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Aug 8 / Christine Illichmann

Managing Digital Identity: Self-Presentation and Social Structures

Dr. Timothy Bowman, SLIS assistant professor, will be contributing a series of blog posts on the topic of Managing Digital Identity. Dr. Bowman draws on his research related to the presentation of self in online environments to help students and alumni understand the impact of digital identity on professional life.

Individual impressions create a bigger picture
As I mention in the first blog post on managing digital identity (, how you act and the information you share with others in specific contexts will be how your audience identifies you. What I did not specifically address is that this impression will be created in a way that takes into account both your past actions and your current actions to create a new composite of an impression your audience has of you. Your past actions will have an influence on the impression an audience may have of you (across time); if you have a long history with someone, they will take this into account when forming the impressions they have of you in the current context. Thus, if you act completely out of character (not consistent with the self-presentation you’ve maintained in the past), the audience may consider you out of sorts (perhaps you are ill, have dealt with some major life event, have something else on your mind). This happens frequently in day-to-day social interaction. Why do others think this and what motivates them to either put aside this new impression as a one-time occurrence or become worried that something is amiss? How does this impact the overall impression an audience may have of you?

Change is a constant
While an audience does look for consistency, both in the current context of interaction and across time, each individual’s self-presentation strategies and identity is in constant flux. This may seem self-evident, but when we truly think about it, we realize that this suggests that our identities are ever-changing and that there may not be one, true self. How do we maintain a consistent identity and self-presentation when our own ideas about who we are change day-to-day?

If we look simply at distinguishing characteristics, we realize that these may change frequently; for example, your hair may change color (naturally or synthetically), your weight and height may fluctuate, your eye color may change, your name may change (when married), etc. If we then look at identifying the information we reveal about ourselves (self-presentation) in day-to-day social interactions, we realize that this also changes depending on various factors including our past experiences, the context in which we interact, the role we portray, and the overall impressions we want to make on our audience. A person’s identity and the way in which they present themselves change, both in the online world and in the day-to-day interactions they have offline. These changes may be consistent across both offline and online contexts or they may be very different.

The greater system and your identity
Another factor we should consider involves the social systems that we interact within. Social structures make up these systems and include norms and rules, social network ties, and the class structures in which we interact. If one were to agree with Giddens (1984), they may argue that the social system is both created by, and reinforced by, social interactions. It is an iterative process where acts both rely on and reinforce the social structures through day-to-day activities. If one were to consider online behavior like interacting on Facebook, we may look at the ways in which persons use the news feed consistently or the ways in which they describe themselves in profiles. The norms and rules of interacting on Facebook have changed since it was released in 2004. Early on, Facebook was available only to university students and used in a much different way than it is today. As early adopters began to use Facebook, certain consistencies could be identified in the ways in which they made use of the application. These consistencies became part of the norms and structures of use through both action and reinforcement. Some of the ways in which early adopters used Facebook were not planned by the designers and developers of Facebook, yet these consistent actions became part of the system and remained constant as Facebook became available to an ever-widening pool of users.

Similarly, early users of Twitter also helped develop and establish the social system of tweeting. Twitter users began using special symbols, such as a hashtag, to add special meaning to words in order to organize or distinguish tweets. This practice was continually reinforced until it became part of the structure of interaction on Twitter. Countless other examples of this behavior occur in the online world.

In the offline world, we can examine interaction in various contexts and see similar behaviors. For example, as information and library professionals with advanced degrees, you may be put in a situation where there are norms and rules dictating how you present yourself to others. As a public librarian on the reference desk, you may have certain rules and norms dictating how you can respond to a patron’s request both at a micro and a macro level. At the micro level, you have a duty to remain professional, which may entail certain rules for communicating and interacting with others. This type of library professionalism may be different from a professional in business or health, as each field has different expectations, norms, and rules on which to rely. At the macro level, libraries are in a different class from businesses or health organizations in the U.S.A., thus different rules, norms, and expectations are applied at this level as well. These social structures can influence the ways in which we identify ourselves and present ourselves to others.

These and other factors place pressure on us to act and interact with others in specific ways depending on several factors including time, context, and the roles in which we act.

In the third blog post, I will describe several incidents in which persons interacting on social media have presented themselves in ways that were detrimental to their careers.

Giddens, A. (1986). The constitution of society: Outline of the theory of structuration. Cambridge: Polity.

Puzzle pieces photo by Hans-Peter Gauster on Unsplash
Soccer table photo by Mpho Mojapelo on Unsplash 




Aug 2 / Christine Illichmann

SLIS Leader: Doreen Hannon

Photo of Doreen HannonIn the final interview of the SLIS Leaders series, we’re talking with Doreen Hannon (MLIS ’00), recently retired director of the Salem-South Lyon District Library in South Lyon, Michigan. Even in retirement, Doreen has taken a leading role in libraries through her work with the Friends of Michigan Libraries

You recently retired as Director of the Salem-South Lyon District Library (SSLDL). However, you’re still very active in the Salem and South Lyon communities and with Friends of Michigan Libraries. What recommendations do you have for those considering retirement but still wanting to lead and help libraries in a different way?

It’s pretty hard to leave library-land cold turkey when it has defined who you are for so many years! I’m looking at this as a gap year before I enter an encore career.  My advice for finding ways to continue to lead and help libraries (post-retirement) is to think about what you are good at, what got you excited to go to work every day, because that’s where your gifts are.  Sharing those gifts is a great way to give back to the profession and truthfully, when you give back, it makes you feel good!  If you can engage in work that is meaningful and has a positive impact on society, you will feel a sense of purpose that you are contributing to something bigger than yourself.

I have found a great organization (well, they found me!) – the Friends of Michigan Libraries.  The Friends of Michigan Libraries (FOML) is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3), organization dedicated to support and advocacy for Michigan library Friends groups.
The Mission of the Friends of Michigan Libraries is

  1. To support Friends working on behalf of Michigan libraries.
  2. To serve as an information resource for Friends’ groups.
  3. To be advocates for libraries at the state level.

Friends of Michigan Libraries offer innovative and relevant workshops for Friends and trustees annually in the spring and fall.   The Friends of Michigan Libraries fall workshop will be held Thursday, October 12th at Kent District Library and the Friends of Michigan Libraries Trustee Alliance Workshop will be Friday, October 13th also at Kent District Library.

I am now the chair of the Strategic Planning committee, chair of Social Media & Website Advisory committee, and I also serve on the budget committee.  In helping grow the FOML Facebook presence I have become much more aware of libraries all across Michigan.  Follow @FOMLibraries and see for yourself the incredible value that Michigan’s 396 public libraries are providing to people of all ages!

You started out at SSLDL as a clerk, and over time, became Library Director. For those starting out in their library careers, what recommendations do you have for honing leadership skills?

I absolutely love the topic of leadership!  You don’t have to be at the “top” of the organizational chart to be a leader.  I feel that each person in an organization is a leader in their own right and that working together as a team, great things can and will happen.  It is important to continue seeking out leaders that you admire and learn from them, find books and articles written by leaders, and also podcasts.  My favorite way to read is to “listen” to books and podcasts. This allows me to multi-task. When I really get serious about something I am reading or listening to, I take notes and then I share what I have learned with my colleagues and we take action!
My leadership role model is Rory Vaden, a self-discipline strategist and author of the New York Times bestseller Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success and the new national bestseller Procrastinate of Purpose:  5 Permissions to Multiply Your Time. I listen to all of Rory’s podcasts, The Action Catalyst with Rory Vaden which also leads me to find even more leadership books and podcasts based on who he interviews.  Rory’s famous quote has become one of my favorites: “Success is never owned’ it is rented – and the rent is due every day.”

During your time at Salem-South Lyon District Library, you became known for your incredible ability to balance library expansion and improvement with thoughtful fiscal management. For instance, you paid off a debt millage, led a building expansion that added a new wing to the library, and invested in technology to increase Internet speed at the library by 650% to 150 megabits per second. Can you explain some of your methods for creating forward organizational progression while keeping an eye on budgets?

I can say that I truly LOVED my job and the people I worked with!  Fiscally, I ran the library no differently than I would run my own personal finances.  My parents grew up in the Depression and were extremely frugal and hard-working people.  The same thing at the library, we were very frugal and each year able to set aside funds until eventually, we had saved enough to pay for the library expansion without going back to our taxpayers.  We were very intentional about how the library’s tax dollars were used and we did not take lightly our responsibility to provide great value to our residents.  I enjoyed being behind the scenes, making things happen at the library, but I’m sure my delight and excitement were quite contagious.  My personal motto is “Little things are big things – attention to details matters!”  I spent many hours working on and monitoring the budget.  Having a strong team comprised of the staff, the Library Board, and the Friends of the Library multiplied my efforts.  The budget committee of the Library Board worked closely with me – no stone was left unturned, and our efforts definitely paid off.

What do you recommend to libraries that are trying to prioritize what is most important to their library and community while working within a specific budget?

You cannot work in a vacuum and presume that the library knows what is best for the community!  You need to immerse yourself in the community in all ways – get out there and be a part of it, read the newspapers, stay on top of social media, listen to / attend township and city council meetings, pay attention to the schools, senior citizens and everyone in between.  You need to understand what the needs and challenges of the community are, and be ready to fill in the gaps.  We were fortunate to obtain a grant through the Library of Michigan and Midwest Collaborative for Library Services to participate in Harwood Institute training.  The Harwood Institute teaches you how to turn outward and make more intentional choices in creating positive change and relevance in your community.  A third opportunity for Michigan library staff to apply for this training was just announced (deadline to apply is August 31, 2017).  I would highly recommend applying for the Harwood Institute training.  You can learn how to apply and more information about this initiative at:

You’re a SLIS graduate, and at one point, every librarian on your staff had an MLIS from Wayne State SLIS and some of your circulation clerks were earning their MLIS degrees at Wayne State. What do Wayne State SLIS alumni bring to libraries and how did those traits help you and SSLDL?

I’ve always felt that Wayne State grads have a well-rounded, hit-the-ground-running degree.  At SSLDL we had 20-some employees who obtained the MLIS degree at Wayne State University and I think that really contributed to the library’s success.  Professors in the SLIS have a passion and integrity that is expected of students, and this becomes a way of life for Wayne State’s SLIS grads!

Are there trends or issues that you are seeing in public libraries that you think need more attention? If so, what are they?  

I think libraries need to be constantly on the look-out for ways to make library service as simple and convenient as possible.  No one should have to jump through hoops for anything that they are needing at the library – they should always feel surprised and delighted by every single library experience.  I also feel that Early Childhood Literacy is crucial and everything that libraries can do to assist parents and caregivers in helping with that is paramount.

You built strong connections between the library and the surrounding communities during your time at SSLDL. What recommendations do you have for those library managers seeking to improve community relations?

Once again “Little things are big things – attention to details matters!”  Every single person we serve is important and valued.  I would sometimes sit near our fireplace at the library and just observe how our customer service representatives and librarians interacted with our customers.  I can tell you in all honesty, I don’t know where you could possibly go and receive such caring, friendly service as at SSLDL.  Many libraries eventually need to ask their taxpayers for a millage.  You cannot expect voters to approve a tax request if they don’t believe the institution is providing value.  Every day is a new day, each person you serve deserves the best you can give.  If you make a mistake, own it and make it right.  You do that and you can’t go wrong.

Looking back on your career, what have been some of your fondest moments?

SO many great moments!  Seeing children excited to come to the library and not wanting to leave!  Laughing with my co-workers.  Helping a customer and realizing you just made their day…their week…; being open during a winter storm because of the library generator and providing warmth when every other place around is closed; seeing a word of thanks expressed to a volunteer who is tending the gardens, the list goes on and on.  If you want to make a difference in people’s lives, there’s no better place to do it than the library.

Jul 26 / Christine Illichmann

SLIS Leader: Daren Hubbard

Daren Hubbard is Chief Information Officer and Associate Vice President for Computing and Information Technology at Wayne State University. He has over 20 years of experience in higher education leadership. He is a certified project manager and has an MBA and MLIS (’00) from Wayne STate University.

As CIO of Wayne State University, you are responsible for the university’s computing and networking facilities, data center operations, enterprise software applications, learning management environments, high-performance research computing, voice services, information security, and information technology support services. How do you stay up-to-date on current trends in those areas? Are there online resources, periodicals, or other media outlets that you would recommend on those topics? 

I tend to rely on multiple websites and information sources to keep up like, and campus technology. We also read the chronicle of higher education as well to stay aligned with the academe.  I encourage my team to do the same to ensure that we have a variety of perspectives at the table.  I also look to several outlets that cover consumer technology like and to track larger tech trends. And finally I take note of how my children are using technology to anticipate emerging trends.

You also manage an extensive staff. Can you share a little bit about how you and your team communicate goals and priorities to ensure that the many projects you work on maintain forward progress?  

Much of what we do centers around communicating early and often.  Weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly meeting with multiple levels of management and staff is a must. And all of that is supplemented by communications from my office via email, portal or through the website. And finally, I perform skip-level meetings to engage directly with all staff to hear from all corners of the division.

You earned your MLIS from Wayne State in 2000. How has your MLIS contributed to your work as CIO?

The most important contribution would be the skill to acquire new knowledge and be able to quickly integrate it and leverage it for alternative purposes. This is something that librarians have been doing for years that is critical to technology work. For example, the reference librarian is very similar to an application developer- listening intently to requirements and needs and exposing and connecting patrons to information solutions in real-time.

Can you share a bit of insight into your overall leadership style, specifically related to leading teams and people? What has helped you define and determine your leadership style?

My leadership style is grounded in respecting the capabilities of my team and giving them what they need to be successful. At every level of management that l have served, I make it my business to learn what the styles and capabilities of my team are and work with them to fully leverage them.  Most people need similar things: a clearly articulated vision that guides the overall work, transparency with regard to evaluation and expectation and support if and when they get in over their heads.  And finally, I empower folks to create their own solutions to problems- presenting me with options to select from- rather than dumping them on me to solve- I am always amazed what people are able to do when you believe in them.


Do you have any recommendations for LIS professionals who might be in the early or middle stages of their career and are seeking to improve their leadership skills?

The best advice I have ever received was to seek out opportunities for growth even if you were not going to be compensated for it right then. That willingness to invest in yourself and to lead because leadership is needed is a great opportunity to show initiative and to demonstrate your abilities.  Doing so usually puts you on the radar early and helps to solidify your image as someones who goes above and beyond with out being told to.

Students, faculty, and patrons alike have high expectations that organizations will adapt to technology trends very quickly. Given the rapid change that is always occurring in the tech world, how do you decide which projects to take on and adapt to serve students, faculty and staff at Wayne State? 

We do a lot more listening than talking. Through surveys and direct feedback we have an idea where our challenging areas are and likewise where the greatest opportunities for advancing the state of the art may be.  Decisions on projects frequently come down to alignment to the University’s strategies, cost and the availability of staff resources. When things come together and we are able to exceed expectations and do something that is cool and exciting at the same time- when that happens Wayne State is the big winner.

Are there are any trends in the fields of computing and information technology that are not getting the attention they should be? Especially related to C&IT in a university setting, what trends do you think deserve notice? 

A trend that is gaining traction is data science and the use of data to provide better more proactive support. Also, more students have shared the desire to have more interactive work spaces – which is something my employees are asking for as well. Areas with large screens that individuals can easily access are becoming what everyone wants to work with.

Do you have any advice for students considering information management and similar courses of study?  

Be open and flexible, what you study today may not be what you work on tomorrow.

Jul 12 / Christine Illichmann

SLIS Leader: Alicia Biggers-Gaddies

Alicia Biggers-Gaddies (MLIS ’96) is Knowledge Center Manager at Ford Motor Company International Headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan. She has over 20 years of experience in the fields of knowledge management and competitive intelligence. Alicia also teaches Competitive Intelligence courses for SLIS. 

Learn more about her work related to data analytics in her January interview with the Special Libraries Association.

What is a typical day like for you as Knowledge Center Manager?

A typical day includes meetings with data suppliers, business skill teams and providing orientations to new or rotating employees.  The day includes responding to research requests, answering quick reference and of course, the emails!

Depending on the day, I can be pulled into project work and project management. During the 4Q and 1Q the days are focused on budgets, negotiations for services supporting our core team as well as the corporation.

How many people work on your team at the Knowledge Center? Do you have a communication style that seems to work better than others for your group? For instance, do you find that weekly meetings, or one-on-ones, or email are better for coordinating goals and communicating with one another?

There is one researcher along with subject experts from our key research suppliers and myself.  We use a blend of styles to communicate depending on the situation or task at hand.  We have touch point meetings for the macro view of how the world is working while emails help track research with quick exchanges in person.

As Knowledge Center Manager you have to work with many different units at Ford and are involved in a lot of different projects. How do you communicate to different units about the value of your work and make them aware of the services you offer?

Over the years, we have built a reputation of response and follow-up with many of our “users” rotating through different teams, they become our “advocates” of branding the role of the Knowledge Center to Ford.  Of course, we promote and market through senior management briefings, 1:1, small group and team orientations. We host a biannual “Info Expo” which provides corporate exposure to the internal information services and the suppliers they work with to provide research intelligence to the corporation.

Communicating the value of the Knowledge Center is daily from how we brand our research summaries to infographics to our SharePoint site.

You have taken on many large scale projects at Ford that have had international, company-wide impact. For instance, you created and implemented a global contract management process and you completed a global information audit which produced ~$2M in savings by removing duplicate purchases. What recommendations do you have for implementing these sorts of large scale projects – especially related to communicating process and goals to end users?

Listen to the users (your analyst and business/skill teams) and senior management then look for trends and gaps. From there, find a common ground or language to socialize the issue, challenge or project.  Seek an executive champion with realistic goals to accomplish and move the corporation forward. It is a team effort, not individual and you let go when momentum has formed allowing the company system to lead.  The most recent example is our effort to bring forth analytics as a skill team and competency to Ford which was successful with the creation of our Global Data Insights & Analytics team.

For those LIS professionals who are just starting out in their careers, what recommendations do you have for them in terms of cultivating their leadership style and capabilities? What can they do early on in their careers to prepare themselves for jobs like Knowledge Center Manager?

Know thy self.  Easier said than done. Look to understand what motivates you and what bugs you.  Be honest. Recognize others don’t work the same and that is okay as long as the work, task, and projects are completed with the value of the service preserved and enhanced.  Managing is moving people forward, not moving yourself forward. Your progression is measured by how well you honor, reward and promote others.

To enhance your career for management roles, take on responsibilities that move the value you bring to your organization.  Take on the role of managing a site or compliance for the group.  Volunteer for projects, offer to assist with budgeting, write value statements of services and listen to the company, response to the opportunities – see a need, fill a need. Do not replicate or duplicate rather compliment and supplement the efforts around you.

Are there trends that you’re seeing in knowledge management that LIS professionals should be keeping tabs on?

Like “knowledge management”, know how your role is impacted, enhance or changed with the inclusion of “analytics” or “data analytics.”  Know how you can assist with this development, the same as the information professional handles competitive intelligence, research, IT, and content management.  As our society develops, our core skills as information professionals are flexible to adapt to those developments as guides to those around us – listen, simplify and respond; do not simply “react” to these developments.

How did your Wayne State SLIS education prepare you for your current role?

Most fundamental learning I took from my WSU SLIS experience were the key skills unique to information professionals – research interview (critical, use it daily), cataloging (how information is organized to retrieve), abstracting (this is critical, I use it daily for executive summaries) and indexing (how to find anything).

Going back to participate in advisory groups, student groups and other WSU SLIS activities helped to polish my management / leadership skills.

Lastly, for students interested in Knowledge Management or for those current LIS professionals considering a move to Knowledge Management, do you have any advice for how they can best prepare for a career in KM?

The skills you acquire through the MLIS program fit the demands of knowledge management. You are acutely positioned to help organizations with human input to KM as there is more to it than a system (IT).  You understand how humans store and retrieve information.  How they might tag it (and you index it) and how the company’s vocabulary impacts any system.  Those are skills that are not taught in just any grad program.  Know it, use it and leverage your skills to solve problems and challenges.  You will see the main issue with KM is the people (input / output) not the software.


Jul 10 / Christine Illichmann

Managing Digital Identity: Why Digital Identity Matters

Dr. Timothy Bowman, SLIS assistant professor, will be contributing a series of blog posts on the topic of Managing Digital Identity. Dr. Bowman draws on his research related to the presentation of self in online environments to help students and alumni understand the impact of digital identity on professional life.

Your Identity, Defined.
In today’s world, our identity may be spread across multiple avenues of interaction and can be absorbed by different audience at various times. We may know the audience or we may not. What we choose to reveal in one context may be hidden in another and this also may change across time. With the advent of the internet and the subsequent integration of the web and mobile technology into our daily lives, some scholars have suggested that we have both an offline identity and an online (or digital) identity (Camp, 2004). We may be defined simply by distinguishing attributes, such as those used to define our unique presence in a computer application or legal record, but is this digital identity a way in which we would define ourselves?

How do you define one’s identity? It’s a question that has been discussed across multiple disciplines, including information science, sociology, psychology, law, business, and health, and defined in a variety of ways. Identity, as defined by the online Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “sameness in all that constitutes the objective reality of a thing; the distinguishing character or personality of an individual” (Merriam-Webster, n.d.) What does it mean to identify the “objective reality of a thing?” How can we identify the “distinguishing character or personality of an individual?” How do context and time fit into the equation? These questions have driven scholars to search for answers across various contexts, which has undoubtedly led to more questions than answers.

Online you + Offline you = ?
When you create a new account on a social media platform such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter, what information do you enter? Do you identify the unique characteristics of your personality and/or self? Is the profile a way others can understand the objective reality of who you are and what you are? What about offline: Do you introduce yourself to a potential employer and describe your distinguishing characteristics or personality objectively? Some of these distinguishing characteristics may be inferred through a photo, media, or legal document that your audience may have access, while others may not.

I would predict that, either offline or online, you present yourself in ways that are appropriate for the context and the time of interaction. This is where presenting one’s self and identity differ. What is the difference between identity and the way you present yourself? We may consider identity to consist of managing those legal and factual attributes of our lives (such as our birth date, height, weight, eye color, etc.), whereas presenting our self to others can be thought of as managing the information we reveal about our self to audiences in varying contexts at different times.

In my own research on identity and self-presentation, I primarily utilize theories and frameworks from sociology and social psychology to investigate the ways in which social media participants represent themselves in these online contexts. Erving Goffman is a prominent sociologist who spent his academic life studying self-presentation. His book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959) was one of the first studies to examine aspects of self-presentation from a sociological perspective. Goffman developed a framework to describe this activity in terms of dramaturgical concepts (i.e. actors, audience, stage, props, etc.). One of his primary ideas was that one must maintain their role during a presentation to an audience, else the actor will be embarrassed when the audience no longer believes them. His work has been used across multiple disciplines to describe how actors represent themselves to audience in different contexts.

Why Digital Identity Matters
Whether we are discussing identity or self-presentation, what does it mean for you? As you know, the way you represent yourself to others can have an impact on what you can accomplish personally, socially, and legally. If you represent yourself as speaking French and as a programmer in a resume to an employer, that employer will understandably expect those skills to materialize once you are hired. If you apply for a passport to visit another country, those who process your application will expect that the information you provide be accurate and legally factual. Taking it one step further, if you are working the reference desk in a public library and you are performing a reference interview with a patron, how you present yourself will have an impact on the success of your ability to understand and successfully fulfill the patron’s request. If the patron believes you are knowledgeable, trustworthy, and open to the patron’s questions, you will have a better chance of finding the proper resource they require. However, if the patron sees you as standoffish, uninterested, and snobbish toward their request, the patron will most likely not receive the resource they require.

How you act and what information you choose to share about yourself in a specific context will typically be how your audience identifies you. This can be extended further when we consider the online context and the information you provide about yourself; what you place online is permanent, can be copied, taken out of context, and is available to an invisible audience (boyd & Ellison, 2007). This may present us with potential problems, as future employers, organizations, friends, and legal entities may find something you shared (or a friend shared about you) years ago and use that to identify you and judge you in some way.


boyd,  d., & Ellison, N. (2007). Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship. JCMC, 13 (1). Retrieved from

Camp, J. L. (2004). Digital identity. IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, 23(3), 34–41.

Goffrnan, E. (1959). The presentation of self in everyday life. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. Retrieved from

Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Identity. Retrieved June 22, 2017 from

Photo Credits:

People Walking Photo by mauro mora on Unsplash
Computer User at Coffee Shop Photo by Bonnie Kittle on Unsplash




Jul 8 / Christine Illichmann

Being a Conference Intern – Student Mike Curcuruto Shares His Experience

SLIS Student Mike Curcuruto recently participated in the 2017 Great Lakes Resource Sharing Conference as a conference intern. If you’re curious about what a conference intern does or what was covered at GLRSC this post is a must read! 

Blogpost and Photos by Mike Curcuruto 

This past June, I was fortunate enough to be selected as one of three interns for the 2017 Great Lakes Resource Sharing Conference (GLRSC) that took place in Oakbrook, Illinois. The two day conference was well attended by many from Academic, Public, and Special libraries. The conference was developed as a way to support resource sharing endeavors in both public and academic libraries in the Great Lakes region.  The GLRSC has several key goals:

  • To train resource sharing departments throughout the region.
  • To share ideas for collaboration.
  • To share ideas for marketing, streamlining workflows, and staying on top of changes in resource sharing.

While the conference is primarily attended by those in the great lakes region, individuals from outside the region are encouraged to (and do) attend as well.

Prior to the conference, I sat in on several virtual planning meetings with GLRSC committee members. I was very grateful that the committee allowed us to attend these planning sessions, as they gave me a better understanding of the sheer amount of work and prep that goes into planning a successful conference.

Since this was my first professional conference, I was unsure of what to expect. I arrived a day before the conference started and was glad I planned an extra day because it took some of the initial stress of traveling to an unfamiliar city off of me. I was able to explore Oakbrook and got a chance to check out the conference area and hotel. The committee decided that we would meet in the evening to finish up name badges. Many hands made light work and everyone was very welcoming.

My badge. Everyone loved how the program was included right on their badge for easy access!

Day 1:

All of the presentations were held in the same conference room for the first day, so there was little set-up that had to be done. Kristin, a fellow intern, and I put up some signage directing conference attendees where to go and we were asked to post on social-media about what was happening at the conference throughout the day. One of the highlights for me was an update from OCLC about their current resource sharing endeavors and the presentation Enriching Your Wealth of Resources by Marking ILL presented by Adebola Fabiku (Wheaton College) & Laura Tomcik.

Adebola Fabiku (Wheaton College) & Laura Tomcik

Their presentation included creative ways to market interlibrary loan to your library patrons. I was surprised to learn that some libraries even have an ILL mascot.  While many of the presentations primarily focused on academic libraries, much of the information contained in them could easily be translated and applied to a wide-variety of library settings.

After a full day of presentations, it was nice to unwind and mingle with everyone at the reception and play some trivia (LIBRARIANS LOVE TRIVIA!)

Reception & Trivia contest

Day 2:

On the second day I helped get some of the conference rooms set up for presentations (tested microphones, set-up projectors, and laptops). For the rest of the day, my main responsibility was to provide technical assistance for several breakout sessions. This loosely translated into making sure speakers didn’t run over their allotted time and assist with any technology-related problems that may arise. I was fortunate and all my sessions went smoothly without any tech issues.  For the last session, I was asked to introduce the group of presenters. I was nervous, mostly because I didn’t want to mispronounce anyone’s name. While I did stumble over some of the more difficult names, I recovered quickly and managed to get through it.

I also did more social media coverage on my personal twitter and took pictures (the ones you see on this post). I now have major respect for people who can live-tweet because it isn’t easy trying to listen, compose a well-thought out tweet, and post all at the same time.

Some of the highlights of day two for me were:

  • Corey Seeman’s Keynote Address—History Has Its Eyes on You: Lighthouses and Libraries Weathering Storms of Change (link).

“Libraries like lighthouse can help you when you are lost”

His address was informational, inspiring, and entertaining. This year’s conference theme was “Harnessing the Winds of Change” and his address fit the theme beautifully. There are many changes facing libraries everyday—we can either cower away from them or we can face them head on, harness their energy, and thrive.

Corey Seeman giving his keynote address

  • Richard Adler’s presentation: The Michigan Service Hub: Bringing the Great Lakes State to the Digital Public Library of America.

It was great to learn more about the DPLA and the ways in which institutions from Michigan, such as Wayne State University, are contributing and sharing their collections with the world.

  • Jessica Curtis’ presentation: People Can Make the Difference: Staff Roles in Resource Marketing and Education

This was one of the few presentations that addressed public libraries and I was excited that I was able to cover this session since I currently manage a public library. I plan to incorporate some of Jessica’s ideas on how I can easily market resource sharing at my library branch in the near future. Hint: PEOPLE LOVE BOOKMARKS

Jessica Curtis “selling us” on ways to sell ILL to our patrons

Overall, this conference was a lot of fun to work on and attend and I am so thankful for the opportunity I was given. I would recommend anyone who has any interest in the benefits of resource sharing to attend. As library budgets grow smaller, resource sharing can be a great way to reduce our costs and offer more to our library patrons. I learned a great deal about resource sharing in libraries and I would love to attend next year’s conference. This experience was also a great way to get to know fellow LIS professionals and network. I just wish I didn’t wait until my last semester to attend professional conferences and I would encourage current MLIS students to seek out similar opportunities whenever possible. The sooner the better.  Many conferences offer reduced or free attendance to interns/volunteers. As a side note, I became aware of this conference during my practicum at Central Michigan University last fall. I highly recommend a practicum—even if you currently work in a library. It is a great way to gain a different perspective and grow your network.

To view past presentations and learn more about the Great Lakes Resource Sharing Conference visit:

Jul 5 / Christine Illichmann

SLIS Leader: Lance Werner

Lance Werner (MLIS ’04) is Director of the Kent District Library, an 18 branch library system serving Kent County, Michigan. In 2016, Lance was named a Library Journal Mover and Shaker and in 2017, was named as a Wayne State University Distinguished Alumni. He was also named the recipient of the 2017 Urban Libraries Council Joey Rogers Leadership Award and the 2017 Michigan Library Association Librarian of the Year Award. 

Photo of Lance Werner

Lance Werner speaking at the 2017 Wayne State University Alumni Awards. Photo courtesy of Wayne State University Office of Alumni Relations.

Do you have recommendations for new librarians who want to improve their leadership skills? How can today’s Librarian I or II prepare themselves to be an excellent future Librarian IV or V?

I think it is important to be kind, empathetic, passionate, and fearless in the modern library arena. I think strong consideration should be given to developing communication styles that reflect genuine self are important. I do not think there is any room for intellectual elitism in libraries. Exceptional internal and external customer service should always be sought. We are the people that we serve, no better than the best of them and no worse than the worst of them. If you’re a really good leader you care about what’s best for the organization first, in a selfless way.

I have been saying that the mushy stuff matters a lot lately and I believe it. I think we should be willing to be personally vulnerable. A lot of what we experience is a reflection of our own behavior and when we treat people with genuine kindness and empathy the world will reflect that back. I care deeply about the people that I work with, the people that we help, and the work that we do. I do not consider myself “above” anyone who works or volunteers at KDL. I have always seen my role as a facilitator of greatness in others. I recognize that we all win or lose together. We refer to our coworkers, volunteers, and everyone in the community as our family and treat them accordingly. We have servant’s hearts.

You can do great things where you are at. As long as it’s a good fit for you, and you feel secure there, you can change the world from right where you’re standing. It’s not always the case, but when you find the right position for you, you’ll know.

What aspects of library management do you love? What is, shall we say, “less loveable” about being in library management? 

I am more of a leader than a manager. I establish vision and direction and manage the Leadership Team. They are excellent at their jobs and I let them be. We are extremely collaborative across our entire system. I learned a long time ago that a great game changing idea can come from anyone, anywhere. So what do I love the most? Working with people that I love, on work that we love, for people that we love.

I know at this point you probably think KDL sounds like a hippie commune, it is kind of. We have high, high expectations of our employees. Sometimes things don’t work out, even when the person is giving it their all. Since I am the one to make the determination that someone needs to be terminated, then it should be me who tells them face to face. I have fired many people. While I never have felt guilty or bad about firing someone, I don’t love it.

The libraries you manage seem to become highly innovative and try new technologies and ideas for their communities. What advice do you have for those libraries that might be holding back from going too far outside of the library box?

People that change the world are people that believe they can. I think libraries that are afraid to reach and take risks are holding our entire profession back. Nothing new would ever happen if we didn’t take chances. I think as a group, libraries and librarians need to embrace the notion of being fearless for the people that we serve.

I love being on the bleeding edge and past the bleeding edge. I find it exhilarating. I am a bit of an adrenaline junkie and enjoy pushing the envelope in everything that I endeavor to do. I could care less what other libraries think about it. We don’t do it for anyone except the people that we serve. We are committed to throwing out the status quo and improving what exists. I figure that if I haven’t given it my all, what’s the point? Reach, fall down, reach again, rinse and repeat. When that cycle becomes too much, I think a new profession is in order.

Are there trends or issues that you’re seeing in public libraries that need to be focused on more? 

Next level customer service and user experience (let’s beat Zingerman’s and Disney), communication skills (if you come across like a good bartender, you are heading in the right direction), staying abreast of the latest technologic breakthroughs, and always pushing for convenience and simplicity.

As a Library Director, you have a full calendar and plenty of meetings. Can you share ideas with the SLIS community for managing a busy schedule successfully? Do you have any tips for managing meetings? 

I usually work anywhere from 60-80 hours a week. It is not uncommon for me to attend 5+ meetings a day. I also am involved in 8 different outside groups and visit each of the KDL branches monthly. I also try to work at least one desk shift a month. It would be impossible for me to keep track of everything and do everything without having a top notch executive assistant. I do and she’s a ninja! Her name is Jaci (pronounced “Jaycee”).

When you’re hiring librarians, what skills are you seeking – either soft skills or hard, technical skills?

It really depends on the position, but by and large we look for:

  1. Soft skills
  1. Soft skills
  1. Soft skills


  1. Soft skills

What types of soft skills are at the top of your list in terms of importance?

You want somebody who is kind, who is outgoing, who desires to be part of a team. You also want someone that is selfless and is passionate about pushing the bar even higher.

I enjoy people being fearless, who are able to look past their own fears and are willing to speak up in a constructive (not degrading) way. It’s important to be constructive, speak up and if you have an idea to make things better, then let’s do it. That’s all I care about making things better.

You were recently named as a Wayne State University Outstanding Alumni. Multiple members of your family bleed green and gold. Who else in your family has graduated from Wayne State? What aspects of Wayne State make it a top choice for your family?

I am honored to be named the 2017 WSU Distinguished Alumni and to represent the SLIS and WSU Libraries. I have since received notice that I am also the 2017 recipient of the Urban Libraries Council Joey Rogers Leadership Award and the 2017 Michigan Library Association Librarian of the Year Award. It has been a pretty unbelievable year.

My father went to Wayne State for Medical School and my grandmother attended the College of Education for a while. WSU was a no brainer for me. In addition to providing a top-notch education, the program was flexible enough for me to attend law school and work full time simultaneously. I would encourage anyone to give serious consideration to WSU when contemplating higher education or graduate school. WSU has nationally recognized programs that are both of tremendous benefit educationally, as well as value.

Congratulations! Those are immense honors – and well deserved! The Joey Rogers Leadership Award offers a stipend for senior library managers to pursue a professional development opportunity. What will you do with Joey Rogers Leadership Award?

I am applying for the Michigan Political Leadership Program at Michigan State University. The program offers training for people who are interested in running for office, it has many aspects including personal leadership development and training on public process. It’s intended for people interested in becoming legislators. Maybe someday I’d be interested in being a legislator, but in the meantime, I think it would be good training for me to learn and help others in their endeavors. Libraries are governmental organizations, though we don’t think of ourselves that way. Whether you’re an academic in a university library setting or a public library funded by local, state, and federal funding, we need to understand and learn how to be successful advocates. Not just related to money, but issues of intellectual freedom and other topics, too. I think understanding this is important for the longevity of libraries. I do some of this on behalf on the Michigan Library Association and other organizations but would like to learn more.

I think it’s important for us to be good advocates – not aggressive advocates, just better advocates. I’m never aggressive when I’m advocating for libraries. If you are a nice person and people respect you because you treat them the right way, people will want to work with you.

Jun 28 / Christine Illichmann

SLIS Leader: Dr. Sandra Yee

The SLIS Leaders Blog Post Series highlights library and information leaders and seeks their insights on leadership and LIS trends. Our first interview features Dr. Sandra Yee.

Dr. Sandra Yee is Dean of the Wayne State University Library System, a role in which she oversees operations of both the University Libraries and the School of Library and Information Science. She has worked in the field of academic librarianship for over 35 years and will be retiring from the position of Dean in August 2017. We caught up with her to get insights about libraries, leadership, and where the LIS professions are headed.

You can read Dr. Yee’s faculty profile on the Wayne State University Libraries website.

Photo - Dr. Sandra Yee, Dean of the Wayne State University Library System

Dr. Sandra Yee, Dean of the Wayne State University Library System

Over the course of your career you’ve seen a great deal of change in libraries – whether that’s policies, technology, or other trends. What recommendations do you have for library professionals who have to adapt to and manage change?

Stay informed, stay current.  Continuously learn about trends in the profession.  Go to conferences, read, talk to colleagues.  Try new things, don’t be afraid. Force yourself to embrace new technologies and to try new things.  It’s important to understand the process of “failing fast”. Find a way to scale projects for testing and if they don’t work out, then learn from that. Take some risks but know when to dial back!

You have balanced many important roles in addition to your role as Dean.  Currently, you are Chair of the OCLC Board of Trustees, you’re a past-president and current board member of the Friends of the Detroit Public Library Friends Foundation and a member of the Wayne State University Press Editorial Board. Over the course of your career, you’ve held similar roles at similar organizations. How do you manage the demands of these various roles on your time and what recommendations do you have for LIS professionals who would like to participate more actively in organizations outside of their “day job”?

I recommend picking some organizations that you really care about and that have goals and values similar to yours.  Finding time and energy to work with professional organizations is easier if you are passionate about the organization and have a desire to help make it the best it can be.

As Dean of University Libraries and the School of Library and Information Science, you are a key stakeholder in many important decisions that have long-term impact on the university, its libraries, and SLIS. Do you have a particular process for making big decisions in terms of getting input and using data? How do you assess need and the potential impact of the decisions you have to make?

When big decisions have to be made I like to take some time and look at the whole picture.  That means asking for input from those who should know the situation, getting the important data and considering alternatives.  I try to consider what the desired outcome would look like.  In the end, I also trust my gut because I learned a long time ago, “if it doesn’t FEEL right, don’t do it!”

What do you think is the most underestimated trend in the LIS professions currently? Is there something that LIS professionals should be spending more time or attention on that is going unnoticed?

Customer relationship management and artificial intelligence.  I was just reading about not just self-check out at grocery stores, but NO check out.  All done through an app.  Are we even talking about this for libraries??? I think there’s a place for CRM systems like SalesForce and similar automated email systems in libraries, and some libraries are starting to use those for marketing and interaction. There’s a lot of activity with AI and libraries aren’t there yet. Libraries need to be really watching what’s happening out there.

I think it’s crucial to study library literature, but also study customer service, study inventory control systems, don’t just study library literature. Keep your mind open and read about other trends and technology because those things will influence libraries down the road.

When I was an undergraduate I studied creativity –I wanted to know how I could be more creative and what are processes of creativity – and that has helped me think in the way I do. It’s important to not just think critically but also creatively.

What additional advice to you have for library professionals who are interested in becoming excellent leaders?

It’s important for leaders to know what the people in your organization are doing. It’s important for a leader to know how things work. I think there is a fine line between micromanaging and knowing what people do. They are the experts, that’s why I hired them because they’re the experts. I want to know what they do so I understand what their challenges are and understand how they’re meeting those challenges. One semester I taught LIS 7060: Academic Libraries online and it was difficult. I had to learn about Blackboard and Adobe Connect.  I created video recordings as well as powerpoint slides, so it was a lot to prepare!  But I felt it was an excellent experience. I felt needed to do it so I understood what the faculty do and would know what faculty were going through when teaching online.   I knew what challenges they were facing.

I’m a pretty energetic person both mentally and physically – I believe it is important to maintain your energy.

What projects or highlights from your career are you particularly proud of?

One of the highlights of my career is the success of the University Library System and the School of Library and Information Science at Wayne State.  I have been able to move the libraries forward by partnering with students and faculty, bringing resources to them where they are, and providing a safe and inspiring physical environment.  We moved the Library and Information Science Program totally online in 2008, increased enrollment, and changed from Program to School.

At Eastern Michigan University I was deeply engaged in the development and building of the Bruce T. Halle Library which opened in 1998, with a new model for storing collections, the Automated Storage and Retrieval System which was the second one to be built in a library in the US.  It was an exceptional opportunity to work with faculty and students but also to work with that technology. It was a unique opportunity at the time to work with Voyager (the Integrated Library System) to define the specifications so that the automated system and Voyager worked correctly together so the software would identify the bin where the item was stored and place it at the retrieval system. I learned about logistics, I learned about inventory control and logistics and I learned there is so much more to it!

Are there any moments in your career that you would have approached differently?

For me, I’m happy with the decisions that I made. I stayed at one location for 19 years and at another for 16 years.  For others, I’d suggest moving to new opportunities more quickly if that is something that seems right.

What makes Wayne State special to you?

The relationship the University Libraries have developed with the Student Senate, in particular, is quite special to me. We really have reached out and had a partnership that is not always easy to accommodate in an academic setting. One thing I’m most proud of during my time at Wayne State is my selection as 2010-2011 Administrator of the Year by the Student Senate. It was the inaugural year for that award and I feel very proud that I was chosen for that honor. We’ve also been able to develop a good relationship with the university faculty members and that is extremely important.

I also feel I’ve had a really unique experience working with SLIS. Nowhere else is there an ARL library where a Dean can have dual roles in both the libraries and the library school. It’s been a unique experience and one I’ve embraced and treasured.

And last, but not least, if you were to start your MLIS studies in 2017, what focus area would you choose and why?

I would definitely take every technology course I could take, and focus on Information Management.  I think that the future of libraries is exciting but in many new ways, and I’d want to be prepared for whatever new ways were around the corner!


Jun 26 / Christine Illichmann

SLIS Alumnae Share Experiences and Knowledge at Allied Media Conference

The Allied Media Conference happens each summer in downtown Detroit. The event unites media-makers – those who create, share, participate in, or simply enjoy media in any form. Multiple alumnae participated in this year’s conference, including Alexis Tharp (MLIS ’13), Nakenya Lewis-Yarbrough (MLIS ’17), Shoshanna Wechter (MLIS ’11), Amanda Seppala (MLIS ’16), and Andrea Perez (MLIS ’05).

Alumnae Alexis Tharp and Andrea Perez co-presented “Soul of a Public Library” at the Allied Media Conference on Saturday, June 17 at 2 p.m. as part of the Radical Librarianship track. Alexis and Andrea presented with fellow librarians Kristy Cooper and Katie Dover-Taylor, all of whom were employed by the Westland Public Library. The presentation outlined their struggle in a toxic work environment and their efforts to create positive change in their workplace and community despite overwhelming resistance. They explained their termination from their jobs and provided updates on the current political and employment situation they face.

“I think our session went very well. For me, it gave a sense of closure for me with the whole Westland saga,” explained Andrea Perez. “Being at AMC always feels amazing, but it felt really healing this year. I loved seeing how much the Radical Librarianship Track has grown from just two years ago. It was hard to attract good sessions then. Now the track has expanded to include archives and museums.”

Nakenya Lewis-Yarbrough co-presented “Diversity in Youth Literature” with fellow youth librarian Katy Kramp from the Plymouth Public Library. The presentation discussed the importance of diversity in library collections so that young readers can see reflections of themselves in the literature they read. Recommended titles reflecting diversity in race, gender identity, learning and physical abilities were discussed and information for collection development planning to enhance collection diversity was shared.  Nakenya is the youth librarian at Belleville Area District Library where she merges her experience as an educator with her work in public libraries to encourage young readers and increase their awareness of diverse authors.

Thanks to Dr. Kafi Kumasi for the photographs of SLIS Alumnae at AMC!

Jun 20 / Christine Illichmann

Student Colleen Cirocco Studies the Libraries of Italy

Blogpost and photos submitted by SLIS student Colleen Cirocco.

While the scent of the flowers that filled the air is fading from memory, and I can no longer hear lime green parakeets singing from the terrace, I will never forget the two weeks I spent in Italy. And while I ate gelato and gazed at fountains, I was also studying the Italian approach to library and information science.

Catholic University of America’s course, Visions of Italy, included myself and seven other students, including two WSU online students, and ran from May 27-June 10. We found ourselves behind the velvet ropes of almost a dozen cultural institutions and libraries, with knowledgeable and engaging private tour guides at every stop. The two-week course was absolutely packed with site visits as well as unstructured time to explore on our own. CUA’s Rome Center is a hybrid living/educational space where we stayed and ate family style Italian meals (think stuffed eggplant, white wine pasta with clams). It is an incredibly beautiful campus, enclosed like a gated fortress, atop a hill in the Trastevere neighborhood of Rome, perched above the noise and crowds of the city.

From the moment I stepped off the plane, I was learning, observing, absorbing Italian culture. Their advertisements, their shoes, their speech inflections, the heat in the middle of spring. Except for the time I spent sleeping (even then, Italian phrases and flickers of the previous day filtered into my dreams), every second of every day, I was learning what Italian culture was. I eventually saw how this translated into their approach to their information organizations.

From our leisurely three hour dinners, to the omnipresence of art and history, to stores closing during the mid-afternoon, to high schoolers having the opportunity to lead museum tours, it became clear that Italian culture values its art, and takes a rather relaxed approach to life.

While we saw many connections between these values and the management of their information organizations, I still believe that we only really scratched the surface of the topic. We came to the general conclusion that Rome’s cultural institutions, libraries, and archives—such as the Vatican Secret Archives, Rome’s National Library, and the Capitolini Museum—were far behind our standards of preservation and digitization. Their museums did not utilize technology or even consistent signage to enhance user experience, and we sensed a general “easy going” attitude towards security, evidenced by open windows and lack of crowd control. And most concerning to me, there was no sense of urgency regarding digitizing their collections.

Almost as an “Aha!” moment, on our three-day trip to Florence we were very impressed by the amount of work the Galileo Museum had put into digital archiving and enhancing their exhibits with interactive touchscreen modules. In a way, one museum put the two cities at opposite ends of a dichotomy: Florence being advanced, while Rome lags behind. However, such a reductive conclusion must overlook the complicated reasoning behind these disparities. It just cracked the door open to many questions about how Italy views their information organizations, and how various cities approach protecting their resources.

The course tapped into so many fascinating questions like these. It also lead me towards that golden moment of realization: there are other ways of doing things besides the way we do them. The moment this thought popped into my head I also wondered, “How are libraries organized in Germany?” and then, like a row of dominos falling, I saw the names of country after country flash before my eyes. I was confronted with immeasurable possibilities, with the sheer vastness of the world, and suddenly felt overwhelmed. Presently, this type of global consciousness is crucial, being essential for empathy and collaboration.

Overall, during my stay, I was most impressed with how art flows through every aspect of Italian culture. This struck me the most, as our relatively young nation doesn’t come close to having Italy’s history or cultural holdings. The inspiration I felt from the experience was dizzying. I hope, through my archival administration training, to be able to interact with art in the way that our tour guides did. Who knows, maybe I’ll find a way to offer my skills to one of their institutions. I did make sure to throw three coins in the Trevi fountain, which ensures my return to Rome, the eternal city.

To see more images from the trip, watch this video created by Colleen’s classmate, Katherine Currie.