by Donald T. Hawkins, Freelance Conference Blogger and Editor
When you open up the morning paper and the lead story on the front page is about the opening of a new university library, you know something big is happening. By coincidence, that very same day, I went to Temple University, home of the new Charles Library, to interview Steven Bell.
DTH: How long have you been with the library and what did you do before you came to Temple?
SJB: I am in my 13th year at Temple University (TU) Libraries and 43rd year of my library career, and I have held multiple front-line and administrative library positions, which have mainly been in a public services capacity. I have been the director of an access services unit; I was the associate director of the Lippincott Library at the University of Pennsylvania, which is the library for the Wharton School; and then was the director of the library at Philadelphia University for 10 years. Then I came to TU in 2006 to take on my current position. I enjoy working at TU, and it has been a pleasure to work on this building project pretty much all the time I have been here. (Although you heard Craig Dykers and other people say yesterday that it was a two-year project, there have been discussions about a new library at TU for 14 years, even before I got here.)
DTH: Did you go to library school?
SJB: Yes, at Drexel University.
DTH: Many people didn’t, including me!
SJB: And that is the case today. Many members of the staff at TU Library have backgrounds other than an MLS degree. I also have a doctorate in education, which I earned when I was at the University of Pennsylvania, and I have a certificate in instructional technology.
DTH: You are certainly very well qualified! Now tell me about TU: how many students are there?
SJB: Right now, we have approximately 40,000 students, about 27,000 of whom are undergraduates. Our current undergraduate class has about 5,000 freshmen and 2,000 transfer students. Our university is one of the most diverse in the United States. We have students from dozens of countries, although our student body tends to be centralized on the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. I heard recently that 80% of our students come from within a 140 mile radius of Philadelphia. Many of our students come from Philadelphia schools and suburban schools.
DTH: Does TU focus on any major subject areas?
SJB: There is a broad and diverse range. We are very well known for some schools—the Klein School of Communications and Media is obviously a standout in journalism, and the Fox School of Business is well known, as is the Tyler School of Art and Architecture.
DTH: What about the sciences?
SJB: It used to be the case that Temple was perceived as less accomplished in the sciences, but more recently several Temple scientific researchers have been ranked among the 25 most cited scientists in the world. We have intentionally recruited top scientists in their fields over the last decade to boost our reputation in the science community and improve the quality of our science programs.
DTH: Focusing on the library, how many items are in the collection?
SJB: We currently have approximately 4 million items, which includes both circulating and non-circulating collections, as well as special archives. While we are not among the largest collections in the United States, in Pennsylvania, our collection is one of the largest.
DTH: Is it growing?
SJB: Absolutely! People think print books are dying out, but we have 4 shelves of new print books, and they are replaced every week or two. We are constantly getting new print books, but more than that, the number of e-books that we subscribe to or own is multiplying rapidly. In addition to the 4 million items, we probably have over 1.5 million e-books that we can access and this number is growing constantly. Some of those are in collections that we subscribe to, so we don’t technically own those, but we can access them. Our students and faculty have access to a huge number of e-books.
DTH: You showed me the amazing Automated Search and Retrieval System (ASRS), and then you showed me another large collection of books on the 4th floor. What is the difference?
SJB: That differentiates the design of the Charles Library in that we listened to our community members. When we were involving them in the process of designing the library, one of the things that we heard was that people generally understood why we wanted to build an automated storage and retrieval system into the building. Because of the size of the building, its footprint, and the amount of money that was budgeted for the building, to maximize the spaces for people, including study rooms, lounge areas, general study areas, the Student Success Center, a much expanded digital scholarship center, and more instruction spaces would require putting the books into the ASRS and would greatly reduce the amount of space needed to store 1.5 million books. But we also heard that people wanted to be able to browse a printed collection, so we made sure we had a pretty good sized offering for people who wanted to come and browse shelves. For some of our incoming students, the ASRS system is easier to navigate. The number of people who literally could not find a book in our previous library was increasing every single year. Navigating a call number system is not something that people learn the way they used to, and they would be mystified. This way, they don’t have to know the intricacies of call numbers. They just find the book they want, request it, and it is delivered to them.
DTH: You used the term “community”. Who is that?
SJB: I tend to use the word “community” to indicate all those who can access the TU Libraries. So that would include our affiliates, matriculated students, faculty, adjuncts, staff members, and alumni. We are also open to the community at large. Scholars from all over the world come here throughout the year, and we are welcoming to those folks, as any research library would be. But we also consider the neighborhoods adjoining TU to be part of our community. There are many things we do to try to make our library welcoming to our community members, our neighbors, to provide them with access to computers, internet access, our books, or DVD’s. We consider TU to be Philadelphia’s public university. We are the largest university in Philadelphia. We welcome all the residents of Philadelphia to come here and use our facilities.
DTH: So could I as a member of the public not affiliated with TU and not living in the city of Philadelphia come and access all of these facilities?
SJB: Absolutely. We are always open to the public. All anyone needs to do is come to the door, show a photo ID, sign in with the guard, and you can have access to whatever you want. If you want to borrow books, we allow anyone with a valid Pennsylvania identification card to sign up for book borrowing privileges.
DTH: You said that from your earliest days here, there was talk about a new library. Why was that?
SJB: The former library (the Paley Library) opened in 1966 was really obsolete. It was not meeting the needs of our students or faculty. The problem was that we could not attract faculty and graduate students to the Paley Library. It was perceived as being an undergraduate library, so a huge number of people in our community were not making use of the library. They might come in to pick up a book and then go out, but there was no interaction.
Then there were technology changes. We had study rooms that did not have outlets in them! Some of the graduate study carrels had no electricity. The library was designed as a book warehouse, as many 1960’s libraries were. There was virtually no natural light once you got past the first floor. So the library had outlived its time and was considered unattractive. There was not enough instruction space for the librarians; when we wanted to do instruction sessions, we had to reserve rooms in other campus buildings.
The initial plan was to try to renovate the Paley Library, but that would have required us to completely shut it down and move all the collections out of the building, which was not feasible for us. The president of the university at that time, Ann Weaver Hart, decided that we would invest in a brand new building and repurpose Paley when we figured out what that would be.
DTH: What will happen to Paley? Will it still be affiliated with or part of the library?
SJB: No. It will be renamed Samuel Paley Hall and will become the headquarters of the College of Public Health which is one of the largest colleges now and is growing rapidly because of so many people being interested in the health professions. I also understand that the bookstore, which is now in the Student Center, will get the full first floor, which will be great for them because they will be at the center of the campus.
DTH: Let’s now talk about this beautiful and magnificent new library building. What are some of its new and innovative features?
SJB: It is designed with flexibility and the future in mind. One of the challenges was to design a library good for the needs of today’s students as well as being appropriate for the needs of students and years into the future. So part of the design was to keep it open and flexible without creating infrastructure that would have to be removed or renovated later on which would create lots of additional expense.
For example, you won’t find lots of electrical outlets. I have been to other fairly new libraries where there are many outlets everywhere—in the tables, in the floors, in the walls. We know that students need to plug in their devices, but rather than putting in the infrastructure knowing that in the future, batteries might last an entire week, or there might be wireless electricity in buildings, we decided to invest in other things.
I think that some things we are doing in the Scholar’s Studio are somewhat innovative. Many libraries have makerspaces and video studios, but we have an interesting structure for them, in which faculty become fellows of the Scholar’s Studio and work to help other faculty learn how to use the tools and technologies of the Studio so they can teach students how to do that sort of thing.
Another unique feature of the building is our kiosks for lending both batteries and laptops.
We intentionally did not create a computer lab with a sea of desktop computers where again, you would need to put wiring in the floor, data jacks, and electrical outlets—a huge amount of infrastructure that would be costly to install and support far into the future. Instead we went with a laptop share program that is very much like a bike share program in the city, where our students will be able to pick up a laptop from any kiosk in a building. They can have it for up to four hours and can return it to any kiosk on the campus and do the same thing with the battery packs.
DTH: Are those kiosks only in the library?
SJB: Right now, they are in five buildings on campus, including the library, and more locations are planned.
DTH: That is certainly very innovative and unique.
SJB: I can tell you that some students are not happy about the program because they had access to desktop computers in the Paley Library and were expecting that they would see the same thing here. For some students, borrowing a laptop is no different than borrowing a book. Other students would like to sit down at a desktop computer. Many students are now bringing their own laptops here. That seems to be the way it is going in higher education: more of a “bring your own device” environment, in which they use their phones, tablet computers, and laptops.
We did an analysis of our desktop computer usage and found that most people would use desktops for 30 minutes or less. We discovered that the desktops are there mostly for convenience to send email quickly between classes, send a print job to a printer, etc., but not for intensive research. We are figuring out better ways to do that, so for example, instead of sitting down at a computer to send a print job, we use an email technology, so from your phone or your laptop, you can take whatever page you want printed and send an email to our print system. Then your print job can be delivered to any printer on campus.
DTH: That is very handy.
SJB: Yes. If you are a student, you are busy and on the go. You can literally be in a class when you realize that for your next class, you need to have your paper printed. So you could get on your phone, send your Word file to [email protected], and on your way to your next class, you could stop at the library, go to a printer, swipe your card, get your printout, and be on your way in two minutes.
DTH: That makes sense because people want to use their own device because it has all their files stored on it. Although storing files in the cloud is becoming more popular, their device is where they have all their data and their files. That’s how I work: all my files are stored on my laptop,
SJB: That’s right. I do the same thing. And by the way, everybody at Temple—students, faculty, staff—has something called OWLBox, and we get 500 gigabytes of cloud storage. (That is a Temple system, but it is run by a company called Box that sells their product to universities.) Plus, everybody has a Google account with Google Mail, Google Docs, etc. We have the whole Google suite with unlimited storage on the cloud. We also have Microsoft 365, so you can have access to everything Microsoft offers from the cloud, including a terabyte of storage from Microsoft. As you can see, any student, faculty, or staff person can put a huge amount of data on the cloud.
DTH: In these times, many libraries are abandoning their traditional services. How did you justify the expenditure to maintain them?
SJB: I think that was driven by the nature of our university. We are a liberal arts institution that still supports music, languages, area studies, and all the humanities. TU is not one of the schools that has decided to eliminate philosophy, English, and Spanish, for example; we are supporting all of them plus the College of Education, the School of Medicine, and all the professional schools. To meet the needs of all of our curricula and all the researchers, we need to continue to have a physical structure where all our community members can come and connect with each other, have access to study space, technology, and expertise, and I think that enabled us to justify the cost. And I also think that when you see the building, it is more than just a library; it is a signature statement for this campus and is TU’s way of saying, “We are a university for the future, and this building is a building for the future. This building will inspire you to explore, discover, learn and succeed academically.” When you come here as a prospective student, you will see that TU is making an investment in its future and in your future as a student. I think that was part of the rationale why we wanted to invest in a structure like this rather than just having a study hall with no books in it.
DTH: And of course, you had the advantage of having a major benefactor (Stephen Charles, co-founder of the Immix Group, for whom the library is named).
SJB: That certainly does help! Also, because we are a state-assisted university, a fair amount of the funding came from the State of Pennsylvania.
DTH: Although you are a private university.
SJB: We are considered state-assisted, and we are a public university in terms of the way we are organized. Pennsylvania has a state system of higher education with universities that get the most funding. Then there are four state-assisted schools: TU, Penn State, University of Pittsburgh, and Lincoln University. We get a portion of our budget from the state to invest in projects like this library. The amount of money we get from the state has gone down precipitously since the 1970’s.
DTH: Many public libraries are reinventing themselves and becoming community centers. They have makerspaces, outreach programs, meeting rooms, etc. for the community. Is the same thing happening in the academic world?
SJB: I believe so. I think that many academic libraries see that they have a community mission as well. We are not putting up walls and gates to keep the community out. Rather, we are doing those kinds of things for the people who are affiliated with our university. You must keep in mind that although the College of Engineering might have a makerspace and the College of Communications might have a great video production studio, you cannot use those unless you are a student in those schools. So it is up to the library to be the place on campus that provides those kinds of facilities for the entire community much like a public library might provide those kinds of space for everyone in the community. Not everyone has access to a private makerspace, so we see that as being very important to our mission, and we have all of those things. We have extensive community programming, such as lecture series or musical series that are open to everybody that wants to come. We also have our Loretta C. Duckworth Scholars Studio, a digital scholarship center for faculty and students from across the university who want to learn how to use digital scholarship techniques, and we have expertise in how to do that.
We have a virtual reality and visualization studio in the library for any student who wants to learn how to use those technologies and tools. So if you are a student in the Tyler School of Art that wants to learn how to use virtual reality for your art, you can do that at the TU library. Plus we have a makerspace that has 20 3D printers in it. We already have humanities faculty coming in and showing their students how to use makerspace technology to create 3D replicas of ancient artifacts.
DTH: Some of the public libraries are getting into areas that an academic library would not. I am thinking of the Fayetteville, NY Public Library that has sewing or woodworking classes as well as 3D printers (which are the most popular). I don’t see that coming into academic libraries.
SJB: Probably not. The reason we would not do that is because we probably have that expertise in other areas. So our Tyler School of Art, for example, has extensive resources for people who want to learn how to do woodworking, sewing, fashion design and those sorts of things. It would not surprise me if at some point our Scholar’s Studio might bring in something like that. It is really up to what people want; if students said, “We want to start a sewing club and need a place to put our sewing machines”, we would provide that. A couple of years ago, students came to us from our Gaming Club and said, “We need a place on campus where we can have our monthly meeting and gaming tournaments., and we created a “Gaming Den” in the library; our Scholar’s Studio will be where all the gaming takes place.
I should mention that TU Library, being in a highly densely populated urban area, does collaborate with the Free Library of Philadelphia (FLP) which has five branches in North Philadelphia that are somewhat near to our campus (the closest one is a mile away). For example, we held a “sign up for a library card” event here so our students and faculty could get an FLP library card. That is very valuable for our students and faculty because, for example, we do not collect any audio books. We therefore encourage our students and faculty to get a FLP card because they have extensive audio book collections. We asked our FLP colleagues if they would mind if we directed our students and faculty to sign up for an FLP card, and they said, “Tell as many people as you can!”
DTH: Do they have to be Philadelphia residents?
SJB: The state is moving toward a “state library card” to reduce barriers between counties. Even though I am a Montgomery County resident, there are some things I can get from FLP when I show my local library card because they have cooperative agreements between the counties. But the main thing is that any student affiliated with TU can get an FLP card. We collaborate with the FLP branches in our area and talk together about what kinds of offerings to have. In this region of the city, the libraries do not have makerspaces and sewing clubs like they have in Fayetteville because they are much more stretched for resources. So if there are ways in which we can help out, we are glad to do it.
DTH: Do you want to say anything about the TU Press? It is now physically located in the library.
SJB: Our relationship with the TU Press was established about 7 years ago when the University Provost restructured it so that it reported to the Dean of the library. Our Dean has been working to create a much more collaborative relationship and make the Press an integral part of the library. So when we were designing the library one of the things we wanted to do was to bring the Press into it.
DTH: Is there friction between the Press and the library?
SJB: No. We maintain a productive collaborative relationship.
DTH: They have different missions. The Press must sell books and produce income, and the library is giving out information, not selling it.
SJB: That’s true. The library does use some of its budget to support the TU Press because, like the vast majority of university presses, the TU Press does not sell enough books to cover all of its expenses. It is very important that universities, when they are able to do so, continue to support the press so that we can have a press which produces scholarly monographs that no commercial publisher would ever publish. The other thing that is great about the Press is that we collaborate quite a bit on programming. We have authors that feature the content of their books and they bring in interesting speakers.
One of the things that presses are doing to become more self-supporting is to produce more popular types of books; two of our most popular books are the encyclopedias of the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers. Those types of works help support the scholarly monographs. We have also created a new imprint called North Broad Press that is designed to publish only open access books, and we already have eight books in the pipeline. All books published by North Broad Press will be available as open textbooks. We will use the expertise of the Press to get the books through the publishing process, getting rights to materials, editing, and reviewing. The expertise of the Press makes these types of projects possible.
We are also not the only library that has an ASRS, but one of the things that is very different about our implementation of it is that we are not using it as just a storage facility. Some libraries do that, but they do not have 40,000 students and 3,000 faculty on campus almost every day. We believe that we are the first university that is experiencing regular daily heavy use of our ASRS to retrieve materials from a very active circulating collection. Unlike some libraries, our circulation has not plummeted but is rather healthy. Right now, we are retrieving books from the ASRS at the rate of one every four minutes. Other libraries might retrieve 50 or 60 books a day, so we are really putting our ASRS to the test as an everyday collection that people use heavily, and you can see that our hold shelf is packed with requested books.
DTH: You told me that you can order something and by the time you walk down three floors from your office, it is available on the shelf.
SJB: Yes. We tell people that retrieval can be between 20 minutes and 1 hour, but we know that we are doing it much quicker than that; we just did not want to raise expectations when we first opened. Retrieval times depend on the time of day when a book is ordered; in the mornings books can come very quickly. One of the tradeoffs that people will always tell you about these kinds of systems is that you lose the serendipitous discovery of materials, and we totally understand that. But another thing that is very valuable to people is their time, especially to students and faculty. TU is a school of people from middle-class families. Many of our students have jobs or families to take care of, and we want to maximize their time for that; for example, if you are a student at home, you could order the books you want, then come to campus and as you are walking to class, you stop at the library, pick up your books, check them out at a self-check machine, and be on your way. How much time would it have taken that student to search, write down all the call numbers, go to the stacks, search for every book, and perhaps find that one is missing? That is a lot of time we are saving people with a system like this.
DTH: If people really want to wander the stacks and have serendipitous discovery, you have a whole 4th floor for them.
SJB: We do, and those are our latest five years of books, and we weight that collection towards more visual materials. For the future we and other libraries are working to have an online virtual browse technology, so you can imagine being on your computer, looking up a book, then swipe to the left or right and see what books are on either side of that book. We are totally comfortable with people requesting 20 books and when they look at them, only taking the five that they need. You could still retrieve books and browse them in our hold area.
DTH: Another thing that I think is innovative is a single “one stop shopping” help desk for anything.
SJB: We previously had three different service desks: a reference desk, a circulation desk, and a media services desk. That created a lot of confusion because people did not know what desk to go to, or they would go to one desk and be told that they needed to go to another one, so we centralized all of the services at a single desk. No matter what your task is on any day, you can go to that one desk and the staff there can resolve your need. Most people need help with finding a book, paying a fine, or reserving a room. These are repetitive questions that are easily handled by our one-stop desk staff.
DTH: So you do have fines?
SJB: Yes, although students pay no fines until they reach $35. They can keep borrowing books and accrue fines up to $34.99. Few students ever reach $35 in fines. Students must pay replacement fees for lost or damaged material, but we understand that students are struggling and always work with them to develop reasonable options because not everybody can afford these costs.
DTH: We have mentioned open access already, but is there anything more you would like to say about its role at TU?
SJB: We are strongly committed to open access and have a staff member who works with the scholarly communication group in the library and also with the Press, so that is a unique position. Few libraries have a staff member working for both the library and the Press who bridges the two.
We are one of the libraries that ended our Big Deal with Elsevier in 2019. We felt that we could no longer pay the exorbitant amount of money that they were requesting to keep our existing Big Deal in place, so we decided to subscribe to their publications individually, and it seems to be working out very well. It has saved us a large amount of money, and the items that we are subscribing to are our most heavily used items. We receive few complaints from anybody about cancelled publications. We are also using the Copyright Clearing House’s “Get It” service. When people want an article from a journal that we do not have, they can use this service to get it within 24 hours. We also obviously make heavy use of interlibrary loan. To my knowledge, since we ended our Big Deal with Elsevier, we have been able to fully meet the needs of our community for scholarly information. We also encourage our faculty to publish in open access journals, celebrate Open Access Week, Open Education Week, and Fair Use Week, acknowledge faculty who publish in open journals, offer an Author Publication Charges fund, and promote all these to our faculty and graduate students.
TU was one of the first universities to start a textbook affordability project in the library, and we consider it an important part of our work. We started this project in 2010, and since then we have had nine cohorts consisting of ten faculty projects. We provide them with a stipend to literally stop using commercial textbooks, as well as expertise to help them identify alternative materials which could be open educational resources, articles in e-book chapters from the library, or any number of no-cost options. We have had faculty use primary research materials in place of textbooks. It does require the faculty to do a bit of work and change the nature of their course, and we believe they should be compensated for the time they put into that, which is why we provide stipends. Conservatively, we have saved our students approximately $1 million. We have heard frequently from students that they don’t buy a textbook if it is too expensive or that they drop the course. The bottom line is that affordable learning content contributes to student retention and success, and we want to support that.
DTH: Do you have an institutional repository?
SJB: We have definitely been behind the curve on that and are actually rolling out TUScholarShare now. It is in beta right now and should be fully implemented for the Spring 2020 semester. We created and filled a position that is heavily involved in the maintenance of an institutional repository. I used it the other day (I am on the beta team), and it is super simple for people to add materials to the repository.
DTH: Is that publicly available?
SJB: It will be. You could use it to find our content. We are one of the libraries that use the Blacklight discovery system, which uses open access software and is used at several libraries. We customized it to meet the needs of our researchers. If you look at our web page and click on “library search”, you are using the Blacklight system. It searches everything we have, so when you get your results, you see the books, articles, videos, special collections, our web site, our librarians with subject expertise, and materials from the TUScholarShare. So you will not have to do a separate search on ScholarShare, but you can just use the library search to bring back results from it.
DTH: Let’s broaden our outlook to the information industry in general. What do you see as the major trends for now and the future and are any of them unique to a large academic institution like TU?
SJB: As a major research library, we still continue to make heavy use of all types of information resources, in the traditional databases as well as the more contemporary ones. Part of the challenge is that there seems to be no decline in the number of databases that third parties are developing and offering to libraries. We are constantly doing trials of new types of databases and services. I cannot foresee any time in the near future when we would not be providing access to the traditional databases like EBSCO, ProQuest, Web of Science, etc.
DTH: Do you use a traditional commercial discovery system?
SJB: Our library search using the Blacklight system searches many of the databases. I think the trends continue to point to an increase in streaming video and audio (Films on Demand and Kanopy are very popular with educators). I anticipate that we will see more of these kinds of databases, but they are expensive, and we have limited resources, so we will need to make some very tough decisions.
Another major trend is the information industry showing greater awareness of accessibility, privacy, and security issues. We are only at the cusp of this; at our university, we cannot even buy one of these products until it goes through an accessibility review. Either it must be fully accessible or the vendor must have a demonstrated roadmap or pathway to becoming accessible. If we want to buy something that is not accessible, we must demonstrate that it is the only product in that category that is available for purchase, or we can get an exclusion for a two year period. The same thing now applies to security. If we want to acquire certain information systems, they must go through a security audit.
DTH: Does that also include privacy?
SJB: Yes. Part of our security audit requires that the vendors have liability insurance covering a security breach of their system, and if they are collecting data about our students, they must divulge this information. Our IT has very high security concerns, the foremost of which is cybersecurity. We must make absolutely sure that the products in the information industry will not open us up to cybersecurity liability, which will become a greater concern across all the libraries and vendors that we deal with.
We are looking forward to other new kinds of exciting products, and I hope the information industry will continue to develop things in the artificial intelligence area, such as voicebots and chatbots. We obviously have concerns about privacy and security, but on the other hand, how can we make a better library experience for all the people that use our technologies? The people now coming to our university exist in a largely digital world. Our students in the Class of 2023 were born in 2001, so they literally have lived all of their lives in front of screens. For better or worse, that’s the information landscape in which we exist and for which we must adapt.
DTH: That raises staffing issues. With all these new innovations and services, what additional skills and training do you expect from your professional library staff? Is the MLS still good enough for a professional position? What other backgrounds and degrees do you see as being desirable for TU as it staffs its new library?
SJB: That could be a conversation all to itself! You are absolutely correct that to have a successful 21st century library at a research university, you need a fairly diverse staff in terms of the skill sets that they bring to it. For example, just to run Blacklight, you need a team of programmers and developers to manage those kinds of systems. In a building like this, every study room is on an automatic scheduling system so that rooms can be reserved online. We therefore need to have people that can make those systems work. Our Access Services and Special Collections staff had to undergo extensive training to learn the ASRS system. Staff are continuously learning new skills to make sure our library customers have the best possible experience.
DTH: Do you have an in-house IT staff?
SJB: We do, and we collaborate with the campus Information Technology Services as well, so if you look at research data management services, data curation, or data preservation, a contemporary research library needs to know how to provide those kinds of services such as advising a faculty member how to curate a large set of data. You can learn about that in a library science program, but you may need to collaborate with somebody in IT who knows how supercomputers work or how to set up storage systems for vast amounts of data.
DTH: Or how to do natural language processing or automated indexing.
SJB: I think library science programs are changing to realize that you just cannot teach people all the technology skills they need to have in a year or two. They will be learned on the job. We need to prepare students to have the soft skills and the critical thinking and learning skills so that they know that they are a work in progress and still have a huge amount to learn to be an effective librarian, technologist, or educator. That is where continuing education will be critically important in the future for people coming out of library schools.
I am currently an instructor for San Jose State University teaching design thinking, which is something they were not teaching in library schools even a few years ago. Increasingly, librarians are presented with very challenging problems that don’t have obvious answers, and you can use a technique like design thinking to create a design challenge with your colleagues, so that you have a more sophisticated way of arriving at a good thoughtful solution to a problem. Very few library schools teach design thinking. It is an example of those kinds of soft skills, leadership, and knowing how to work in more diverse environments that you will need in a library science environment, as well as organization of information and how certain technologies work. Library science must change, and there must be a clear path to continuing education for future skill development. It is not like 20 or 30 years ago when you could graduate like I did, and your skills were fine for five or ten years because nothing changed that much.
DTH: If there are other things you would like to discuss, please mention them now.
SJB: I would always advise librarians that if they have questions about the design and nature of this library to come and visit and experience it for themselves. I think it is interesting that many of the students and new librarians that I encounter want to know how to learn about the nature of this profession and industry, and I tell them that you learn what is happening by going out and visiting libraries and librarians. If they come here and experience it for themselves, they will see where innovation is happening. This library is not designed just for today’s students, but to be in a position to serve people who will be here two or three generations from now. We can hardly imagine what skills library workers will need in that future, but I suspect that design practice and design thinking will always contribute to our professional success.
DTH: Speaking for myself as one who has been in this industry for many years, it certainly has been a fascinating experience to come here, tour this library, see the technology, and have this conversation.
We often close these interviews on a personal note. What do you do for downtime, relaxation, and spare time (if there is any!)?
SJB: I try to get to the gym several times a week and stay physically fit. I think that is really critical, especially when we have a lot of stress in our life. Staying fit and eating healthy is very important to me. When I am teaching like I do now, I do not have much spare time. People who know me know that I do a lot of writing—two columns a month for Library Journal which I have been doing for 10 years now. Writing gets you to think about things carefully, and it forces me to stay current with what is happening in librarianship, higher education, and technology. I also like taking walks, going camping, hiking, gardening and taking care of plants, and spending time with my family as much as I can. I probably do not pay as much attention to the work-life balance as the people coming into the profession now do; I came in at a different time and am part of a different era and a different culture. I seek to understand the new colleagues coming in to the profession; they have different ideas, different interests, and different lifestyles. At TU, we offer flexible work arrangements to allow staff a better way to manage their lives, which can be complicated now.
1. “New library is Temple’s most compelling work of architecture in decades”, Inga Saffron, Philadelphia Inquirer, September 19, 2019, Page 1 (also available at https://www.inquirer.com/columnists/temple-university-library-inga-
2.“Temple University Celebrates the opening of the Charles Library”, Donald T. Hawkins, Against The Grain, Vol. 32, Issue 1, Pages 74, 76.
4. “Making and Community Engagement in the Library”, Donald T. Hawkins, Information Today, Vol. 32, Issue 8,
Don Hawkins blogs about conferences for Information Today and Against The Grain. He also maintains the Conference Calendar on the Information Today website and is the Editor of Personal Archiving: Preserving Our Digital Heritage, published by Information Today in 2013, and Co-Editor of Public Knowledge: Access and Benefits, published by Information Today in 2016. He received his Ph.D. degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and has worked in the information industry for over 45 years.