Kim DeWall (’13) is the Head of Technical Services at the Falmouth Public Library. This April, her director, Leslie Morrissey, stated that “Ms. DeWall has made a number of positive changes and created a team spirit in her department [and that] DeWall has been an innovator and that the public gets materials faster and accesses them more easily because of changes DeWall has made” (Town of Falmouth Board of Library Trustees, 2015).
Kim, you are currently the Head of Technical Services at a public library in Massachusetts. What do your responsibilities include?
I lead a team of five, and it is our responsibility to create and maintain access to the library’s collections online and in the stacks. Our daily responsibilities include ordering, receiving, cataloging, invoicing, and processing all of the library’s materials.
I also keep up on what is happening in the field in order to work towards providing the best and most up to date service, I look for tools that may help the team manage their work more easily and efficiently, and I work with other librarians by serving on various committees—all in an effort to maintain the library’s mission and to meet the changing needs of the public and staff.
What do you find the most rewarding about technical services? What do you find the most challenging?
The most rewarding part is that we connect users (librarians and the public) to the information that they seek—and even to information that they did not know they sought! The most challenging part of working in Technical Services, though, is definitely convincing the world of what we do and that we still need catalogers—in fact, whether we’re referred to as catalogers, collection curators, or metadata specialists, we need professional librarians ensuring good access points to all materials—even digital materials–now more than ever!
Can you talk about the online acquisitions platform that you implemented in your library? What did this project look like and how were you able to reach your goal?
One of the major impacts on acquiring materials in public libraries today is the result of how quickly the public requests and expects (and rightly so) popular titles to be in the catalog and on the shelf. I knew after discussing online vendor platforms in courses at the GSLIS that I was eager to implement such a tool to achieve meeting user needs at my workplace.
After discussing my ideas with the Director of the Library and getting her consent, I went to work! I contacted various vendors and invited them to come to speak to the library staff involved in Technical Services and the selectors involved in collection management. Then I brought the idea to the consortium level, offering to be the pilot library for the project since it involves our ILS. Then the three parties (Tech Services, the Consortium and the vendor) began to work in earnest! It has taken some time to truly learn the power of such a tool and to tweak the process, but is very rewarding to see how such combined efforts can improve library services. I am proudest of my team because we essentially rebuilt our whole ordering system, and they rose to the occasion by learning a whole new set of skills.
You credit reading The Death of a Salesman in your Library Management class for preparing you on how to deal with change. Why it is important to have these skills as a librarian?
Although the library mission is essentially the same, library work has undergone major changes due to the ever-evolving nature of technology and a transitional workforce (those who are born digital and those who are not). Working in the library today is the complete antithesis of what it used to be, and we have to be mindful that each staff member in a library brings different perceptions of our roles and has different skill sets—all of which are so important. Dr. McCarthy’s inclusion of this book was a brilliant way to open our eyes to managing people in a rapidly changing world! It also exemplifies Codes V and VIII of the ALA’s Code of Ethics http://www.ala.org/advocacy/proethics/codeofethics/codeethics
For future librarians, where do you think the profession is heading? What tools and skills do you believe to be the most valuable to new grads?
I am thinking of a blogpost I did for a GSLIS class on social media, so I am quoting myself here:
To be sure, the best we can do as professionals is to learn how to navigate the sea of such changes. I have thought about libraries being in flux for some time now, and I liken it to sailing: good sailors always check the weather forecast; but if the weather changes, they adjust their sails; change their course; or ride out the storm; and, most importantly, they can always rely upon Polaris as a guiding star.
What does that mean for librarians? I think we will need to read library literature (a.k.a. the forecast) to know where libraries seem to be headed. We will also have to be prepared to learn new tools in order to adapt to technology and the user. Most of all, I think we have to keep focused upon Polaris (a.k.a. our mission) because in the midst of change, our mission will be the one thing that will, indeed, remain constant.
Do you have any advice to library professionals graduating from GSLIS?
Advocate for our profession! Advocate for libraries!
By: Alyssa Taft & Allison Barker
Referenced: Town of Falmouth Board of Library Trustees. (2015, April 21). Public Library Minutes. Retrieved from http://www.falmouthmass.us/meetfull.php?number=7234&depkey=Library