WiLS November 2017 Member Interview: Julie Gores, Madison College
One of our greatest joys at WiLS is hearing our members tell the stories of the big and important work they are doing – interesting new projects or initiatives, or even interesting and new approaches to old projects. And, in addition to hearing about it, it makes us even happier when we can share those stories with other members. Each month, WiLS is proud to feature an interview with one of our library members. This month, we interview Julie Gores, Dean, Libraries & Academic Support at Madison College.
Why did you, personally, choose to work in libraries?
Honestly, I didn’t start out that way, but it seemed like fate. My first job was as a Children’s Department page at the Fond du Lac Public Library. I worked on and off there in various roles throughout college, too. While in college I worked at Polk Library at UW-Oshkosh…so I am sure you are starting to get the drift. I really enjoyed it and found it interesting. I did not spend endless hours at the library as a kid, but as an employee I came to appreciate how complex the work is even though it appears quite simple to everyone else. I also saw how it positively influences lives every day. Libraries give—to individuals, to students, to teachers and communities as a whole. How could I not want to be a part of that?
What is unique about the culture of your library? How do you influence it?
Libraries give—to individuals, to students, to teachers and communities as a whole. How could I not want to be a part of that?
Over the past ten years our library has really evolved and provides a wide array of services. Our team serves as the primary student computer help desk for students, oversees our tutoring and supplemental instruction program, runs the College Creator Studio, assists students with media needs, and provides the spaces and support for all of the traditional services and resources student still need—and expect. It is very busy and the librarians’ skill set is ever growing.
I come from a family of ten so I had to learn to be a team player in life. That has carried over into my professional style and decision making. Our team of librarians and student achievement center staff is stellar. I was very fortunate to walk into that and then be able to hire additional members over the years. That said, I think we have worked really hard at becoming a team. We are supportive of each other, loyal, positive, fun, honest, trustworthy, respectful, and truly dedicated to serving students. I think we realize that each of us is exceptional in various ways, but together we are superior—and better.
As I’ve gotten a bit more “seasoned,” I believe it is my responsibility to serve as a mentor to our younger librarians and keep them thinking outside the box to ensure academic libraries, in particular, will remain relevant and appreciated. There seems to be cyclic challenges and new trends in education that can pose threat, or opportunity, so we have to pay attention to “see” and “hear” what those are so we can respond appropriately. I have often said to the team “Let’s make it impossible for them not to need us.” I think we have risen to that call pretty well. Fortunately, for us at Madison College, the powers that be are open-minded and supportive as a whole, so we always have a fighting chance.
I believe it is my responsibility to serve as a mentor to our younger librarians and keep them thinking outside the box to ensure academic libraries, in particular, will remain relevant and appreciated.
What do you think is important to know about the community you work with? What helps you understand their needs?
As academic libraries go, the community colleges, in some ways, have more of a public library clientele. By that I mean the demographics are very diverse by age, race, skill set, lifestyle, and more. Our librarians, as a result, are shifting gears often throughout the day—from working with an older student with less honed computer skills to our large transfer student population taking higher level courses to our students in the apprenticeship programs and, recently, more high school students in our gateway courses. Each day is different and we really do work with all the various populations and groups. It can be challenging but it is something we really embrace, too. It keeps us on our toes and the days go by quickly.
Honestly, because we are so available to our students in-person and online, our best resource for gauging their needs is our interactions with them. I believe librarians are some of the last people on earth who truly listen! Students TELL us what they need through their questions, behaviors, and participation. We converse with them and also observe them. It tells us a lot. Yes, data provides insight, but not data alone. We also routinely survey our students. In our last survey in 2016, 96% of students told us the library was absolutely essential to their success. Not too shabby, but we won’t be happy until that is 100%. Librarians, as professionals, are great at taking in information and putting it back out there in some positive way. While we are real thinkers, I would also say we are even stronger doers. It’s a killer combination to have these days.
While we are real thinkers, I would also say we are even stronger doers. It’s a killer combination to have these days.
What big ideas are being worked on at your library? What problems are being solved?
We have a few things brewing that we are planning for.
The College is going to have a new South campus. We are really excited to be able to provide full services to a group that has long been underserved. In the temporary location we just opened up this past fall, students have put the space to good use and are so appreciative of the support. We are gauging their needs and will make any necessary adjustments when we move into the permanent facility. We are so proud to be part of that College-wide initiative. It is necessary!
In October of 2016 we opened up our Creator Studio where students can tinker, build, create, de-stress, work on class projects, and just build community. It’s currently the size of a classroom, but we are hoping to expand or change the space to accommodate more learning opportunities. Our new STEM and Business Entrepreneurship Center is providing us with some potential partnerships to leverage. We are not quite sure what it will look like, but all we know is that it will be better. So stay tuned for that exciting initiative.
Do you have anything else you’d like to share here?
In closing, I would just say that it is up to us to create our own destiny as a profession. I have seen and heard of “strategic visions” that do not include or minimize libraries over the years. I just don’t buy it. It is essential we let administrators, students, teachers and the community know about all the things we can do—and are willing to do. And then, do them well!
Take on new roles, think about different spaces, and keep staff skill set fresh with professional opportunities and training. That said, it does NOT mean having to give up traditional spaces or roles (which happens way too often now). Fight for your spaces when you need to or set the direction of your spaces when you think it’s necessary.
Be innovative. Step up when no other unit or department wants to “own” something. Be collaborative. Take advantage of the different tools your institution has—think beyond library software and resources. If you’re not a team, build one. Take chances. Show your passion and dedication. Speak up.
If you don’t, you run the risk of being overlooked and underappreciated and, gasp, undervalued. That IS never a good spot to be in. Our work matters and makes a difference. I will end by paraphrasing poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning – I believe “the best is yet to come” for libraries and its users. Our future is bright.
These interviews are part of a series of interviews with both WiLS library and vendor partners. Your feedback is appreciated. If you have any to offer on this article, or suggestions for upcoming interviews, contact Andrea Coffin at .