2013 Cora Paul Bomar Lecturer: Susan Sharpless Smith

Susan Sharpless Smith

Susan Sharpless Smith

What is your current position and what does it entail?

I am currently Associate Dean at Z. Smith Reynolds Library. I was promoted into this newly created position in August of 2011. Officially, my responsibilities include “strategic planning, building renovation projects, budgeting, digital initiatives, grants and special projects and to provide oversight for the scholarly communication program and faculty.” Practically, these are fairly broad charges and I get the opportunity to become involved in a wide range of interesting projects.

Do you have any projects going on that you are particularly excited about?

I have several interesting projects either in process or on the horizon. Last year we went through a strategic planning refresh, and developed a set of priorities that we will be addressing over the next few years. One of these is to establish a Digital Scholarship unit that will be comprised of our current Scholarly Communication Librarian and a new Digital Initiatives Librarian. Within this unit, we plan to position ZSR Library to cover the wide range of digital needs that span the academic and administrative domains of the University. I’ve always loved being in a position to help shape new services and look forward to leading the development of this new unit in the Library. Another new initiative for our Library is our participation with the Wake Forest Fellows program, which gives recent WFU graduates the opportunity to work in a higher education environment for the year following graduation. For the first time, we will have a fellow at the library. We are in the midst of interviewing an impressive group of seniors to find our first fellow who will be with us for the next academic year. One smaller project that we will be undertaking this spring involves ZSR Library establishing two open-air reading rooms on campus. Modeled after the Bryant Park Reading Room, these will add to the other outdoor space enhancement projects being implemented on the Wake Forest Campus.

What makes you excited about our profession looking forward?

I find it wonderfully exciting that the very nature of libraries is being redefined and transformed. The systemic disruptive changes that are happening in the world of information are having, and will continue to have, great impact on libraries. For our profession, I think this translates into new roles and opportunities to make a difference in positioning libraries to stay relevant and vital.

Beyond the professional skills learned at UNCG, what personal skills do you bring to your job?

Over the past year, one of the things that ZSR Library has done has been to identify our faculty’s and staff’s strengths so that we can leverage those rather than focusing on how to improve weaknesses (which often isn’t too successful!). To that end, everyone participated in taking the StrengthsFinder assessment to identify our talents. We found that it appears to be a fairly accurate instrument, so I will share my top five “talents” that I bring to my job:

    • Achiever:  I am “driven” in a way that pushes me to achieve and I look for tangible results to feel that I’ve been productive.
    • Activator: I like to get things done. Analysis has its place, but action gets things accomplished. I like to make a decision, take action, look at the result and learn from the experience.
    • Maximizer: I like to capitalize on people’s strengths (and my own) and make those stronger.
    • Arranger: I like to be faced with complex situations, manage all the variables and find the best solutions.
    • Focus: This is related to my “achiever” strength, because I do best when I have a clear goal in mind. Focus helps me be efficient in getting to what I call “the end game.”

We have made a spreadsheet that contains everyone’s top five strengths and it has been very helpful in understanding team and personnel dynamics.

After graduating from UNCG, how do you keep up with trends and stay on top of ongoing research and information?

I stay active professionally through ALA/LITA and ACRL. I look for and take advantage of continuing education opportunities. At ZSR Library we have a committee that focuses on putting together staff development programs. We also are committed to sharing our professional development experiences within our faculty and staff through our Professional Development blog that has been in place since 2007.

What is your most recent favorite book? (Career related or not! Emphasis on the “or not!”)

My pleasure reading genre usually runs to crime mysteries (great for escaping reality for me!). But one of my goals for my personal reading is to branch out a bit. So I ask colleagues for recommendations and usually try to read the books chosen for our alumni online bookclub, DeacsRead. However, the one I’ve most enjoyed in recent months is the fantasy novel, Night Circus.


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