We’ve started a new feature to feature our members on the NCSLA website. For NCSLA’s first Member Spotlight, Susan Craft talked with Susan Forbes, current President of NCSLA. (Pictured on the right, next to past-President Tamika Barnes)
Can you tell us a bit about your background? How did you first become involved in the information profession?
Starting in elementary school through high school, I always seemed to find myself volunteering to work in the library. In college, I worked in the music library. As a history and politics major, I was lucky to land a job as a library technician in a law library after finishing undergrad.
Can you give some examples of where you have worked, and in what sorts of roles?
I am currently serving as the Assistant Director at the United States Environmental Protection Agency Library in Research Triangle Park. In this role, I manage reference, literature searching and our instruction program. I also have the opportunity to work with and mentor numerous graduate student interns. Before coming to EPA, I spent 7 years at Dialog in various roles including Subject Specialist, Project Bureau Manager and Director of the US Knowledge Center. I also worked as Law Librarian for the United States Courts.
What prompted your choice of a career?
After college, I was planning to go to law school. However, after about a year working in a law library, I realized that I loved doing research and locating hard to find information. And, I realized that being a librarian would allow me to learn something new every day.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out as information professional?
Be flexible and open to all opportunities. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try things that might seem intimidating. Be confident. If you are still in school or recently graduated and still looking for a job, gain as much practical experience as you can, even if it is on a volunteer basis.
What are your plans for 2012?
As President of NCSLA, I want to make sure that the organization is meeting member needs through programming and professional guidance. I am hoping to grow new programs like the resume review service and mentoring programs, and perhaps offer some new support programs for information professionals in transition. I also want the chapter to do more social/networking functions this year. Last year, I received quite a bit of feedback from members asking for more networking opportunities, so we plan to make that happen this year.
Why did you become involved with SLA? Has your involvement met your expectations?
With the encouragement of Dr. Robert Ballard, I became involved in SLA as a student, serving as President of the student chapter at NCCU’s School of Library and Information Science. Through SLA, I’ve connected with scores of bright information professionals and created a robust professional network. NCSLA programs and SLA conferences allow me to keep abreast of new developments in the profession, and to learn about new tools and resources that will help me better serve patrons.
What reasons would you give other professionals for joining SLA? For taking an active role in SLA at some level?
In addition to providing excellent opportunities for professional development and networking, taking an active role in a chapter and/or division allows you to gain valuable leadership experience that you can add to your resume. Becoming involved in SLA gives you the opportunity to gain experience in areas such as budgets, event planning, project management, marketing and public speaking.
What do you wish you had learned in graduate school? What is the most important thing you learned?
I go back to things I learned in library school all the time. It’s difficult to name one most important thing, but for me and my career, learning Dialog was very important because it taught me search skills that are transferable to other platforms.
What will be the most important skills librarians will need as they move into the future?
Since this is a time of great change for information professionals, I think adaptability is the key strength needed. The world is changing and we constantly need to step out of our comfort zones to make sure we are keeping up with those changes. Strategic thinking is important. Information professionals must understand both the mission of their organization and the needs of their patrons, then tailor services accordingly. Public relations and marketing skills are always important. At a minimum, we need to make sure users are aware of our services, but more than that, we must be able to communicate our relevance in a way that makes our users understand that they will be infinitely less effective without us.
What do you like to do outside of the information professional world?
I love animals and am an active volunteer at the Wake County SPCA. I have two dogs and four cats of my own, and yes, that’s a lot of animals. My guilty pleasure is reality TV… I’ve only missed one season of Survivor! My husband and I enjoy traveling as much as time and money will allow.