“Nothing a librarian learns is ever wasted!” Q&A with RUSA Director-at-Large

During the next several weeks we will be highlighting members of RUSA’s Board of Directors. Take a minute to get to know a bit about our fantastic leaders! Interested in contacting Doris Ann? You may reach her at the email address listed below.

Meet Doris Ann Sweet, RUSA Director-at-Large. If her name doesn’t make you smile, this interview surely will! Thanks, Doris Ann, for introducing yourself to the RUSA membership and libraryland at large!

Doris Ann Sweet
Director of Library Services
Assumption College

What are you currently reading or listening to?
I commute 40 miles to work, so I listen to far more audio books than I read print or e-format, and usually, mysteries. Right now I am in the middle of Amanda Kyle Williams’s Stranger in the Room. While waiting in line for the post office in the exhibits at ALA Annual, Soho Press was brought to my attention by a fellow line lingerer, and I came home with a few of Soho’s international crime series titles in print format. I just finished Helene Tursten’s Detective Inspector Huss, which I loved, and am about to start a Peter Lovesey title.

What is the most interesting “reference” question you’ve ever been asked?
Years ago when I worked at the humanities/social science library at a large research university, I was approached late one evening  at the reference desk by a student who said he was doing research on UNIX. During his pause, I was thinking, “Oh, Oh, he probably has to go to the Science/Engineering Library” (several blocks away). Then he added “and how they were perceived in ancient Greece and Rome.” I was very glad I had paused when he did!

Tell us about your current role at your library, and maybe a little bit about your career path, too.
During library school, I fully intended to become a rare book/special collections librarian and took all the related courses I could. However, when I was offered a job as a reference librarian in a large university, I jumped at the chance, because the institution was my alma mater, and I figured that moving to special collections could be a natural career path. However, I loved reference and stuck with it for most of my career, in one context or another. During my first few years in the profession, I thought I would never want to move into management. Again, my attitude altered as I began to realize I might be in a better position to bring about changes if I were a department head. Eventually I made my way to my present position as the director of a small college library with a staff of 14. My job is to mentor and foster creativity in staff, support professional development, manage a budget, advocate for the library on campus, and make sure the library is fully integrated into the campus life and mission. Amazingly enough, that initial rare book/special collections concentration has turned out to be advantageous throughout my career, and especially in my current position. As they say, nothing a librarian learns is ever wasted!

Describe a particularly rewarding experience in your library career.
In a prior position, I was given the assignment by my library director to establish a library internship program for high school students, with emphasis on minorities and first-in- their-families to attend college. The aim of the internships was to introduce this population to the possibility of librarianship as a career. An initial collaboration led to another, and another, and within three years, my college was the recipient of a three-year IMLS grant to develop curriculum for the program and make it available for other libraries to use. Eight other public and academic libraries helped us carry out this project, called MassBLAST, the BLAST part standing for Building Library Staff and Awareness for Tomorrow. The experiences with other libraries and librarians, and with the many high school students who completed internships with our college, are among the highlight memories of my career. A poster of one of our first intern groups, complete with signatures of all of them, is a fabulous reminder of what libraries are all about as I enter my office each day.

Give one fun fact about yourself—can be personal or professional.
I grew up in a small town in northern New Hampshire, with 52 first cousins, most of whom lived in my town or two adjacent towns. Not to mention the second cousins…

Any hobbies?
Hiking, knitting, and listening to bluegrass music.

Why did you join RUSA (and/or sections)?
RUSA was a natural division to join in view of my interest in reference work. MARS became my primary section, because I have always been especially interested in technology and the impact it continually has on how we conceive of and provide reference services. MARS members were very welcoming in my early years of ALA involvement, and I will always value the friendships I have made through MARS activities over the years. Oh, and did I mention the professional knowledge gained?  Huge!

How has RUSA helped you in your career?
I have always been able to bring home valuable information and knowledge from every RUSA event, program, or committee meeting I have attended. Some was accrued from formal programs or discussion groups, some from publications, and a lot from informal discussions with colleagues from all over the country. I have had a chance to exercise leadership, program planning, and writing skills, which beyond the intrinsic values of learning, collaborating, and creating, found their way to my resume. I am sure my RUSA background helped me land in my present, and best-ever, job.

What are some of the RUSA activities you’ve participated in?
I was active in RSS, at one time chairing the Management of Reference Committee, and participating in creating RUSA Occasional Paper No. 25, titled , Get Them Talking: Managing Change Through Case Studies and Case Study Discussion. In MARS, I have chaired the Hot Topics Discussion Group, and worked on several committees before being elected MARS Member-at-Large and then Vice-Chair and Chair. As a RUSA Director-at-Large, I participate in the work of the RUSA Conference Program Coordinating Committee, and have also had the pleasure of representing RUSA as a member of the Emerging Leaders Subcommittee. A new venture, with Alesia McManus, is to lead an ad hoc group in developing a proposal for a RUSA legislative action mechanism and a legislative agenda.

If you’re open to having RUSA members connecting with you directly, provide an e-mail address and/or phone number where they can reach you.
Definitely:   dasweet@assumption.edu, (508) 767-7272


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