Conclusions for the Modern Era” and “21st Century Sims: Innovation, Education, and Leadership for the Modern Era.” He has lectured on history, strategy, and innovation at U.S. Special Operations Command, the Naval War College, and the Defense Entrepreneur’s Forum at the University of Chicago. A graduate of the US Naval Academy, he holds a master’s degree in military history from Norwich University and is currently a PhD candidate with the Department of War Studies, King’s College, London. He is a Commander in the U.S. Navy who has served as a search and rescue and special warfare helicopter pilot during numerous deployments to the Middle East, coastal Africa, and South America, and ashore he has worked as an instructor pilot and as a strategic analyst in the Pentagon.
4. What was the most fun place you visited in Boston?
The city itself. This is one of those wonderful places where just walking around is entertainment. From the architecture that combines colonial elements with modern structures, to the street performers and musicians, to boutique storefront windows, to all the wonderful parks and waterfront, you can be entertained without spending a dime, and without ever having to go inside.
5. If someone were to visit your library or your town, what would you be sure to show them or recommend that they see?
I’ve got three great libraries I’d take people to visit.
I live in Cambridge, MA, right outside Boston, and we have one of the most beautiful public libraries you’ll find anywhere in the world. Several years ago, it underwent a total transformation, combining the original 1889 library – an old stone building – with a brand new addition that was all glass and light, and the outcome is remarkable. Since it reopened in November 2009, it’s been awarded nearly two dozen architectural awards from the American Institute of Architects, the American Libraries Magazine, and many others. (It has some good books in it, too!) Here’s an overview of the transformation: http://www.rawnarch.com/casestudy/cambridgepubliclibrary
The other two libraries are both at Harvard, where I’ve worked for the last four years.
For anyone interested in business, the Baker Library / Bloomberg Center at the Harvard Business School is a must-visit. I’m just completing a graduate degree in history, and have been digging through their archives for the last two years, and never cease to be amazed at the materials they have, and how wonderful the staff are.
The second Harvard library is Widener Library, on the main Harvard campus. It’s the largest repository of books in the world, and it just celebrated its 100th birthday. As part of the celebration, John Lithgow helped create a short celebratory video, “Ode to a Venerable Library.” Check it out: http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2015/05/ode-to-a-venerable-library/
6. Please recommend one LIS-specific book or article that you read recently that you found particularly good. What makes it worthwhile?
This is going to sound like an odd choice, but Umberto Eco’s book “How to Write a Thesis” was recently published in English, decades after he wrote it in the original Italian. It is, in some places, archaic – he talks about notecards, using address books to organize your subjects, and making sure you have change for public phones. But at the heart of the book is an examination of how you organize information, guidance and mentoring for researchers who may be struggling or unsure of how to proceed, and an acknowledgement that research and writing demand so much of us, often more than we want to admit.
I like this book because it’s a good reminder that despite how much has changed in our field (physical books to ebooks, publications to databases, in-person to virtual), at the heart of things, it’s all the same.
7. If you were to recommend one book, just for fun, what would it be?
Twenty-something years ago, I read “Gates: How Microsoft’s Mogul Reinvented an Industry – and Made Himself the Richest Man in America” by Stephen Manes and Paul Andrews. It’s one of those books that has just been stuck in my head ever since, undoubtedly because I’m interested in both business and technology, and Bill Gates is one of those historical figures who you can honestly say transformed the world in many ways. I remember the book being a page-turner, insightful, engaging, dramatic, suspenseful, detailed, all the things you want a book to be (especially when that book is about 600 pages!).
Over the years, I’ve wondered if the book was really as good as I remembered it. If I re-read it, would it hold up to my memory? Or would it be like revisiting an old summer vacation spot and finding it wasn’t idyllic but instead run down, or going back to your old elementary school and finding it small and enclosed, not the large magical place you remember it being?
I’m about to find out. I have two long train rides in July, and just downloaded a copy to my Kindle, and I’m going to re-read it.
You should read it, too. If it’s only half as good as I remember it, it’s worth your time.