Meet the Candidates: Devin Savage

Editor’s Note: In the lead-up to the 2024 ALA/ACRL election, we’re profiling the 2024 ACRL Board of Directors candidates. We’ll feature one candidate in slate order each weekday from March 1-8. 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 11.

Devin Savage is the dean of libraries, Paul V. Galvin Library at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, IL and a 2024 candidate for the ACRL Board of Directors as Vice-President/President-Elect.

1. Describe yourself in three words: Curious, optimistic, and collaborative.

2. Describe ACRL in three words: Active, informative, connecting.

3. What do you value about ACRL? I value ACRL’s relevancy, how active it is organizationally, and the membership’s willingness to stand up for their values. And more than anything, I enjoy how ACRL provides platforms for librarians to be both pragmatic and inspiring.

4. What would you as candidate for the ACRL Board like to see ACRL accomplish in the area of EDI? I have tremendously valued the spaces that libraries have always offered me for learning, development, and access to information. As a teenager of modest means growing up in a rural environment, I found that the nearby university library was a place I could do research and work as a high school student. That openness and connection to the academic community really helped me envision higher education as a viable path for me personally. The values of inclusion, equity, and diversity all resonate deeply with me. From my previous experiences in the area of user experience, I’ll echo others who have mentioned that we academic librarians cannot forget accessibility as another important piece of this work. We often find that there’s a lot of low-hanging opportunities to take immediate action on physical and virtual accessibility.

I do think it’s important not to undercut the excellent work that previous ACRL officers and volunteers have done in the past, including recruiting for diverse boards and officers. And the elevation of ACRL’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion to the level of a goal for the association’s Plan for Excellence, the promotion of the Diversity Alliance Task Force to a standing committee, the publication of EDI focused books and resources, and the ACRL Diversity Institute are all good examples of concrete steps that ACRL is taking in these areas. Also, I recently found and am currently reading through ACRL’s (in coordination with ARL) 2022 framework for “Cultural Proficiencies for Racial Equity.”

That said, we need to continue to find new ways to empower librarians, develop our academic library paraprofessional staff and find ways to elevate them (and even our student workers as well). At the system level, while we should seek to continue to find and address barriers to equity, diversity, inclusion, and access – we must seek to do so in a way that also does not create harmful, tokenizing, and/or extractive labor. Although I recognize that higher education is facing a significant backlash and more challenges are being raised, I would still say that I am optimistic in this area. I truly think a more diverse, equitable, accessible and inclusive environment is achievable, and ACRL can continue to be a resource for all academic libraries and librarians.

5. In your own words (an open-ended statement or reflection about life as an academic/research librarian): As academic librarians, we have a lot of possible responsibilities, but at the core, the academic library is a physical and virtual representation of the scholarship of the university. The opportunities and responsibilities of digital access and preservation have shifted the ways this sometimes gets perceived or expressed, but I do believe the core is largely the same. And although I’ve said this before, it bears repeating that I love working in a field where all we do is help people. I love assisting researchers and faculty, and being a part of changing the way that students think. We are uniquely situated to be an unconditional ally to the students, and to further the mission of higher education while concurrently celebrating and promoting the accomplishments of all partners on campus. Most of all, I love the collaborative and team-oriented nature of academic librarianship. It’s such a pleasure to get to work with such amazing, intelligent, hardworking, and passionate library professionals.

6. What are you reading (or listening to on your mobile device(s)? I tend to have a lot of things going at the same time, but right now the latest books that I am trying to read are Linda Colley’s The Gun, the Ship, and the Pen and Karen Armstrong’s The Lost Art of Scripture. And I resisted podcasts for a long time, but I finally gave in and the one I most recently found is “60 songs that explain the 90s” (language warning for swearing).