Tom Kirk's Acceptance Speech

2004 Recipient of ACRL's Academic/Research Librarian of the Year Award

Left to right: Bob Nardini, Vice President of YBP Library Services, Tom Kirk, library director and coordinator of Information Services at the Lilly Library of Earlham College, and Frances Maloy, ACRL PresidentLeft to right: Bob Nardini, Vice President of YBP Library Services, Tom Kirk, library director and coordinator of Information Services at the Lilly Library of Earlham College, and Frances Maloy, ACRL President.

Thank you all for coming out. I must start by thanking Susan Nutter, chair of the award selection committee and the committee members for choosing me for this honor. I also want to thank YBP Library Services for their generous gift to ACRL to support this award. I appreciate YBP’s long-standing support of ACRL and of this award.

Susan Nutter can be sneaky. At Mid-winter we attended an ACRL strategic planning session on Friday afternoon and at the end of the meeting we talked briefly about mutual interests and ACRL business. Some eleven days later I got an email from Susan asking to schedule a telephone call to "talk about an ACRL strategic planning issue that we had been discussing at Midwinter." I scratched my head because I didn’t remember any issue that we left unresolved in our discussions. But of course the conference call occurred a few days later. It was then she told me about the award. I was speechless then as I am now. When you hear all those nice things being said about you it is over whelming, even the second time around.

In receiving this award I am prompted to ask the questions: Why? and How did I come to be in this place? That introspection has lead to a number of observations that I want to share. Much of this is soul searching but I think there are some lessons to be learned.

I have to start by thanking Tom and Bertha Kirk, my parents. They ran a dairy farm and household with three sons in eastern Pennsylvania. They worked tirelessly to put the three sons through college. But perhaps more importantly they conveyed the importance of hard work, persistence and education. Those values I have taken with me throughout my life.

I also have to thank Betsy Kirk, my wife, who has always been there to support me and to raise three wonde rful daughters. I am delighted that all them and two granddaughters are with us today. I have been blessed to have a wonderful and supportive family.

I have also been blessed to have work that is rewarding and fulfilling.

My start in librarianship is due to Evan Farber who out of the blue offered me a position as science librarian at Earlham in the spring of my senior year in 1965, where I was about to graduate as a biology major. I worked in the library my four years at Earlham to help pay for my education. I had planned to be a high school teacher and Betsy and I were interviewing for jobs in the east and expected to return there after graduation. Instead we accepted Evan’s offer to be science librarian at Earlham for the academic year and attended library school at Indiana during the summers. I completed my degree in 1968.

I foiled Evan’s plan which I didn’t know about until many years later when he shared the memo to Earlham’ s president outlining the plan. Evan saw the position as an incubator in which to hatch science librarians that would get their degrees and then move on to other positions thus populating the professional with science librarians. However I prevented that from happening by staying at Earlham for fourteen years.

But as I gained experience I wanted to test the management waters. As luck would have it Carla Stoffle, a colleague who I had come to know through LOEX conferences and activities within ACRL, was appointed Vice-Chancellor for Academic Support Services at the University of Wisconsin--Parkside and almost immediately the library director, Joe Boisse left to go to Temple University. Carla wanted an acting director for a year while she did a full search for Joe’s replacement and asked if I would be willing to go to Parkside for the year with the proviso that I would not be a candidate for the permanent position. I agreed and spent the 1999-2000 year at Parkside. Then the opportunity to go to Berea College developed and I spent fourteen years at Berea before returning to Earlham in 1994 when Evan retired.

I must express deep appreciation to Evan for all that he has meant to my career. Most importantly has been his mentoring and sage advice. I also deeply appreciate the very different management style of Carla. From her I learned how to think organizationally in addressing library challenges. Together they have been significant in the formation of my ideas about how to manage and most importantly the development of my professional values as a librarian.

In my thirty-nine year career I have worked with many great people. Without meaning to offend anyone I fail to mention I want to name a few who have played a significant role in my career: Peter Hiatt, A.P. Marshall, Patricia, Miriam Dudley, Hannelore Rader, Larry Hardesty, Sharon Hogan, Ann Beaubien, Mary George, Patricia Brevick, and Cerise Oberman. From each of them and many others I learned something about how to be a more effective librarian.

As criteria for selecting me for this award Susan Nutter made two points in that late January telephone call. First, my work in bibliographic instruction and information literacy. My commitment to this field of librarianship comes from Evan Farber and the lessons he taught me about serving the educational needs of undergraduates. This goes beyond providing good services and meeting their immediate needs and also includes their long term needs to be self-directed learners. Information literacy is a critical component of being a life-long learner. We as librarians have an important role in focusing higher education on this issue. So while we do our best to provide the best services to meet students' immediate needs we also fulfill a larger education role of helping students become effective users of information resources as part of being self-directed learners.

This work takes a team and I have been blessed to have terrific colleagues at the University of Wisconsin--Parkside, Berea College and at Earlham. Because these faculty and librarian colleagues are so critical to this educational endeavor Earlham established the Evan Farber Faculty Development Fund to honor Evan Farber. I am delighted to contribute a portion of this award to the Farber Fund to honor both Evan and the many colleagues in and outside the library with whom I have worked.

Susan in telling me that I received the award also cited my work as a mentor. I have always believed that we are more effective when we work together. So my so-called mentoring is really my efforts to work with others to accomplish important tasks. I am pleased to hear that those efforts have also been personally helpful to others. Another part of my teamwork was in the creation of and activities through consortia and professional associations. These efforts began with the development of the Whitewater Valley Area Library Services Authority in east central Indiana in the late 1960s. Consortia have always been about multiplying our individual effectiveness through collaborative work. It was that same motivation which led some of us to pester the ACRL leadership in the early 1970s to form the Bibliographic Instruction Task Force and then the Section now known as the Instruction Section. Through work in groups such as ACRL magnifies our individual efforts.

Over the past five years as a member of OCLC’s Members Council, I have come to understand the challenges which librarianship faces globally. It is important for librarians around the world to understand the challenges we face and to find ways to support each other in meeting those challenges. In honor of what ACRL means to our profession and as a sign of the commitment to global librarianship I am pleased to contribute another significant portion of the award honorarium to the Friends of ACRL’s Global Connections Fund.

My reflections about why I am here point to five points: (1) luck, (2) family, (3) mentors, (4) a sense of and commitment to a larger purpose, (5) hard work and persistence and (6) fun. I enjoy my work.

In closing let me offer this refrain. Thanks to all family, friends, colleagues for your support and for your hard work without you this wouldn’t be happening to me today. I have enjoyed immensely the opportunities to work with so many different people. I’ve enjoyed it all so much that I am not about to give it up yet. Although retirement can be seen on the horizon I will continue to be active in state-consortial activities, OCLC Members Council, ACRL and other efforts to help libraries serve our users better and help academic libraries become increasingly effective in developing the information literacy skills of their students.