Maureen Sullivan Offers Promising Plans as GSLIS's Interim Dean
posted March 15, 2013 3:13 PM
As a professor of practice at Simmons Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS), Maureen Sullivan saw the chance to be interim dean as "an opportunity of a lifetime" to further GSLIS's forward-thinking educational programs. Bringing more than 30 years of organizational consulting experience to libraries and with a vast professional network as president of the American Library Association, Sullivan shares a wealth of expertise and connections that will enable Simmons GSLIS to continue to educate 21st-century leaders and innovators.
Q: What do you think library and information science schools need to do to keep up with the changes in the field?
With the many changes occurring in libraries, archives, and other information organizations today, we need to identify and introduce a new set of competencies for information professionals. Specifically, we need to determine the core competencies required in a growing digital world. We also need to clarify the competencies necessary to lead community engagement and to guide transformational change. We need to create work environments that support innovation, continuous improvement, and the ability to solve complex problems. Library and information science schools need to engage alumni, employers, and other stakeholders to
identify what is required in practice and to determine what changes need to be made to the curriculum.
Keeping current with changing needs is a continuous challenge for educators. It also is an essential practice for everyone involved in professional education today.
Q: With GSLIS curriculum changes under way, how do you plan to influence Simmons GSLIS's educational strategy? What types of changes would you recommend at GSLIS?
I am committed to ensuring a successful transition for the new dean. I also will work with the faculty to provide the support they need to implement the changes to the core curriculum, and I will continue the work begun under Dean Cloonan's leadership to ensure that GSLIS's educational strategy aligns with the College's 2015 Strategy and ensures the best possible education for our students.
Q: What do you perceive to be the three largest challenges facing library and information science schools today?
I believe the first challenge facing library and information schools today is the need to educate students for current and future professional practice. Second, schools need to close the gap between theory and practice to prepare students for the marketplace. As educators, we need to know how students are learning, as well as what they need to know to become competent professionals. Schools need to help new graduates understand the universe of new professional opportunities available to them in physical and digital spaces. The third large challenge we face is that of pursuing innovation with constrained resources.
Q: What do you perceive to be the three biggest opportunities for library and information science schools?
The first is the opportunity to attract students who will embrace the changes occurring in the information ecosystem and who are eager to be leaders in their communities. Another is to assume a strong leadership role in the emerging digital context. A third opportunity is to be recognized for all that we do in education, formal and self-directed.
Q: What type of education and preparation do you believe library and information science schools need to provide to make their students competitive in the marketplace?
While a strong undergraduate education is important, students at the graduate level also benefit from a broad set of life experiences. As service professionals, librarians must have a genuine interest in working with a diverse set of people. Students need to develop their competencies in emotional intelligence.
Educators can teach strategies that enable students to step outside themselves to manage challenging situations. In addition, schools should encourage a lifelong commitment to professional growth and development through continuing education, association membership, and contributions to the profession.
Q: Describe how networking and joining professional organizations has shaped your career and influenced your success.
My involvement from the beginning of my career in librarianship has made a significant difference in the opportunities that have come my way. Networking has brought me to every position I have had along my career path. My work with the American Library Association has been a critical component to success. It has enabled me to contribute to projects in which I have the good fortune to work with a number of competent, committed professionals. Librarianship holds its values and ethical principles in high regard. I have developed a deep satisfaction in collaborating with people who share my values and interests.
Q: Please describe achievements made during your ALA presidency.
I have been proud of the strong response to the Promise of Libraries Transforming Communities initiative, which is a nationwide program that helps librarians strengthen communities at the local level. Through ALA's partnership with the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, we have begun to develop a set of tools and resources for librarians to use to promote community engagement.
In addition, we have spearheaded two leadership initiatives. The first is a partnership with the Harvard Graduate School of Education to create "Library Leadership in a Digital Age." The program will be held March 21-23, 2013, at Harvard. The second is the first ALA Leadership Development Institute. We hope this will become a standard part of ALA's professional development offerings. The first institute will be held in the Chicago area in August 2013. The initiatives are important professional development opportunities for librarians, archivists, and other information professionals.
I am encouraged by the early work we have accomplished in Rethinking ALA. Through the program, we hope to find significant ways to strengthen the association.
Q: When you are not running a consultancy or a graduate school, or being president of the American Library Association, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I enjoy going to Martha's Vineyard with my husband and spending time with family and friends. I am an avid reader of fiction, especially by contemporary women writers, such as Jodi Picoult, Anne Enright, Lee Smith, and Alice McDermott. I also enjoy planning new menus and trying new recipes. With all of the travel that I do, what I enjoy most is relaxing at home with my husband, Jack Siggins.
by Jennifer Moyer, Dean's Editorial Fellow