SAGE is offering special discounts on two products to WiLS members.
The CQ Researcher Archive is an expansive database, including reports from 1923 to the present of in-depth information on vital issues. Read more
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…Read more
Pew has released a new report with important implications for public libraries with research results on how Millenials engage with libraries and how they view the role of the library in their lives and the…Read more
At WiLS, we want to bring valuable information to our library partners, including information about the missions and big ideas of the vendors they may already do business with. Each month, WiLS interviews a vendor partner…Read more
Thanks to the hard work of community members and library director Leann Lehner and her staff, the Jefferson Public Library Strategic Planning Summit held on Thursday, August 7th resulted in an exciting plan for ways to better…Read more
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 Marla Sepnafski, Director of Wisconsin Valley Library Service. Also, Marla and WVLS will be hosting one of WiLS’ Regional Meetings, on October 14th; be sure to register!
If you have questions about this interview or want to suggest someone for us to interview, contact Andrea Coffin at email@example.com.
Why did you, personally, choose to work in libraries?
My initiation into the library field was serendipitous. While I grew up in a household that used the public library in my community (Wausau, WI) pretty heavily, my initial career choice was to be a teacher, and I pursued degree in education from the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse.
However, following graduation, an unexpected turn of events required me to return to my hometown for a significant period of time. Unable to relocate, and with no teaching opportunities in my area of expertise available in local and surrounding school districts, I looked for temporary employment. My mother, who was an administrative assistant to the Director of both the Marathon County Public Library (MCPL) and the Wisconsin Valley Library Service (WVLS), told me of some part time jobs available at each organization. I applied for one job in each organization, and was lucky to be hired for both.
Those positions, which were mostly clerical in nature, were a godsend, because they exposed me to back end operations and behind-the-scenes conversations, which fostered my awareness of the unique, symbiotic relationship between a public library and a public library system. Much to my surprise, the work proved to be way more fascinating (and certainly less boring!) than I anticipated. Based on my mother’s dinner table conversations with the family as I was growing up, I imagined that library work would be relatively structured and quiet and rather “ordinary.” I couldn’t have been more wrong!
Once the doors of the library field opened, I never looked back. Those initial, very part-time jobs helped me to get a full-time job three months later as a mail clerk for WVLS. Within a year of that, I was promoted to reference and had the good fortune to work on MCPL’s reference desk and to respond to subject requests from WVLS member libraries. As I took on new roles and new responsibilities within WVLS, I became less interested in a teaching career and more and more interested in advancing my career in the library field. Recognizing my potential the WVLS Board of Trustees granted me several educational leaves of absence to complete Masters in Library Science coursework at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The endorsement from the WVLS Board and support from the WVLS staff, who did their own work as well as mine when I was out of the office, afforded me the opportunity to focus on my studies as needed and to get as much out of my library school experience as possible.
I have worked for WVLS for almost 30 years and in most areas of the operation, and I can say with conviction that helping libraries to better serve their communities is never boring in this fast-paced, technologically driven landscape. And that each day is very different from the day before and from the day following. I love doing what I do, and I am proud of the work libraries and systems do to help create a more informed citizenry and better tomorrow for the people we serve and their communities!
What is unique about the culture of your library? How do you influence it?
Our culture is one of experimentation and innovation. As such, it is important to the success of our operations that WVLS hires people who are confident and thoughtful and who are not afraid of making mistakes or taking risks. It is also necessary to have staff on board who see themselves as lifelong learners and also as a part of a team that selflessly supports change and the pursuit of improving all aspects of our service.
With the right staff in place, it is then my responsibility to ensure they each have the tools and the resources they need to do their jobs well.
What do you think is important to know about the patrons or community you work with? What helps you understand those needs?
Library systems function by Wisconsin State Statute to provide specific services to libraries in their member counties so WVLS’ “patrons” are the staffs and boards of libraries in our 7-county service area.
The needs of patrons as information consumers are always in a state of flux. From card catalogs, professional journals and reference books in paper form, to the Internet, online catalogs, apps and the proliferation of content in digital form, libraries are challenged to stay abreast of the myriad ways in which information is shared and received.
As demands for and availability of information technology increases, and as funding barriers challenge libraries to do more with less, the issues facing library staff and boards can become overwhelming very quickly. Our role is to assist our member colleagues navigate through these problems, and to adapt and customize our support to meet their unique needs.
In a consortium environment like a library system, open and frequent dialogues with stakeholders and with colleagues in other systems benefits our understanding of the issues facing libraries, and are crucial to problem solving, resource allocation, and strategic short- and long-term planning at the system level.
What big ideas are being worked on at your library? What problems are being solved?
WVLS recognizes the ongoing need to be proactive and innovative regarding resources and initiatives, especially during this period of uncertainly and shrinking revenue streams, and believes that increased collaboration and cooperation has the potential to reduce redundancy, increase efficiencies and improve services to our member libraries.
We are just wrapping up a year-long investigation on merging the ILS operations/online catalogs of WVLS and two neighboring systems. While this merger did not receive enough support from member libraries to move it a reality, the feedback and insights from this process will help shape future discussions on mergers, collaboration and cooperation.
Over the next few months, we will be aggressively pursuing procurement of expertise and services from other institutions: library systems, libraries, CESAs, municipal organizations and academic institutions.
Likewise we plan to open our capital investments to public-private partnerships that help promote our mission. We will place our infrastructure in such a manner that it can empower other library systems, schools, etc., to do more with less money and expertise. We plan to work with public and private partners to develop this shared infrastructure in a bi-directional, scalable manner that allows institutions to opt in or out with little risk.
Lastly, we will be implementing a digitization service which pools the expertise of public, academic and historical society staff to support member library staff’s efforts to preserve local history resources.
Do you have anything else you’d like to share with us?
Libraries are doing some pretty powerful stuff in their communities and I am honored and thankful to be able to work with passionate system and member library staff and trustees throughout the state to help libraries thrive.
If you want to make your library the center of research collaboration, join Swets’ webinar to learn how Mendeley Institutional Edition (MIE) is your ticket into the heart of the social research community. Students and researchers throughout the world are avidly sharing, collaborating, publishing and accessing a wealth of information and with MIE, you’re granted real-time insight into content usage to help you stay informed on research activity, content trend analysis, altmetrics and so much more. Register here for Wednesday, August 20th – 12:00 – 12:30 PM CST.
At WiLS, we want to bring valuable information to our library partners, including information about the missions and big ideas of the vendors they may already do business with. Read more
Why did you, personally, choose to work in libraries? I liked that the opportunity that libraries provided to me to combine my interests in teaching, service to others, and continued learning. There are so many aspects to libraries that I am never bored.
What is unique about the culture of your library? How do you influence it? At UW-Green Bay Cofrin Library we have established a Yes Culture. We are willing to say yes to any idea at least once because we know that with reward comes risk. I strongly believe in giving people not only the responsibility for a job, but the authority to do that job. When you combine that with a culture of yes, you create a work environment where people feel valued, motivated, and have the ability to grow.
What do you think is important to know about the patrons or community you work with? What helps you understand those needs? It is important to understand that even though we are always serving the “college student”, the needs and interests of that group changes with each class. What the class of 2014 liked is not what the class of 2016 or 2018 will like, so you need to have an ever evolving environment that can change to meet their needs and interests. We try to keep up on these changes through focus groups, surveys, observations, and meeting with student government.
What big ideas are being worked on at your library? What problems are being solved? We are in year two of a three year strategic plan, so there are a lot of things being worked on an various problems being solved. A few highlights include “A Long Night to Fight Procrastination” – this is a program that will bring together various student support services on campus a few weeks before the end of the semester to help students get a jump on their assignments and not wait until the last minute. We are in the planning stages for The Idea Spot, a new collaborative / high-tech study spaces for student groups. The Idea Spot will also help us to address one of our problems which is the on-going need to clearly define quiet study space from group space to reduce the noise. Another problem that will be addressed this fall semester is way finding aids (signage), we will be replacing/updating the signs throughout the entire library.
Do you have anything else you’d like to share with us? For a couple of years now, I have said that this is an exciting time for libraries and I believe it will be true for a few more. In 20-30 years, this span of about 5 years will be looked at back on as a key turning point in the history of libraries. It is fun to be a part of it!
Docuseek2 is a new streaming platform for independent documentary and social issue film, serving schools, colleges and universities. Launched in October 2012, Docuseek2 features premium exclusive content from leading educational distributors, with flexible licensing options and a rich set of search tools. Docuseek2 currently streams over 460 titles addressing a wide range of subjects, with notable depth in anthropology, the environment, urban studies, the global economy and American Studies. MARC records, chapter stops, captions and interactive transcripts are available for most titles. WiLS is excited to team up with Docuseek2 to bring this amazing collection to our members at a significant discount. Read more
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