The DOLS Member of the Month initiative started in 2018 as a way to highlight the diverse members of DOLS and their contributions to the distance and online library community.
This month, we highlight Dr. Joe Pendleton, Library Director and Adjunct Professor at Amberton University.
How long have you been a DOLS member?
Where do you work, and what do you do there?
I work at Amberton University, and I am the Director of the Library and an Adjunct Professor.
What is unique about your institution, and how does your work as a distance and online services librarian support the mission?
Our institution was an early adopter of the distance learning model, and have been providing undergraduate and graduate degrees to distance learners for 50 years. We do not advertise heavily or have a huge campus so that we can keep tuition costs as low as possible. Our tuition is a flat fee per course that has remained steady for the last several years. To serve our distance learning students, many of our courses are offered online, and complete degrees can be earned 100% online in counseling, business, human resources, accounting, analytics, and several other programs. The library at Amberton has over 15,000 print volumes in our collection, but over 30,000 digital books available with more being added each year. The library does not carry any fiction titles – only books that are directly connected to the curriculum of the programs of the University. This past year, we were able to launch a dedicated library website for our students that features access to our research databases, digital books, curriculum software, and learning platform. This was a big step for such a little school to recognize the need for online learning resource access for our students in other states and countries.
How do you bridge the distance with online and distance learners? What’s one way you create community for your distance learners?
The vast majority of our students are adult learners, that is students over 25 years old. We have found that these students are very motivated to engage and draw a sense of community within a course or degree program because of the similar situations and criteria that brought them to Amberton – low cost, great faculty, personal attention, and desire to advance their current career prospects. I believe the biggest community building block of Amberton is that we can offer personal attention to students and know them by name. Larger schools lose track of that personal touch, but for students who are wanting to earn a degree to start their dream job or move ahead from where they are in their career right now, having the personal connection with our librarians, student advisors, and faculty gives the sense that each student is a person, and not an ID number. One other item I think makes us unique is that all of our faculty members are not cloistered away from their teaching fields. Our faculty are professionals who are current practitioners in their teaching fields, and that connect allows our students to establish a professional network with experts in their field. I think that is a huge step forward for an online learner who cannot physically meet with a faculty member to establish that relationship in a traditional classroom setting.
How do you recharge your knowledge of distance and online library services?
I talk with our students and graduates to discover what services helped their studies, and what we should consider adding. I am also an active member of the Texas Library Association (TLA), TLA’s College and University Libraries Division (CULD), the Texas Council of Academic Libraries (TCAL), and the American Library Association (ALA) as well as being institutional members of TLA and ALA. Workshops and conferences introduce new services, ideas, and programs for distance learning. I also earned one of my Master’s degrees as an online learner (Library Science!), so I have been on both sides of the mirror to have learned what libraries can do to make the task of learning smoother and more linear.
What Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) initiatives are you and your institution focusing on?
Our magnificent HR program has now introduced an endorsement on our Masters in Human Resources for DEI, as well as a new graduate certificate program in DEI for HR. These two programs feature several brand-new courses that focus on constructing a DEI framework within an HR department of an organization to recognize the methods and best practices for institutional awareness and people operations.
What’s something fun you’re doing now (outside of work!)
Wow! There is a lot more than there used to be since my sons are getting into their teens. I love gaming with them, watching old movies on the couch with my wife Marie, tinkering around the house and yard, and love football. We are also starting to travel a little more as the boys have gotten older, so we are on the lookout for get-aways and daytrips.
What are you reading right now?
Bob Phillips’ new book “A Good Long Drive.” He is a professor at Amberton as well!
Twitter, LinkedIn, or other handle you would like to share with us?
I’m a Facebook nut, and have been for 15 years. I am on LinkedIn at “Joe C. Pendleton.”
What else would you like us to share about you?
I spent 20 years as a choral conductor and music professor before becoming a librarian. I still enjoy hearing great music and have lots of friends still performing, but I really found my place when I decided to become a librarian.
If you are interested in being or nominating a DOLS Member of the Month, please fill out this brief nomination/sign up form. (Note: If you don’t have a Google account, please email DOLS Membership Chair Jessica Bennett to submit your materials.)