Tracy Sutherland: Discovering magic

tracy-sutherland.jpgPublic Services Librarian, J. Eugene Smith Library, Eastern Connecticut State University, Willimantic, Connecticut

As a freshman studying dance theory in college, Tracy Sutherland found visiting the university library to be an intimidating and overwhelming experience. Yet today, she's the one behind the desk as the public services librarian of the J. Eugene Smith Library at Eastern Connecticut State University (Eastern). A former paraprofessional who worked in the libraries of Smith and Amherst colleges, Sutherland looks upon her time at Simmons as nothing short of transformative.

"Becoming a librarian," she says, "is the best thing that could have happened to me."

Building on experience: Sutherland came to Simmons after colleagues at Amherst encouraged her to pursue her master's in library science at Simmons's GSLIS West campus. She soon moved into advanced roles, applying the broad-based foundation she gained in the program. She currently manages Eastern's Interlibrary Loan and Document Delivery, as well as provides reference and circulation assistance and training for support staff.

All the while, Sutherland remains mindful of the service at the heart of the profession. "Students come in with the same daunted expression that I had and I scoop them up," she says. "I let them know that it doesn't matter how huge the building is, we're going to do our best to help."

Relentless researcher: During her early library days, Sutherland was awed by the formidable research skills of her reference librarian colleagues. Now she's doing the impressing. "I'm an investigator," she explains. "I love the hunt. The more difficult the citation, the more I want to retrieve it. Discovering something that a patron thinks is impossible to find is the biggest reward. It's like performing magic!"

Learning to lead: Sutherland thrived in Simmons's highly personalized learning environment. Such mentorship, she reports, allowed her to find her voice. While she was a student, the American Library Association (ALA) chose Sutherland as an Emerging Leader, and shortly after graduation, she participated in the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioner's Library Leadership Program. At Eastern, Sutherland serves on the Academic Affairs Committee. "Simmons gave me confidence," she says. "And with that came opportunities I never imagined for myself."

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