Dean of University Libraries, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
ATG: Rosann, collection development has been a major focus of yours throughout your career. What do you make of the current state of library collections? Are they as important as they once were? What do you think the future holds for library collections and their use?
RB: I think that collections will always be important. They represent content and research and are still very much the backbone of libraries. Collections are still a big part of the “product” that libraries provide to our students, faculty and scholars. I also believe that electronic content is critically important to our students as they work on class assignments and pursue scholarly endeavors. Students are using our electronic collections, and are likely not even aware that they are doing so. As important as collections are, libraries offer so much more than that. For example, collaborative work spaces that provide the latest technologies are a huge reason students come to libraries. They are or they may not be using our content when they are working in these types of spaces. Also, libraries provide spaces to work on digital media projects, or places to practice presentations or create 3D models. I think that collections will always remain the backbone of our product, but students and faculty see us as offering so much more than that now.
ATG: You have been praised for having a deep commitment to diversity. The library at UNC-Greensboro has been a leader in this area. But we wonder, do you think that libraries are doing enough to promote diversity both on campus and in the library? Is diversity adequately reflected in library services and collections?
RB: I am so proud of what our Libraries have done regarding diversity and inclusion initiatives. We are recognized on campus for all of the initiatives we have undertaken. Our Diversity Resident Librarian program is stellar, and the four librarians who have been our diversity residents were very active on campus. In addition, our Diversity Librarian has won national honors and sits on many high profile committees on campus. He played a critical role in the creation of a Faculty Senate Diversity Committee. These are just a couple of examples among a large number of diversity initiatives we have in the Libraries. To answer your question, UNC-Greensboro promotes diversity on campus and in the library. I know that there are many other libraries nationwide that have residency programs and who follow strategic guidelines for diversity and inclusion both in their libraries and on campus. I think that more can always be done. Many libraries are working on doing more, and have consulted with us on ways to accomplish more. I know that we can do a better job at hiring more diverse staff members and faculty. At UNC-Greensboro we try to provide diverse collections and acquire products in different languages but more can always be done.
ATG: Innovation is also recognized as one of your strong suits. As you look back on your career, which of your many innovations are you most proud?
RB: That’s a tough question. I think simply providing an environment where the staff and faculty can feel free to take risks and think creatively is a huge achievement. We have had many library faculty members and staff win awards for their innovative work. That can’t happen unless they feel that they can be innovative in their work. For more than six years we have awarded a $2,500 Innovation and Program Enrichment Grant to a staff member who submits the most creative proposal. I have to acknowledge my colleague Joyce Ogburn who discussed an innovation award she was sponsoring when she keynoted our very first entrepreneurial librarian conference. I loved the idea, and started a similar award at UNC-Greensboro. I have to think that this annual grant award is what has imbued the spirit of creativity and innovation among the library staff.
ATG: You were the driving force in the creation of the Conference for Entrepreneurial Librarians at UNC-Greensboro. Can you tell us more about that? Why is an entrepreneurial spirit so important to librarianship? We are not often thought of as being entrepreneurial. Are there ways the profession can change that perception — aside from sponsoring relevant conferences?
RB: I created the conference in 2008 at a time when “entrepreneurism” seemed to be the new buzz word nationally and on campus. I believed that libraries were entrepreneurial, but we were not being mentioned. I felt we were being overlooked. I met with Lynn Sutton, my colleague at Wake Forest University, to run the idea of an entrepreneurial conference for libraries by her. We discussed the format and the goals for the conference. We co-sponsored what has become a biennial conference hosted alternatively at our two universities. Attendance has been growing over the years. We need to be entrepreneurial and we need to be recognized for that. I think the budget crisis that has touched so many of us makes this even more important. Aside from the conferences, I think that offering a competitive innovation award, as I mentioned above, is another good way to foster the entrepreneurial spirit.
ATG: You are also a big proponent of professional growth and development and encourage colleagues to publish and serve in professional organizations. What are the key benefits for librarians in this kind of involvement? What positive results in improved library services have you observed resulting from librarian professional growth and development?
RB: Yes, I strongly believe that we need to contribute to our profession. Publishing articles and books as well as presenting at national conferences and serving on national committees are an important way we can do that. I think it is important that we contribute to the scholarship of librarianship. When I first arrived at UNC-Greensboro, I increased funds to support professional travel. Professional Development is critical — it is important to attend conferences and meetings to grow as an individual and to bring ideas back to your library that you can try and implement. I always go to conferences with the idea of bringing back new ideas that we can try. One result I see is that my library faculty are constantly being asked to speak at conferences because of their expertise and because people see them at conferences, read their publications and have heard them speak on topics such as information literacy, our new liaison model, e-publishing trends, diversity, and assessment to name just some. This sharing of knowledge is so important.
ATG: At the risk of sounding self-serving, we have to ask: how did being a major contributor to the Charleston Conference and Against the Grain influence your own professional growth and development?
RB: Being a major contributor to the Charleston Conference and Against the Grain changed my professional life in ways that likely cannot be described. Katina changed my life! Without her knowing it, she served as a mentor to me. I went to my first Charleston Conference in 1987 when I was the Head of Acquisitions at the University of West Florida. After meeting Katina and shortly thereafter letting her know that I wanted to get more involved, she invited me to edit two columns in ATG — Group Therapy and Bet You Missed It. Eventually I became an editor of ATG, and then led the conference planning committee. Without the involvement at the Charleston Conference, I feel as if my professional life would have been different. I met so many people and learned about so many new and innovative things that my fellow librarians we doing. People started to know my name (Bazirjian is not a difficult name to forget) and I had a network of people I could learn from and grow with. I was even awarded the ALCTS Leadership in Library Acquisitions Award based on my involvement with the conference. It all started with Katina.
ATG: Speaking of librarianship as a profession, what would you tell someone thinking about it as a career? Would you recommend they sign up for library school and take the plunge?
RB: I am retiring and still tell people how much I love my profession and will miss it. There have been so many changes to this profession since 1980 when I began my career at the Syracuse University Libraries. It is likely those changes that have sustained my interest in the profession. It is constantly changing and constantly exciting. I have no regrets telling prospective LIS students to take the plunge. This profession will continue to grow and change and meet the needs of our students and faculty in new and exciting ways. That is part of the charm and challenge of this profession. We need to keep changing to remain a relevant part of their lives.
ATG: Rosann, we understand congratulations are in order! After an accomplished career as a librarian and library administrator you are retiring in April 2016. What led you to the decision to open this new chapter in your life?
RB: The answer to this question is really simple. I want to travel, I want to take long walks on the beach, and I want to wake up without an alarm. I have given 36 years to my profession and now I want to live life without any constraints to my time.
ATG: We hear that you are moving to Myrtle Beach. There are lots of fun things to do there. Are you looking forward to anything in particular? Are there any exciting titles on your reading list? Will you be doing anything library related after you leave UNC-Greensboro? Can we expect to see you in Charleston?
RB: I love the beach, and plan to do a lot of walking on the beach. There are wonderful restaurants in Myrtle Beach, so I am looking forward to checking them out. I am also looking forward to getting involved with community events. Now that I am a South Carolinian, I am determined to finish the Anne Rivers Siddons novels that I have yet to read. I love getting to know local authors, so I will go to author events and buy their books. I don’t know if I will be doing anything library related after I leave UNC-Greensboro. Everyone says that when you retire, you shouldn’t make any commitments for at least six months. It is important to feel the rhythm of retirement and then make any decisions regarding committees, volunteering opportunities, etc. I will definitely be in Charleston now that I do not live too far away but solely as a tourist!