ACRL Member of the Week: Jillian Sparks

Jillian Sparks is a distinctive collections engagement librarian at the St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN. Jillian has been a member of ACRL for 10 years and is your ACRL Member of the Week for September 19, 2022.

Describe yourself in three words: Knowledgeable, creative, decisive.

What are you reading (or listening to on your mobile device)? I just finished reading Louise Erdrich’s The Sentence and am taking my time with The Paper Garden, a biography of Mary Granville Pendarves Delany (1700-1788) by Molly Peacock. Delany created 985 botanically correct cut-paper flowers (Botanica Delanica) which are held by the British Museum (interesting blog post about Delany’s work https://blog.britishmuseum.org/late-bloomer-the-exquisite-craft-of-mary-…).

Describe ACRL in three words: Engaging professional community.

What do you value about ACRL? I appreciate all of the resources that ACRL provides and the professional community. The webinars and literature organized and shared by ACRL are invaluable. As a member of RBMS, I’m so glad to have an engaged professional community whose work inspires me to think in new ways about special collections. The ongoing work of the Instruction and Outreach RBMS committee has been especially useful in challenging me to try new approaches in the classroom and I’m grateful to have a community of primary source instructors.

What do you as an academic librarian contribute to your campus? At St. Olaf I connect students, faculty, and our larger campus community to our special collections and archives. I primarily offer primary source instruction sessions, but I also curate exhibits and coordinate outreach events. I work closely with faculty and my colleagues in the archives to develop our collections through buying materials or creating opportunities for our community to contribute their St. Olaf experience to the  archives. I love creating hands-on opportunities for people to explore the library’s collections and I hope people view our special collections and archives as a “lab” for the liberal arts.

In your own words: I love being a special collections librarian with a focus on instruction and outreach. I find books as material objects endlessly fascinating and it is so rewarding to be able to share my interest in material culture with students. I’m lucky in my job that I can take time to research our collections and experiment with how to best share our materials in the classroom. The thrill of sharing these books and archives with students doesn’t fade and I’m looking forward to the new academic year.


Editor’s Note: Would you like to be featured as ACRL Member of the Week? Nominate a colleague? Fill out this form and we’ll be in touch!