by Sarah Jo Neubauer
I recently had the opportunity to ask NMRT member Veronica L. C. Stevenson-Moudamane some questions about her involvement with NMRT, the Online Discussion Forum (ODF) committee, and her evolving career as an Information Professional.
Sarah Jo: Hi Veronica. Thanks for chatting! I really enjoy receiving and reading the NMRT Online Discussion Forum's (ODF) monthly discussion topics and I feel the responses are really valuable (especially for new-ish librarians like me who have a difficult time making it to ALA conferences).
How does the ODF committee decide on discussion topics? (p.s. it's brilliant to include an archived summary on the ODF web page!)
VSM: Thanks, Sarah Jo. Your comment goes a long way in applauding the efforts of the ODF Committee. We select topics to be addressed through a variety of avenues, such as, being aware of what's being discussed within the profession at the national, state and local levels, through involvement in our respective ALA committees and listservs, and through "brainstorming" as a committee on what the most pressing issues are for today's newest professionals.
SJ: What led you to pursue a career in librarianship?
VSM: Well, I didn't know I wanted to be a librarian. It was a seasoned and rather influential librarian who recognized the librarian in me. That librarian was Dr. E. J. Josey, and we met at a Black History Conference in Altoona, Pennsylvania where I was representing my college. Through our conversations and my sharing of my loves and interests, Dr. Josey boldly declared that I was a librarian and subsequently invited me to the school where he was teaching for a tour and an informational session. The rest, as they say, is history.
SJ: Can you talk about your career path in the library and information science field?
VSM: My first "real" position after receiving my second masters in Religious Studies from the Seminary was that of Reference and Bibliographic Instruction Librarian at a four year institution in New York State. While there, I also worked as an Adjunct Professor teaching Introduction to World Religions for the Department of Civic and Cultural Studies. Although I enjoyed my first professional position, I wondered if academia was where I wanted to be, so after being on the job for two years, I took a part time position at a public library in Connecticut followed by another part time position at a public library in Westchester County in New York State. After two years of working full time in academia, as well as holding two part time positions in public libraries, I realized that public librarianship was a better fit for me. So, after 4 years of doing the academia thing, I migrated into public librarianship and have worked in public libraries ever since.
SJ: I read recently that you started a telecommunications consulting service; what led you as a librarian to start your own company?
VSM: Yes, back in 2007 my husband and I formed and registered VLCS Consulting, LLC. The company is the culminating result of decades of service in the telecommunications industry for my husband who is an electrical engineer and for me as a librarian and lead researcher on many a project. We registered the company with my namesake as both a tribute from my husband, as well as for the plethora of benefits we could embrace as a minority and woman owned company. It has proved a great investment and a professional enhancement for both my husband and me.
SJ: How did you get involved in NMRT, and how would you characterize your experience? Are you involved in other NMRT committees or any other ALA or LIS associations?
VSM: I became involved with NMRT to meet new professionals, as well as to work with seasoned librarians who were committed to assisting new librarians establish themselves within their profession and in the association; my experiences thus far have been invaluable. In addition to chairing NMRT's ODF Committee, I also serve as a member on NMRT's Mentoring Committee and NMRT's Annual Program Committee. I am the 2009-2010 Chair for ALA's Committee on Diversity's Diversity Research Grant Advisory Committee. I'm a member of ALSC, LLAMA, SRRT, EMIERT and IFLA. At the most recent IFLA Congress in Milan, Italy this past August, I was elected to serve as Information Coordinator/Web Editor for my Section on Libraries Services to People with Special Needs. Yes, I'm busy, but I honestly wouldn't have it any other way.
SJ: What are some challenges faced by information professionals today?
VSM: There are quite a few challenges facing information professionals today, but I'll limit my response to just "two challenges" that are of vital concern to new professionals. In this economy, we have many recent graduates unable to secure full time positions. Unfortunately, the upward progression that would typically free up entry level positions just is not happening at previously projected rates. While there has been much talk about the "graying" of the profession and the impending onslaught of retirements, market analysis details that upper and senior level management are holding on to their positions longer than projected. Another economy related challenge for unemployed and partly employed professionals is finding ways to remain professionally current when there's no employer based funding to attend conferences, workshops or other educationally related programs requiring registration costs.
SJ: I've heard that you have a "personal commitment" within the profession; can you tell us a little about that?
VSM: In a way, I suppose you can refer to it as a "commitment" of sorts. I am and have been committed to bringing to the forefront two interconnected issues: 1) The Upward Mobility of Library Leaders; and 2) Ensuring available training and mentoring "within local libraries" for promising professionals to assume leadership positions. I'm committed to these two issues since I've seen a couple of concerning facts within the profession: 1) Library leaders who may have obtained their positions from sheer years of service, but who are woefully ill-prepared or simply unable to lead; and 2) Library leaders who rarely (if ever) contribute to the profession. This makes it difficult for these leaders to have a "real" grasp on what is really going on within the profession as not everything can be gained from being on the side lines; sometimes, you got to be in the game.
SJ: Tell us a bit about Veronica.
VSM: I'm really a "happy go lucky" kind of person. I'm very adventurous and will try most anything at least once. I'm a big traveler and tend to just "pick-up" and go whenever I discover I've got a couple to three "free" days. I have lots of personal goals, two of which are to travel to all seven of the world's continents and to visit all 50 of the United States by the age of 50. I'm pleased to report that as of this interview, I've been to 6 continents and 42 states. So, I'm fairly confident that with God's grace, I will meet my goal before I turn 50. Additionally, I enjoy interior decorating and restoring period pieces or homes to their original grandeur. My husband and I are big entertainers, so I'm often hosting dinners or receptions for friends, colleagues and clients.
SJ: When you are not busy with your day job, what do you like to do for fun?
VSM: Perhaps my most favorite "treat" is to arrange for myself a day of meditation and introspection in a "spa" or "spa-like" setting. With all that I have going on, it's essential that I take time out to mental and spiritually recharge!
SJ: Lastly, what is the last book you read?
VSM: There are actually a few titles that I recently completed: Deepak Chopra's The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, James Patterson's The Quickie, and Max DePree's Leadership is an Art. I'm a prolific reader with a wide range of genre interests; my most favorites being business management, holistic living, mystery, and spiritual development.