Featured Alumnus: Ross Holt

ross-2009-smallerRoss Holt (1994) is a past NCLA President and currently serves as Assistant Director of the Randolph County Public Library. He recently took time to answer some questions for the Alumni Association…

Q: What was your first library job? Had you worked in other areas before entering library school?

A: I worked summers during college here at the Asheboro Public Library, doing a little bit of everything. Following a short stint after college as a reporter, I returned as a volunteer, which led to a temporary position, which led to a full time position. By the time I entered the MLIS program at UNCG, I was a member of the Reference staff.

Q: What do you remember most about your time in the UNCG LIS program?

A: In a paper for one of Keith Wright’s classes, I used the phrase “somewhere there’s a happy medium.” In the margin, he wrote, “She drinks.” Actually, it was the friendships I made with colleagues, classmates and professors that have stood me in good stead all these years.

Q: What is your current position and what does it entail?

A: I am assistant director of the Randolph County Public Library. I’m head of the Reference Department and systems administrator (although the day-to-day duty is mostly delegated to our MIS specialist). I’m responsible for the library system in the absence of the director.

Q: When did you serve as NCLA President? What was that experience like?

A: I served from 2001 to 2003. It was somewhat intense but very rewarding. I hope that we made NCLA engaging and relevant to the library community, and raised the profile of NCLA as the statewide voice for the library community. We worked closely with the North Carolina Public Library Directors Association on state-level advocacy, and increased state funding for public libraries and for NC LIVE.

Q: Do you have an accomplishment that you are most proud of, either from your time as NCLA President or in your library career?

A: Summed up by tales of two kids. One: a fourth-grader who started visiting the library midway through the school year. He spent almost every evening seeking homework help from the Children’s Room and Reference staffs. At the end of the school year, he and a classmate were chatting with several of us at the Reference desk. “Before I started coming to the library,” he said, “I was making Ds. Now I’m making As and Bs.”  Two: a high school junior or senior who had been a daily Internet patron for years. Although clearly a leader among his peers, he never had much to say to library staff and often averted his eyes on the few occasions when he interacted with us. As he reached the end of his high school years, the library initiated a major program aimed at marketing to teens, which included the creation of a dramatic, teen-branded library card; teen patrons could trade their old cards for the new teen card. On the day he traded his card, I noticed him showing off the new card to his friends with a bright smile, urging them to trade their cards. Small things both, but if I had anything to do with setting the conditions that made the library such a significant part of the lives of these kids (and many other people of all ages, I hope), then that’s my proudest accomplishment.

Q: Are you planning to attend the NCLA Conference in Greenville this year? And if so, what are you most looking forward to?

A: I have three Reference staff members who have presenting or officiating duties at the conference, so it’s not likely that I will go this time. I’ll staff the Reference Desk so that they can attend!

Q: What advice would you give a first-time NCLA Conference attendee?

A: Spend as much time (if not more!) talking with colleagues and making friends as you spend attending conference sessions. And of course get as much free swag (pens, pads, candy, etc.) from the exhibit hall as you can.

Q: How do you feel the profession has changed since you graduated from UNCG?

A: Obviously, technology has exponentially increased our ability to provide service to our patrons. In 1990, the State Library of North Carolina was giving grants to ensure that every library had a “telefacsimile” machine. My job as a reference librarian has gone from often frustrating to continuously rewarding because there’s now a 99 percent chance I can find the answer, as opposed to knowing the answer’s out there somewhere and not being able to get to it.

Q: Anything else you’d like to say to the UNCG Alumni?

A: If it moves and it shouldn’t, duct tape; if it doesn’t move and it should, WD-40.

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