by Jill Kilgore
My penchant for discovery and critical examination prompted my engagement in this
professional world; it was also the impetus pushing me to experience more about the world of academic libraries. As a knowledge worker and law librarian at Littler Mendelson, I spend most of my professional time engaging with the special library community; however, the CULS conference was an opportunity to hear from leaders in the local academic community and make professional connections.
In particular, the keynote speaker, Danielle Theiss Dion, spoke to the sort of passion and thoughtful professionalism I hope to return as I move through my own career. As the De Paul Library Director, Danielle transformed the library and increased its relevance to the users through a demonstration of creativity and tenacity. Her presentation, “Winning the Steelcase Education Active Learning Center Grant: Transforming the De Paul Library” detailed her experience and impact on the De Paul student and faculty communities as she, despite her limited budget, redesigned her environment. By weeding physical material, with the help of student volunteers (and the permission of her dean), she was able to remove the dozens of large steel shelves that sat in the middle of the library.
Danielle transformed the library into an active presence on the De Paul campus and went on to win a grant to continue innovating within her community.
The CULS conference, held in April at the Oread Hotel in Lawrence, KS, occurred during my final semester in the SLIM program. Writing this now, with my graduate experience and the conference, in the past, I can see the value in moments, both big and small. Time offered me the perspective I needed to construct meaning from the last few years. In particular, one experience lingers in my mind. As each cohort begins the SLIM program, ESU schedules a panel of library professionals to speak. In January 2015, I sat listening to the panel selected for my first weekend. As the session wrapped up, someone asked the panel if they had any advice for us. The group simply agreed that we should “get involved professionally, especially as students”. Nothing about the question, or the panelists’ responses, seemed revelatory. This wasn’t to their discredit; they were well-spoken and warm with a valuable range of experiences. However, their immediate consensus, communicated through a few glances, struck me. I left that evening hoping to find a place of my own in the profession; following their advice eventually changed the course of my professional life.
I tell this story as an offering to those who will come after me. Being able to imagine a future for myself was integral to the formation of my professional identity. Each experience modifiedthis idea, and as a result, allowed me to recognize and seize available opportunities. Attending the CULS conference was only a possibility because of this early experience; and with the financial sponsorship of SCALA, it was possible to meet authorities in the academic library field and foster new professional relationships.