Member Spotlight: Heidi Steiner

By Stacey Nordlund

I recently had the opportunity to interview Heidi Steiner, Head of Digital and Distance Education Services at Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont. Heidi is very involved in the profession, serving on institutional committees as well as professional associations at both the state and national level. She has been a member of NMRT since 2008: last year, she served as Chair of the Footnotes Committee, and this year is a member of the Web Committee. She has previously served on the Emerging Leader Sponsorship Selection Committee, the Student and Student Chapter Outreach Committee, and the Liaison Coordination and Support Committee. She received her MLIS from Wayne State University in 2008. I enjoyed getting to know a little more about Heidi, including her penchant for cooking with German knives!

Tell us about your current position and what you do on a typical day—or IS there such a thing as a typical day?

Currently I’m the Head of Digital and Distance Education Services. I serve as the liaison to our online College of Graduate and Continuing Studies and coordinate all of our services for online students. I am also responsible for overseeing all of the library’s digital services, so I make sure all technology needs are met, supervise our Electronic Resources Librarian, keep an eye on WMS, and manage the website. Right now I’m moving towards focusing even more on web services, which is exciting.

There is no such thing as a typical day. One day I might have three meetings and a desk shift, while another I might be able to throw nearly all my daily effort into one project (like a website content audit). A couple weeks ago I had a few shifts on Circulation to cover for a staff member on vacation. I am also often spazzy and doing six things at once. Small schools and many hats keep you on your toes. I’m also fortunate to be at an institution that supports exploring and developing skills, so I always try to squeeze in bits of professional reading.

What is your favorite aspect of working as Head of Digital and Distance Education Services?

I really enjoy thinking about the experience of being a student and how the library can make it better. And that feeds to so many different things. It can be frustrating sometimes too (hello, database interfaces), but when you make a difference it is so meaningful. Last year we launched a program using iPads for library instruction sessions to make our teaching more flexible. I administer them—it was a huge undertaking to learn how to make it happen and get all the ducks in a row—but being in the room when the first class used them and thought it was awesome…that was pretty darn special.

How did you decide on the information profession for your career? Was it meticulously planned or a happy accident?

Total accident. I was never one of those people who knew what they wanted to be when they grew up, but did know what I liked and was good at. I liked reading and writing about what I read, so I majored in English and even after an internship did not know what I wanted to do. I worked my way through undergrad in retail, so ended up in management for a bit after graduating, but knew pretty quickly that I could not do it long term. One day after crying in the fitting rooms because I was sick of forcing women to try on pants, I started thinking back on what I loved in undergrad: research (I loved bound periodicals…was like treasure hunting). Also I genuinely enjoyed helping people find what they needed in my retail job, so off to library school I went with no clue what I was getting myself into. Now I feel fortunate to be in a career where I get to explore a lot of different things and decide the trajectory I want to take. Originally, I thought reference and instruction for sure, but in the 4.5 years since graduating have really taken an interest in user experience and web design, so sending myself thataway.

When and how did you first get involved with NMRT? What impact has your service to NMRT had on your involvement with ALA?

NMRT is the best bargain in ALA. Hands down. I credit the organization (and Twitter) with my professional connections and contributions. When I was in library school I jointly joined my state organization and ALA and heard through the grapevine that NMRT had guaranteed committee appointments. One of my best library school professors always told us to get involved professionally even if it was not required for our jobs. So, I volunteered and was appointed to the Student and Student Chapter Outreach Committee (SASCO). I quickly realized all you need to do to be successful in committee work is actively participate (don’t be that person that just wants their name on a roster). The next year I was Chair of SASCO and served on another NMRT committee. I’ve since led Footnotes and am excited to be on the Web Committee this year. Getting involved with NMRT made me see that all I had to do was put myself out there, so I’ve been involved with ACRL for a while and have also done work at the state and regional levels.

Do you have any advice for NMRT members who are current students or recent graduates?

Say "yes" until you find your niche and then start saying "no" a little more often. In less than 5 years in the profession, I already served on a lot of different kinds of committees, as well as had other writing and professional commitments. It took a bit, but I now realize what I do and do not enjoy. My New Year’s resolution in 2012 was finally to learn to say “no.” Being on conference planning committees is really fun, so I’m actually Co-Chairing an ACRL 2015 Committee after serving for the 2013 conference. I also love any work that shares knowledge and makes an impact, so Footnotes was a great experience as well.

What do you do for fun when you're not librarian-ing?

I love meal planning, grocery shopping, and cooking (by myself and with my awesome husband). Vermont is a wonderful place to live and eat seasonally, so we do a CSA and scour the Farmer’s Market. We also have a great Co-op here where we get most of our groceries. Cooking is cathartic to me and we just amped up our kitchen with a Wusthof Chef’s Knife. In the big time now!

What's your secret passion?

Hmmm. This is really difficult! Oh! Cannot say this is a passion…but I really love refolding all of my clothes and seeing perfect piles. Always makes me feel better. Definitely a secret (well…was). Think it must be from those mall slave days. Folding was a nice reprieve.