Meet the Candidates: Erin L. Ellis

Editor’s Note: In the lead-up to the 2021 ALA/ACRL election, we’re profiling the 2021 ACRL Board of Directors candidates. We’ll feature one candidate in slate order each weekday from March 1-5. Complete details on candidates for ACRL offices are available on the election website. Make sure to vote for the candidates of your choice starting March 8.


Erin L. Ellis

Erin L. Ellis is the associate dean of research & learning services at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN and a 2021 candidate for the ACRL Board of Directors as Vice-President/President-Elect.

1. Describe yourself in three words: Dependable, connector, problem-solver.

2. Describe ACRL in three words: Engaged, responsive, dynamic.

3. What do you value about ACRL? Without question, the most valuable thing for me is the community and the connections that I’ve made with hundreds of ACRL members over the years. ACRL has been my professional home for nearly 20 years and I’ve learned so much from fellow members and the amazing ACRL staff. We’ve shared ideas, challenges, and frustrations. We’ve learned from our successes and (sometimes hilarious) failures together, and we’ve expanded our understanding of library work and our profession. I’ve also found and met several professional heroes along the way who never fail to inspire and challenge me. The ACRL community has been a constant source of encouragement and wisdom throughout my career. I’m grateful for the many ways that ACRL fosters critical reflection and growth within our community, and nurtures conversation within the profession and across higher education.

4. What would you as candidate for the ACRL Board like to see ACRL accomplish in the area of EDI? ACRL is making good strides in advancing EDI work, but much work still remains. I’d like to see the Board and the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee work with section, discussion, and interest group leaders to develop a holistic strategy for the association’s EDI efforts. Right now, there is a LOT of activity peppered throughout ACRL through committees, task forces, and working groups. Many of these groups are undertaking similar initiatives like designing surveys, workshops, and speaker series, performing environmental scans, and writing white papers and reports. We need to bring all of this work together cohesively. I’d like to see ACRL establish a two- to three-year intentional action plan that pulls these relatively decentralized threads together, establishes specific benchmarks and measurable outcomes, and creates a structure for accountability. A wise colleague of mine once said to me, “If you want to see an organization’s priorities and values, just look at their budget.” It’s something I’ve never forgotten. With a thoughtful, holistic action plan in hand, priorities for action will emerge, and ACRL’s budget will need to reflect that. Additionally, I’d like to see ACRL continue to build relationships and connections with BIPOC communities beyond ALA. SPARC’s recent support of the We Here community’s publication up//root illustrates a partnership model that supports shared interests, while leveraging each community’s strengths and capacity. Building and investing in this kind of social capital creates trust and value for all of our college and research library colleagues. Further, within ALA’s Five-Year Pivot Strategy is a goal to increase corporate and individual giving. I’d like to see ACRL really dive into renewed fundraising and donor relations work that’s focused on creating and sustaining BIPOC communities’ access to the association and its resources. Through donors, sponsors, friends, and gifts, we can reduce or remove barriers to membership, and we can increase the availability of research funds and resources, scholarships, and awards that enable conditions for a wider community of voices to contribute, create value, and connect to ACRL.

5. In your own words: When I took a job in the campus library as an undergraduate, I never imagined that it would open up such a rewarding and stimulating career to me. I think about the effect of those early, positive experiences and influential mentors as I considered, entered, and grew into academic librarianship: special shout-outs to Cynthia Pfannenstiel, Sherry Backhus, and lorraine haricombe. Each of these individuals were instrumental in my development as a librarian and were/are excellent models of leadership. They demonstrated trust, patience, and a coaching and advising style that I admired and continue to apply in my own leadership roles. Throughout my career, I’ve endeavored to pay what I’ve learned forward, to listen, coach, and advise, particularly with new and emerging leaders. It’s the best part of my job! I love what I do, I love what library professionals enable, and I love to talk about it. You never know the influence or impression you’re making on someone who is considering library work or is new to the field.

6. What are you reading (or listening to on your mobile device(s)? Right now, I’m finishing Early Riser by Jasper Fforde. It’s set in an alternative Britain where most people hibernate through the winters. If you’re unfamiliar with Fflorde and enjoy satire, thrillers, and fantastical, imaginative other worlds, with a dose of dry wit, I highly recommend any of his incredibly clever work. I’m also reading Samantha Irby’s wow, no thank you which is just as laugh-out-loud/laughing-so-hard-I’m crying funny as her previous collections. Her honest and (too?) on the nose essays are always a welcome respite. And I’ve just started listening to a new podcast, The Experiment, which tells stories about the unfinished ‘experiment’ that is the United States.