Background: First, please tell us a little bit about yourself: Name, employment & current responsibilities, education, etc.:
My name is Barbara Reading, and I was appointed State Librarian in July. Prior to that, I was Library Development Director for the State Library. I’m finding that serving as State Librarian involves attending even more meetings! As State Librarian I manage the three divisions of the State Library, Wolfner Talking Book and Braille Library, Reference Services, and Library Development.
So I’m balancing more roles as I look at library service from new angles. I also serve on several boards and advisory committees for MOREnet Council, MOBIUS, and SISLT, for example. I just returned from a meeting of a state librarian’s group, COSLA, the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies, where we heard updates from programs including IMLS, the Edge Initiative, and of course the ALA Washington Office, and approved the COSLA Legislative Action Plan for next year. For education, I received my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from MU, and MLS from the University of Wisconsin Madison. I still remember how cold it was in Madison, but it’s a great campus and community.
Q1: When did you decide that you wanted to be a librarian?
I made that decision in high school. It sounds corny, but I joined the ‘library club’ and enjoyed taking part in the back room activities. We had a very personable librarian which also had an effect. Later, as I did other part-time work in public libraries it sealed the deal. I had a broad range of interests and helping people find information or just a good book was very appealing.
Q2: What do you like most about being the Missouri State Librarian?
I enjoy getting to work with many different groups around the state and at the national level. I get to see how the various threads of issues intersect. I also enjoy having a role in seeing libraries succeed, whether through grants that help them develop their programs or through our other projects. I have a very supportive staff who are very good to work with as well. In addition, this position has allowed me to expand my interests beyond Library Development, which tends to focus on public library services, to library service for state employees and persons with visual and physical limitations.
Q3: What do you think are the biggest challenges in working in the state library?
Trying to keep up with all the issues and the concerns of the library community can be challenging. Like every other library, we have limits on funding and staff to devote to our programs, and we aren’t able to address every need. We also face challenges in that there are constraints in the usage of the LSTA funds, and sometimes we are asked to fund projects that are great ideas, but don’t meet the federal criteria. State funding is very limited, but does provide some key help particularly for the REAL Program. I hope that people will continue to share their concerns with us, so that our programs do serve their needs.
Q4: If you were to hire a state librarian what skills and/or qualities would you look for in a candidate?
It depends very much on the job, given the big differences between the work in Library Development, Reference Services, and the Wolfner Talking Book and Braille Library. We consistently look for staff who are team players, flexible, and bring new ideas to our programs. All of our jobs require understanding the technologies used by libraries and keeping up with their field. A certain tolerance for state bureaucracy is also helpful.
Q5: Why are you involved in/ member of the Missouri Library Association?
I started my career as a youth services librarian in a regional library system. I looked to MLA to help provide a community of peers to learn from and to share my concerns and interests. While I participated in other groups as well, I have always felt it important to participate in our state professional association, as a way to keep current, network with colleagues, and work together on library-related issues. I appreciate that new technologies have opened up many new avenues for member participation, particularly given growing constraints on time and budget for travel to meetings.
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This page was last updated
February 17, 2014
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