Featured Alumna: Susan Sharpless Smith (aka our 2011 Kovacs Award recipient!)

Bea Kovacs, Susan Smith, and Randall Bowman

Our Featured Alumna for April is Susan Sharpless Smith! Susan graduated from the UNCG LIS program in 1993 and since then has distinguished herself as a well-known speaker and writer on technology, education, and libraries, including web-based instruction and digital archives. She currently serves as the Director of Research, Instruction and Technology Services at Z. Smith Reynolds Library at Wake Forest University. Susan was also selected as the recipient of the 2011 Kovacs Award for Outstanding Alumni Achievement. Read on to learn more about Susan and her contributions to librarianship! Congratulations, Susan!

1. Had you worked in other areas before entering library school?

Librarianship is my second career. I spent the first few decades of my work life in the home center industry as a manager. This is where I got a wealth of practical experience in administration, management and leadership, and developed my customer service philosophies. When the company I worked for decided to pull out of North Carolina, they provided outplacement counseling and it was through that testing that I discovered that librarianship might be a good fit for my next career!

2. What was your first library job?

While I was in library school, I worked in the Charlotte Observer library. Upon graduation I became the assistant librarian there. It was there that I first became interested in digital librarianship. Our main responsibility was “enhancing” the daily news stories for ingestion into the Dialog database. This included making sure the most complete version of the story out of the four daily editions was accurate and providing keywords to aid searching.

3. What do you remember most about your time in the UNCG LIS program?

Because I was a non-traditional student (working and living in Charlotte with a young family), I remember being grateful for the ability to take courses via teleconferencing facilities at UNCC. It was an early introduction to the power of technology in extending educational possibilities, which is now one of my main areas of interest.

4. What is your current position and what does it entail?

I am the Director of Research, Instruction and Technology Services at Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Wake Forest University. In that capacity, I have a team of 14 librarians and professional staff who are responsible for all the information/research services; scholarly communication initiatives; library and technology instruction; digitization initiatives; library information systems; computer hardware and software resources; multimedia services; and Library Web services. At Wake, we are library faculty, so I represent ZSR in the Faculty Senate and on the Committee for Academic Freedom and Responsibility as well as the Committee on Information Technology. I get the opportunity to get involved in various projects both internal and external to the library in a variety of capacities. Two of my favorite ones have been co-directing the annual Wake the Library 5K race, and embedding two different years with the sociology class “Social Stratification in the Deep South” as they travelled through Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi.

5. Do you have any projects going on that you’re particularly excited about?

This past year, the third edition of my book Web-Based Instruction, A Guide for Libraries (ALA Editions) was published, and that was gratifying. Recently, ZSR Library was named as the winner of the 2011 ACRL Excellence in Academic Libraries award for the university division. I co-authored the application for that award with colleague and UNCG LIS alumna Lauren Pressley, so its success was rewarding to both of us. I am the chair of the 2012 LITA National Forum Planning Committee (it will be in Columbus, Ohio), and I’ve just signed on to be guest editor of a Journal of Web Librarianship special issue on data curation that will be published in Fall 2012. My newest “personal” project is my recent re-entry into graduate school in the UNCG Higher Education PhD program where I expect to gain a deeper perspective on the academic library’s role and value within the larger university.

6. How do you feel the profession has changed since you graduated from UNCG?

When I started as Electronic Resources Librarian at ZSR Library in 1996, I half jokingly told people my goal was to work on developing a virtual library so that people would not need a physical library to get what they need. That’s become truer that I ever really seriously envisioned. But this shift has also brought new opportunities for innovation and for transforming what our profession can become. It also means that our education is never complete and that we need to stay open to redefining our roles and to updating our skills.

7. Anything else you’d like to say to the UNCG Alumni:

It’s an exciting time to be in librarianship!

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