Featured Alumna: Lauren Pressley

l This month’s featured alumna is Lauren Pressley! Lauren currently serves as the Instructional Design Librarian at Wake Forest University. Since graduating from UNCG in 2007, Lauren has stayed extremely busy. In addition to maintaining a popular library blog, she has written a book for aspiring librarians and given numerous presentations on instruction and emerging technologies at various conferences. Earlier this year, Lauren was selected as one of Library Journal’s “Movers and Shakers.” She took some time to share with the alumni about her memories of UNCG and what she’s doing now.

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

I remember the people most. I loved that the faculty had such different experiences; it gave me a better feel of the field as a whole. I loved that my classmates came from such diverse backgrounds and experience levels in libraries; I felt that we were able to learn a lot from each other. I was a part-time, commuter student and even though I wasn’t there all the time, I really felt like I was part of the community, and still feel like I’m part of it even though I come by less often now.

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

It depends on how you count it. My first library job was as a library helper in fifth grade. My first paying library job was as a student assistant in college for the Interlibrary Loan department at NCSU. My first full time library job was as a support staff member at Wake Forest University in the Microtext Department (that job no longer exists).

That microtext job was my first full time position. In college I really thought I’d go into student affairs and spent a lot of time preparing for residence life work. I even took a class in a master’s program while an undergrad to test that field out. Luckily, I found librarianship before pursuing that any further. This is a much better fit.

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

I am currently the Instructional Design Librarian at Wake Forest University. Part of this is a traditional librarian role: I liaise with three departments (Philosophy, Women’s and Gender Studies, and the Teaching and Learning Center) which means I teach library instruction sessions, help faculty with whatever they need, and purchase books for their collections. I teach a one-credit information literacy class at least once a semester. I also sit one or two hours on the reference desk per week, just to keep a toe in that part of the field.

A large part of my job is helping others teach.  In this role I started and co-facilitate (with another UNCG alum, Roz Tedford) a “Teaching Teaching” course for the teaching library faculty and staff. We treated this like a one-credit class the first semester, with lectures and group work. This semester I’m facilitating the workshop rather than teaching the class. The group came up with topics and each week I line up people to share examples and facilitate the discussion. If you’re interested, we have a blog for the class. I sometimes consult with new librarian teachers to help them with their classes. I also often work with academic faculty looking at incorporating educational technology into their courses.

Another part of my job is paying attention to emerging technologies. I teach a monthly emerging tech talk on new things on the horizon and I answer questions for anyone at WFU on emerging technology issues. I have this focus largely to find tools that can help us provide better service and instruction, but it’s also nice to play the role of filter for my colleagues. This way they don’t have to spend all their time learning about everything. I make sure we’re familiar with the things that will make the biggest impact and everyone saves some time.

The last part of what I do is committee work. I chair the library’s staff development committee. I serve on the assessment and web committees for the library. I also serve on the university committee that is looking at transitioning students to Gmail and the college strategic planning committee for innovation in technology and information.  Little taskforces pop up all the time, too. Most of this work is tied in some way to my roles with instruction and technology.

4. How did you get interested in instruction and emerging technologies?

I’ve always had an interest in emerging technology. I like forecasting for the future, and have a knack for figuring out which tools might really grab people. I suspect my interest in instruction comes from having both really amazing teachers and really terrible teachers as far back as elementary school. I know my interest in online education comes from the fact that both my best class and worst class that I ever took were distance education courses.

5. Do you have an accomplishment in your library career that you are most proud of?

I am really proud to have written a book. I am especially proud that the book is one that could help recruit good people to our field, and help new people in the field find their place. But I’m also very proud to have been on the Library Journal’s Movers and Shakers list. Every year I wait for the list, knowing that I’ll be inspired by the people on it and what they do. It never occurred to me that I might be included on that list as well.

6. I know you’ve just published your first book – congratulations! Can you tell us a little about it?

Thanks!! The book is So You Want To Be A Librarian, published by Library Juice Press. It’s a book aimed at college students considering the field as well as new library school students who are trying to find their niche within it. While I was writing it, I thought of the book as a “foundations” type of book but with a more conversational tone. It includes tips about grad school as well as the jobs and issues that people may encounter in the field.

Writing the book was a far bigger project than I realized it would be. I took a few weeks of Paid Time Off to write it, and still it seemed to consume every moment of free time I had for that year. However, it’s really satisfying to have completed it and I have heard really kind and positive comments about it, which helps me feel better about all the time that went into it. J And though I’m a techy librarian, it’s still really fun to have a book with my name on it and a Library of Congress authority record!

7. Do you have any other projects coming up that you’re really excited about?

I just participated in the Library 101 project, by writing a little essay. I enjoy the fun videos that David Lee King and Michael Porter put out, and how they’re trying to keep things fun while pointing out new things for people to try. I appreciated the many facets of this project, so of course I jumped to participate when I had the chance.

I also have another book coming out around the holidays: Wikis for Libraries, part of the Tech Set that Neal Schuman is putting out. The books are all written by a great group of librarians. The Tech Set is designed for folks who are interested in a bunch of different technologies, but might not have looked into them in great detail yet. It’s a fabulous project. I am really excited about it. We’ll have podcasts and a wiki out to explain the project in greater detail soon.

8. What would you like to accomplish in the next five years?

In terms of scholarship, I’m hoping to focus my message a little more clearly on the role of libraries and librarians in academic technology. At this point I’m hoping to write more articles and give presentations (and less books) over the next five years. In terms of service, I’m running for ALA Council, and would love to influence the discussion there.  I’m also focusing most of my professional involvement in LITA, an association within ALA focused on technology. In terms of my day-to-day work, I’d love to be involved a little more in management in the next five years as well. But mostly, my plan is to keep learning as things change and adapting to whatever our users’ newest needs and interests are.

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

UNCG is a great place. The network of people you meet is phenomenal, and is easy to keep up with after graduation with a little bit of time on Facebook. North Carolina is a great place for graduate school, too, as there are so many different libraries for internships and shadowing opportunities.

Professional uses of Facebook, Twitter, and blogging can help you find your place in the profession. Blogging opened doors for me that I never imagined would be open at this point in my career, so don’t be afraid to get out there and try things!

Let me know if you have any questions! I’d be happy to chat!