Member Spotlight: Anthony H. Prince, Jr.

Interviewed by Anita Dryden

Anthony H. Prince, Jr. was the 2013-2014 Chair and Editor of the NMRT Footnotes Committee. He is an active member of the Tennessee Library Association (TLA), where he is currently the 2013-2015 Co-Chair of the TLA Intellectual Freedom Committee and the TLA Newsletter Editor. He also serves on the TLA Publication Advisory Board and the TLA Board of Directors. He is the Cataloging Manager at Tennessee State University in Nashville, TN.

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

I'm a cataloger, so yes; most of my days are 'typical.' That's not to say boring; but the stability and predictability is what is stimulating. I've been cataloging since my first year in an LIS program, and besides a short stint as a circulation supervisor, I've been cataloging for about eight years.

The vast majority of my time is spent working with our collection, and other librarians and library staff. I say, somewhat jokingly but certainly truthfully, that if the public sees me, then I'm not doing my job. There is still plenty of room for introverts in library and information science who can provide good service to the public and to the profession. It's as important as ever to recognize that technical services is public service.

What is your favorite aspect of working as a librarian?

Information. Information is larger than a book, a website, a tweet. Its importance transcends the boundaries of its container.

I think too often librarians focus too much on 'books' and certainly the outside world sees us in such a limited scope and capacity. But a book is merely a container; it's not the book that's important, it's the information stored on its pages. We don't collect, store, organize, and preserve books because they're books. We collect, store, organize, and preserve them because of the valuable information they hold. And understanding that fact, and letting others outside of the profession see it that way, can help better explain why what we do is so important.

I certainly believe that the importance of information is self-evident and inherently valuable. But since not everyone sees information, or education that way, I think it behooves us to move the conversation of the importance of libraries beyond 'the book' to help explain our continued importance in the 21st century.

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

I had an epiphany after graduating college: I finally realized that what I truly loved was learning itself - whether in a classroom or reading news stories. At the heart of it, I love information and education. I'm an information-consumer.

So, I became a librarian because I love information, and because I love education. I figured that higher education was a great fit for me, and that being a librarian would be my best path to working in higher education.

It was planned after being accidentally discovered.

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

I joined and volunteered for committees. It's just that simple and it is in most library organizations. There is always a shortage of people that are both willing and able to do the work necessary to keep things moving.

I've been on Endnotes, the Online Discussion Forum, and spent the last several years on Footnotes, becoming the Chair and Editor in 2013-14. I'm back on Endnotes this year. The experience on Footnotes helped me become the Editor of the Tennessee Library Association's Newsletter last year.

I always stress the importance of service to your local/state/regional associations (and your own library and/or local institution, but that should go without saying!). It might almost seem backwards, but being involved in the ALA NMRT helped me become more involved with my state association, the Tennessee Library Association.

If you take my advice and are geographically flexible (see below), you might find yourself living in several different states over time. Being involved in a national organization, where much of the work and communication is done online, is a sturdy and stable anchor. Then, once I was more settled in a particular place, I was able to start contributing in important ways to my own state's library association.

What do you do for fun when you're not librarianing?

Spending time with my spouse.

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

I have a few suggestions that I always make:

1. Get involved and stay involved in your state and regional library associations. Immediately. Right now, if you aren't already. Don't look past them for ALA. ALA and the NMRT are good, but you should also be making an impact in your own state and region. Likely, you'll be able to make the most significant and immediate impact in your state/regional association.

Always make your involvement a targeted involvement. Just with any organization, don't just join, sit back, and think you're done. You get out what you put in, and people will recognize that you're a member that contributes if you volunteer for committees, and then, actually do contribute in meaningful and substantial ways.

You will likely feel a stronger connection to your fellow members because you might actually interact with them far more regularly. I find it extremely rewarding being involved in the Tennessee Library Association, more so than any other organization I've been a part of. If you 'think local,' you're likely to find rewarding experiences, people that are passionate about the profession and the people they serve, and better opportunities to make a greater impact in your own area.

2. Improve your writing skills and gain some experience publishing by writing book (or other media) reviews. It is very likely that your state and regional associations have publications that you can submit to, as well as Footnotes and Endnotes, have publishing opportunities. Reviews like this are a natural fit for librarians.

3. Be geographically flexible in your job hunt. You're not looking for the perfect job, you're looking for a good fit for right now.

The other piece of advice related to jobs is to join listservs that have job announcements and keep up to date on library job websites. I won't plug any particular site, but there are some major ones out there.

What's your secret passion?

If I answered that, it wouldn't be a secret. And, if it's a passion, it's likely not a secret.