Mary O’Kelly is the associate dean for education and user services at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. Mary has been a member of ACRL for 8 years and is your ACRL Member of the Week for July 26, 2021.
Describe yourself in three words: More fun words: gardener, cook, artsy. Or, more reflective words: curious, analytical, observant. Also: Non-compliant. 🙂
What are you reading (or listening to on your mobile device)? I am reading Whiskey Women: The Untold Story of How Women Saved Bourbon, Scotch, and Irish Whiskey by Fred Minnick.
Describe ACRL in three words: Connections, learning, opportunity.
What do you value about ACRL? As a member organization, ACRL is an opportunity for all of us participating members to find common ground in our shared chosen profession. The very existence of such an organization gives us an organized way to connect with other academic and research library professionals and then learn through those connections. I’ve gained leadership skills through committee positions, lifelong networking partners through the various professional development events, and publication experience through its journal and book publishing activities.
What do you as an academic librarian contribute to your campus? I view myself as a connector more than anything else. Just about every day I am connecting people to information, connecting people with other people, connecting ideas to build new knowledge, and connecting resources with opportunities.
In your own words: As I look back on my answers to all the other questions you’ve asked, I can see that the theme of connections keeps coming up and it truly is the theme of my work in academic libraries, from my day-to-day activities to my service and scholarship. For example, my colleague Jen Torreano and I recently finished our edited book, Training Research Consultants: A Guide for Academic Libraries, published by ACRL. It showcases over a dozen detailed examples of how libraries prepare students to be peer mentors and connect their peers with the world of information available to them. Those peer research consultations, along with librarian consultations, instruction sessions, meetings, and even welcome-to-campus events have all shifted primarily online over the past year. Since those shifts started I’ve had lot of time to think about how critically important the social aspect of libraries really is. While we certainly kept things afloat during the COVID-19 shutdown and even started some new programming, much of the lively social connection that I enjoy was missing. No spontaneous conversations in the halls, no serendipitous discoveries in the stacks, no insightful conversations sitting on a desk in a classroom after an information literacy session. We turn to others in our lives for advice and learning and validation and community, and those connections extend into work, not just at home. So, envisioning a future that includes a combination of virtual with in-person, what is the role of academic and research libraries in facilitating those human connections? I’m going to keep thinking about this as we continue to move from our closed-door offices and home spaces and back into the lively centers of connected learning we’re used to, while holding onto some of the best that online access and online learning has to offer. We have such rich opportunities to deeply engage with each other as learners–and we all are learners–by sincerely and enthusiastically embracing the power of our connections, and I believe we can have some real fun imagining what the future of library engagement might look like.
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!