Member of the Week: Esther Stampfer Grassian

Esther Stampfer Grassian

Esther Grassian is Adjunct Librarian at Pierce College in Los Angeles, California and Distinguished Librarian Emerita of UCLA. Esther has been an ACRL member since 1986 and is your ACRL member of the week for June 15, 2015.

1. Describe yourself in three words: “A librarian forever!”

2. What are you reading (or listening to on your mobile device(s)? Just recently I enjoyed reading The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, then finished Unbroken, and am just starting The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. Also eagerly awaiting Hilary Mantel’s 3rd Thomas Cromwell novel, though I’m not a fan of the TV mini-series. I also still read books in paper– I just finished The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende and I’m currently reading Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up (about his career as a comedian). I have waiting in the wings, Open Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano, 1776 by David McCullough, My Ántonia by Willa Cather, Eats Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss, I’ll Mature When I’m Dead by Dave Barry, and Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin, as well as Active Learning Techniques for Librarians by Andrew Walsh and Padma Inala. Whew!

3. Describe ACRL in three words: Opportunity, networking, and “quality control.”

4. What do you value about ACRL? I truly value the many opportunities ACRL offers to learn, connect with others, and contribute to the profession through committee work, elected office, publications, and continuing education. Basically, you can make a difference with ACRL!

5. What do you, as an academic librarian, contribute to your campus?

Just a few highlights from my 41-year career at UCLA, in a variety of capacities, beginning with Reference Librarian (1969), through Reference/Instruction Librarian, Information Literacy Coordinator, Interim Head (College Library), and ending with Information Literacy Outreach Coordinator (through June 2011)…

  1. CAMPUS LEADERSHIP AND COLLABORATION: Worked with campus computing center staff on Internet training. Led the UCLA Library’s Internet Training Group, teaching UCLA librarians, staff and students how to use the Internet, beginning with Gopher (1993/94) and proceeding through the Web (1995 +); also wrote one of the first web evaluation guides: “Thinking Critically About World Wide Web Resources” (1995).
  2. UC LEADERSHIP: Served in various leadership capacities, including chairing the local (UCLA) Librarians Association of the University of California (LAUC-LA), as well as the statewide LAUC, and served as Interim Head of College Library (UCLA’s undergraduate library), August-December 2007.
  3. PROFESSIONAL LEADERSHIP: Have chaired local, regional, and national groups, including the ACRL Instruction Section; established and chaired LILi (Lifelong Information Literacy), a grassroots California multi-type library group focused on supporting and encouraging development of sequential lifelong information literacy instruction curricula.
  4. iSCHOOL INTERNSHIP DEVELOPMENT & SUPERVISION: Established and supervised many UCLA iSchool Interns who worked on a variety of projects, including an extensive online tutorial (“Road to Research”), a number of point-of-use guides, as well as an adaptation of the University of Minnesota’s open source “Assignment Calculator.”
  5. CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT FOR THE PROFESSION: With Joan Kaplowitz, proposed and then alternated teaching a 4-unit graduate course in information literacy instruction for MLIS and PhD students in the UCLA iSchool (1990-present); co-authored two ILI textbooks for this course.
  6. CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT WITH FACULTY COLLABORATION: Working collaboratively with UCLA faculty, proposed and taught two 1-unit undergraduate IL courses: a lower-division course in the Honors program, and an upper-division course in the English Composition Department.

As a part-time Adjunct Librarian at Pierce College (1 of the 9 Los Angeles Community Colleges), just since February 2015, I am very happy to be back doing reference, teaching one-shots, and now also working on student success (Equity-funded) projects. Here are a few highlights…

  1. Adapted point-of-use guide for EBSCO databases from UCLA College Library guide.
  2. Created UCLA iSchool Reference/Instruction Internship for the coming year and will have two Interns in Fall 2015.
  3. Publicized and promoted Pierce Library Research Appointments to support student success (Equity-funded) initiative.
  4. Developed LibGuide for English (language and writing).

6. In your own words: Academic/research librarians make a tremendous difference in the lives and success of students, staff, and faculty, helping them leap “thresholds” of all kinds (we’ve been doing that for many decades), though usually not in a single bound… “Information literacy vaccine” requires repeated “booster shots” for everyone–i.e., a lifelong learning mindset. Faculty need updates; grad students need to learn about and expand their information resources/tools horizons; undergrads need introductions to the world of library resources beyond (though also encompassing) Google and Wikipedia; staff need to learn about library resources. Of course, information literacy represents just one aspect of the added value that academic/research librarians bring to their institutions.

In fact, ACRL has put a lot of emphasis on studying and promoting the value of academic and research libraries. But, will we continue to have academic/research librarians? Many library administrators need consciousness-raising regarding the value of academic/research librarians with MLS/MLIS degrees. Some are hiring people with PhDs who have deep subject expertise in specific subject areas, highly useful for collection development. But do those with PhDs have the “big picture”– an overview of information tools and resources, of the history, roles and functions of libraries and librarians, of knowledge organization and access, data preservation, data and culture, privacy and confidentiality, digital and information literacy? Generally not, and the same is true for others with expertise now valuable to libraries–e.g., in digital humanities, cultural anthropology, technologies of various kinds, data management, etc. Adding these kinds of experts can expand a library’s scope, but should they be hired as librarians or into new positions that focus on their expertise?

Academic/research librarians, as I said above, your work and your help are crucial to the success of your academic community. You are expert researchers and many of you are also scholars. I urge you to use that expertise to search for evidence to support arguments regarding the value of the MLS/MLIS degree, to develop and conduct your own research on the value of the degree, and to publicize the results widely before the MLS/MLIS-holding academic/research librarian vanishes.

Editor’s Note: Are you an ACRL member? Would you like to be featured as ACRL Member of the Week? Nominate a colleague? Contact Elizabeth Caris at for more information.