NMRT Member Profile: Lisa Campbell

by Kelly Depin

Amid all the gloomy prognostications about our profession, it’s refreshing to find fairly new graduates that are excited about being librarians. Even though Lisa Campbell has only had her MLS since August of 2008, she has not only jumped into the committee pool of our professional organization, but also is publishing, presenting and winning awards. Looking at her vitae, Lisa proves that ‘if you want something done – give it to a busy person!’ Currently, Lisa is part of the 2011 ALA Emerging Leaders Program and 2011 ACRL Immersion Program – Teacher Track. She is also a member of the RUSA Education and Professional Development for Reference Committee and the NMRT Resume Review Committee. In her spare time, she reviews cookbooks for the Library Journal, maintains a
cooking blog, has a forthcoming chapter on using early career librarians as mentors in a book on librarian mentorship and has presented at several conferences. Oh, and by the way, she somehow found the time to get married in January!

Recently, I was able to catch up with her to ask a few questions. Needless to say, I needed my fastest pair of running shoes!

Why did you decide to become a librarian considering you have a BFA in cello performance from Carnegie Mellon?

“I became a librarian because I enjoyed working in libraries more than I enjoyed spending most of my day in a practice room. While earning my music degree I worked part-time for the acquisitions department of Carnegie Mellon’s Hunt Library. I loved working there- it was an ideal job with flexible hours and interesting coworkers who threw epic potlucks twice a year. As I approached graduation, the idea of pursuing a career in librarianship became more and more appealing.

Librarianship wasn’t the only career I considered; shortly before graduation I started moonlighting as a pastry cook, working evening shifts for a local café. While working there, I decided I would apply for the University of Pittsburgh’s Diversity Librarian Fellowship and Residency Program. I told myself, “If I get the fellowship, I will become a librarian. If I don’t, I will keep making pastries.” I’m glad life worked out in favor of librarianship. It’s a rewarding career that hasn’t required me to sacrifice my other interests.”

I see that cooking and baking is definitely one of your passions. I notice that you frequently review cookbooks for the Library Journal. Which came first, the cooking or the reviewing?

“Definitely cooking. I started cooking to avoid being on a meal plan. As my repertoire and technique improved, my interest (and tastes) turned to desserts. At the height of my culinary obsession I was cooking 4-5 desserts a week and borrowing an average of 10-15 cookbooks at a time from the local public library. To build my experience (and offset the cost of ingredients), I worked for a local caterer, a summer camp, and the aforementioned café. I also tried my hand at giving cooking lecture/demonstrations for a public library- that experience really piqued my interest in reviewing cookbooks.”

For those of our readers who might be interested in also pursuing reviewing books, how did you get started reviewing for the Library Journal?

“I stopped by Library Journal’s booth at the 2009 ALA Annual Conference in Chicago. When I mentioned that I wanted to review cookbooks, an editor informed me that the cookbook columnist, Judith Sutton, was retiring. Later that day I made an inquiry regarding the columnist position. It had already been filled, but there was still need for additional reviewers. I submitted a reviewer application with writing samples and started reviewing materials shortly afterwards. I’m usually asked to review cookbooks or food writing.”

You are currently an Information Services Librarian at the University of Alabama. Your responsibilities include a quite a bit of work within the online delivery of information literacy as well as face to face instruction and reference consultations. What are some of things in your position that have you enjoying coming in every day?

“I’m excited about selecting materials for UA’s College of Communication & Information Sciences. Collection development wasn’t originally part of my job, so I’m glad for the experience. I’m also excited about new personnel; we have three new hires in my department and two in Web Services. This job affords me many opportunities for creativity, positive change, and professional growth. I think it’s an exciting time to be a librarian and to work for The University of Alabama.”

I can’t imagine that with all you’re doing that you’re slowing down any time soon. What’s coming up on your calendar?

“I have a lot of travel on the horizon. I'm giving a short presentation on Springshare's LibAnswers at the upcoming ACRL 2011 conference. In June, I'll be headed to ALA Annual (New Orleans) for some NMRT and RUSA committee work and a poster presentation with my Emerging Leaders project team. In late July, I'll be traveling to Seattle to participate in ACRL's 2011 Teacher Track Immersion Program.

On the home front, I’m very busy with spring semester instruction. Once that dies down, I’ll be doing more in-depth maintenance and promotion of our LibGuides and LibAnswers systems. Then, I’ll probably update my LibGuides and create more video tutorials to post on our Libraries’ YouTube page. I also have committee work, liaison work, collection development, and fall orientation planning to think about. Depending on the time of year, different projects take priority.”

As you know, many people have differing opinions about where libraries and librarians are going in the future. As someone fairly new to our profession, I’d love to hear where you see our profession heading?

“This is a tough question because things are changing so quickly! Job titles and descriptions have changed significantly since I graduated, as have the technologies we’re using to acquire and provide access to resources. At The University of Alabama, we’re in the process of evaluating several discovery solutions, barely a year after we debuted AquaBrowser, our current discovery layer. Similarly, we’ve been implementing new tools and processes for virtual reference and statistical reporting in a relatively short time.”

In the next 5-10 years, the way we acquire, organize, and distribute both technology and content will certainly change. The devices and interfaces we’re using will also change- not just once, but repeatedly. I expect librarians’ roles will change (my responsibilities have changed at least 3 times in the past year), as will the importance of positions in Electronic Resources, Digital and Web Services, IT, and Assessment. I think libraries (and librarians) that can be nimble with respect to these changes will fare better than others.”

Whether we are only a few years into our careers, or a few years away from our retirement, Lisa’s take on our profession and her optimism about the future gives us all something to reflect upon and take from inspiration not only for our day to day tasks, but our thoughts about the future of libraries. Thank you Lisa, for taking the time to share with us out of your very productive schedule!