Library Leadership

36. Libraries and Toxic Leadership: Having the Conversation with Alma Ortega

Alma Ortega

What is toxic leadership and how does it play out in library settings? And why was I, as a podcast host and leader of a library, nervous to talk about this? Research shows that 65% of librarians have experienced toxic leadership in the workplace. In our “librarian-culture-of-nice” this is not always a comfortable topic.

Libraries are a positive force in our culture and should be in the workplace, as well. On this episode of Library Leadership Podcast, I talk with Dr. Alma Ortega, tenured librarian at the University of San Diego Copley Library and author of the book Academic Libraries and Toxic Leadership. She teaches us about the characteristics of organizational toxicity.

Learning about this often-sensitive subject helps us start a conversation in the library profession to inoculate our institutions against the pitfalls of toxic leadership.

Transcript

This podcast is brought to you by the School of Library and Information Management from Emporia State University, where library leaders are created, with program sites in Las Vegas, Nevada; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Denver, Colorado; Salt Lake City, Utah; Portland, Oregon; Boise, Idaho; and Emporia and Overland Park, Kansas; and by the Park City Library, making film and podcasting possible with green screen and sound recording resources.

Adriane:

This is Adriane Herrick Juarez. You’re listening to Library Leadership Podcast, where we talk about libraries, and leadership, and speak with guests who share their ideas, innovations, and strategic insights into the profession. 

What is toxic leadership and how does it play out in library settings? And why was I, as a podcast host, and leader of a library, nervous to talk about this? Research shows that sixty-five percent of librarians have experienced toxic leadership in the workplace. In our librarian culture of nice this is not always a comfortable topic. Libraries are a positive force in our culture and should be in the workplace as well. 

On this episode of Library Leadership Podcast I talk with Dr. Alma Ortega, tenured librarian at the University of San Diego Copley Library and author of the book, Academic Libraries and Toxic Leadership. She teaches us about the characteristics of organizational toxicity. Learning about this, often sensitive subject, helps us start a conversation in the library profession to inoculate our institutions against the pitfalls of toxic leadership. You won’t want to miss it. Enjoy the show!

Welcome to the show, Alma. Your book is called, Academic Libraries and Toxic Leadership, and you’re currently doing research for a similar title that will be coming out related to public libraries. 

First of all, I want to tell you, I was a little nervous to talk about this issue because it can be seen as negative. You know, it’s certainly hard for us to discuss this in our close-knit profession, yet your work shows that sixty-five percent of the librarians you studied had experienced toxic leadership in their professional careers. So, it’s an issue that we don’t want to skirt. 

Question #1: Why do you think this is a rather difficult issue for us to face? 02:22 

 Dr. Alma Ortega:

I think this a great segue into talking about librarians being a mostly female profession, our culture of nice. Mostly women were helpful to each other, or supportive of each other. And, it’s not comfortable to alway be—most of the articles that you see, ALA magazine, all the other library magazines that we have are always with a positive spin, as it should be. Libraries are a service. They’re there to—they’re happy places. Ideas are pumped out, papers are written, knowledge is created. So in general, it’s a really positive space for not only the user, but also the workers. 

However, where there’s people involved there are moments when not everything is going as planned. All it takes is an action, or a permissive environment for then someone, or a group of people to take advantage of that environment—to then create a place where one, or multiple people will not feel as comfortable. 

And, it takes awhile to see. It doesn’t happen overnight. It builds. And again, it’s those permissive places where there’s a lot of trust placed on these people. The people who are working under them trust them. Because when the first time it happens you’re just like, Did that just happen? So, from all the people I interviewed for the book, there’s a lot of denial, No, I’m imagining it, or I’m having a rough week. We always put it on ourselves. 

And, this is for both men and women. Both men and women were equally—or were equal opportunity when it came to this type of environment. So, gender did not really have a place in it. However, it is rather difficult to speak again because libraries are such a positive force in our culture. Yet, just like any other workplace we’re not an exception.

Adriane:

Sure. And, I like working in a positive environment. I know all of us do. And, library leadership Podcast is about talking together to become better leaders in libraries, and to create resilient organizations, so this is a great topic for us. Every time I speak with a new guest I learn something. It seems to me if we could recognize what leads to this path we could inoculate against it. 

Question #2: So, what can you tell me that will help me understand what toxic leadership can look like based on your research? 04:28 

Dr. Alma Ortega:

I think in public libraries, it might be a little bit harder because there are unions, most of the time, in most of our states. So, there’s already some protection mechanisms where you can’t accuse someone of insubordination unless there’s a lot of proof. So, the burden’s on the person – on the accuser, versus academic environments where you have public universities, private universities, small colleges, large colleges, right? So, it’s a bigger animal. But in those it’s where you can see different types. 

When you’re saying, How does it take place? One of the ones that I—it’s part of it, but it’s not all of it. I’m struggling to keep it as simple as possible. But, I guess it would be the confusion when people say, Oh, toxic leadership, you’re talking about bullying. No, bullying is one-to-one. So, one person doesn’t like you, as opposed to another person. What tends to happen more in public and academic libraries, from the people I’ve spoken to, is mobbing. Which is a group of many to-a-one. So, let me just give the example of academic libraries. 

A lot of them have a tenure process. So, for six years you’re waiting to get this job forever until you choose to retire and leave. So, they make that path toward tenure a lot more difficult. A lot of it is invisible. You’re the one that feels it. There’s higher stress. So, it’s more than bullying, that’s what I’m trying to say. And that’s how it can be in the academic. 

In the public, this is a simple example if you look at the book, there’s more. In the public sphere—again, because it’s harder to prove it takes a lot longer, but there is this wonderful blog that I quote where they talk about, Oh, I spoke to all of these pleasant librarians and library assistants, but I scratched a little bit, you know, deeper and all the tears came out. And, it was because they were terrified to speak out. 

So even if you have a union, if you’re scared of speaking up because of retaliation, reprisal, you don’t know what could happen. That just tells you’re working nervously. So, your morale is low, your productivity isn’t there, your self-doubt—so, it’s manifested in your work. 

A lot of us take a lot of pride in being in libraries. Like you said, you love being in libraries, so do I. So, it’s when it starts hurting your work that you start to worry a little bit more, because you’re like, This isn’t me. This isn’t normally who I am. 

Adriane:

Okay, so we’re not talking about one-on-one relationships necessarily, it’s more of a culture.

Dr. Alma Ortega:

Definitely.

Adriane:

Question #3: Okay, so that’s good to know. And, I think there are signs, like you say, if you’re feeling uncomfortable, these things that will give you clues that something’s wrong with the culture. So once we understand that that’s where it’s coming from, what does this look like? How do we see this playing out? You know, your research looked at different types of toxicity, can you tell us a little bit about those? 07:11 

Dr. Alma Ortega:

Yes, the different types. If it was just the culture, so that might be a little bit different. That’s just the way it is here. You play with us, or you don’t. That could be one. Another one is that sometimes a whole library is fine except for one department. So, it’s like a section, and it’s kind of easier to, Well, it’s not my department. Or, the leader of the library says, Well, I’ve only got this head of a department, who happens to be the toxic leader, at least it’s contained. 

So then the people under them don’t necessarily report to them anymore. They’ll report outside. So, that person, that power that they seem to have, or insecurity—because it usually stems from insecurity. Then they can’t do the mean stuff they were doing—he, or she. I’m using the plural just to be, you know, gender neutral. 

So, that has helped a lot of people. There was one case, and this was a public library in the cataloguing department where everyone went in with medical notes, or excuses to not work under this person. In the academic one, those were therapists, and doctor’s notes, where it was more strict. 

It’s kind of funny, because in the book I talk about the academic one in the recent interview I just did for Public Libraries. Almost the same thing happened, where you go outside seeking an ally, so that you find some relief. So, when you go to work you can trust yourself and be more competent. Because otherwise, being under that scrutiny, you feel a pressure, and you can’t perform. Because anything you do, just breathing, just being there feels so heavy. And it weighs on you. And, you can’t perform to the best of your ability, because you’re worried about someone coming and watching you. So, this micromanaging is a lot of it too. And that can happen at different levels.

Adriane:

Question #4: Okay, interesting. So, it is a culture. There are various aspects. Are there certain ones you can tell us about? So, micromanaging—are there other ones to give us a gut check? So if we’re starting to feel these feelings, you know, what might be those aspects that we could say, Ahh, yeah, you know, I read Alma’s book. I saw that there were various aspects of toxic leadership. What are they? 09:11 

Dr. Alma Ortega:

And, it’s different for different people. But definitely, what do you do about it? How do you see it? It’s hard. Like I said, the first thing that most people have is denial. The effects, you know, it’s not just stress. But, identifying it. Acknowledging it. That’s where it gets a little bit harder. 

I just finished a dissertation on this, and I have a list of what it is for academics. But, I know a lot of them will probably transfer over to what it also is for publics. I just started that one. The [indecipherable] is definitely one of them that came up in the 492 responses. There is also having a tyrant. Some people would call them that, or an authoritarian leader. So, it depends. Are they open? Is the district tightening down? You get siloed. Or, you’re not allowed to do certain parts of your duties when you thought you could. There’s a lot of favoritism. That was another one of the ones that had health impacts.

No matter how you try, or how hard you work, it’s not still being recognized. So, you feel invisible. Another one of them—so, the tyrant, authoritarian, there’s also the abusive supervisor. This person happens to be more of a department head, where they can feel they can push you around. Because they know that if the person you have to go speak to is them, or the person right above them, and if it’s part of a culture, do you see what I mean? You keep going in circles. So that’s why I like that for public libraries, if there’s a union, there’s a recourse. When you’re in academia HR handles the staffing issues, not faculty issues. That goes to a higher level, or a different, or I guess they are parallel. And, that would be going to a provost, or a vice-president of academic affairs.

So, it becomes muddier, and harder to prove because—for the well-being of the institution. Just like in a public library we’re there to serve our patrons, to do our job. So, why would you get distracted by micro-managing, by being needed to feel inferior, by being gas-lighted? Why are you letting that distract you? 

It’s not that you’re letting it. It’s that you ignored it for a while, most of us, ignored it for a long time.  And then finally, it hit the point where you’re like, This is really impacting my work. And then, this is where allies start to pop up, and somebody sees it, or notices that in a meeting they ignored you, or in a retreat you didn’t get the same time you normally would, that other people did. 

So, when you start making these connections then you realize, Oh, it’s not just me. Or, it’s been going on longer than I thought and I’m just the latest person who gets a turn, because that also came up. Everybody gets a turn of being on that hot seat. If you tire a person out they can quit on you, but that’s also a sign. There’s departments, and there’s listservs. I’m on public, and academic, where there’s certain institutions that exactly to the year, or exactly every ten months, that same position is open again. So, it’s a revolving door.

Some people twist it into a positive, I’m giving fresh librarians an opportunity to try out this new position. And you’re like, Seriously? After ten years you really can’t keep a person for at least two? Then you kind of know there’s a culture at that place, whether it’s a public library, or an academic library. A lot of those things are the same because we’re doing the same type of duties. What’s different is our clientele, does that make sense?

Adriane:

It definitely makes sense. This is helping me get clearer. So, it’s a culture. It might be a tyrant, a micromanager, someone who shows favoritism. Maybe it’s an authoritarian environment, or an abusive supervisor, or someone’s gas-lighting. But, you start to see turnover, essentially, as people get exhausted by the system.

Dr. Alma Ortega:

Exactly. You’ve got it, yea!

Adriane:

Question #5: Wow, great! So, my guess is that there are different ways to deal with toxic leadership depending on how it’s experienced. I wonder if you can address how one can employ methods on various levels? So on a personal level, as a leader, maybe how we can be dealing with this on a professional/national level? 13:15 

Dr. Alma Ortega:

In the book I go into a section where middle managers, or middle career librarians—I would say both, just being in the middle of your career, felt as the most disenfranchised group. Where are the new stars, right? New shiny stars, fresh graduates have all this energy, great ideas, being innovative, and they get a lot of support. And, it doesn’t have to be a negative, or a positive leader who’s doing this. it’s just that the middle person feels, I’m the future

A lot of them do want to become managers, a lot of them don’t. So, a lot of them are reluctant to become managers, and that’s okay, and we need to respect that. But other people do want to be not only managers, they want to be leaders. They want to do fundraising. They want to do a whole bunch of other stuff for the library. And, those are the people we need to encourage. But, they felt there wasn’t enough support. They felt this happening for the people at the end where they’re like, Okay you’re ending your career, thank you so much for service. You can try and do research on this, or enjoy this. Or, the beginning. So, the middle is where I feel that a lot of groups end up being this reluctant leader. And, there might be some resentment, and they might not be great at it because that’s not what they really wanted to be, but there’s others who shine.

But then, right, there’s always a but—but then there might be moments where there’s not enough budget, or you’re understaffed, and you happen to stress your workers. And, I want to differentiate, because in the book I also mention what’s not toxic leadership. So, if you have a demanding boss, that’s okay. They also have demands on them, and they’re leading by example. So, you have a library that’s hardworking, very dynamic, that’s totally fine, but there’s other people who feel, Oh, being in a library, as you know, people always say, you must get to read. That’s the least thing I do, right? I don’t have time to read because I have work to do, other type of work. 

People who are not in libraries don’t understand this. You do. You’re in them, and you can say, Well, I read this—a lot of types of work, the catalogue, access services, there’s reference, collection development, reader’s advisory, children’s storytime. There’s so much other work.  When we are specifically in public services, it’s much harder because we always have to keep the face of professionalism. Even though when you’re doing that storytime, that toxic leader can be walking by and it chills you, right, gives you the chills for a moment? But then you get back into your song or your story. You can’t let it interfere. 

Not then, but then it does get you. So finding these allies, people to work with. And, if possible going higher in the chain for academia, or going to your union, if you’re in a public library. Those can be other mechanisms where you can go have someone at least hear you. Because, letting it out, venting is very healthy. If you internalize, it’s going to affect your health. And, it can affect it in serious ways. 

I’ve had people who mentioned, Never had this disease in my family. I’m the first one. Could it be that I’ve worked under someone very difficult for twenty-five years? You know, even the language we use, right? We don’t want to be—accuse that person, Maybe he didn’t even mean to be so mean. I’m like, For twenty-five years they were toxic and it took that long to document and to be able to find proof, and people who left came back and were able to give their testimony. So some cases are very drawn out, and some can be nipped in the bud right away. But, that can only happen if there’s a mechanism in place, and those are the protection policies that I was mentioning.

Adriane:

Question #6: Okay, so that sounds like the personal level. So, if you’re experiencing someone like this you definitely want to get some allies. Start talking to folks, and kind of do a check on yourself, right? Is this what I’m really experiencing? And then, start working through the mechanisms, right? High expectations from a leader, that’s not bad. It’s when it becomes way overboard that it becomes difficult and problematic. 16:28

 Dr. Alma Ortega:

Especially for academic libraries because not all of them have these mechanisms of protection. There’s universities where there’s no Ombuds Office. There’s other places where there is, but somebody’s watching who’s going in and out. And, if it’s a private institution, they’re not even required to have an Ombuds Office. So, this adds another layer of fear of reprisal, right? Am I going to get tenure? Am I going to be denied promotion? Can I ever get a decent raise again? All these questions pop—you know, it’s a risk.

Adriane:

Question #7: What about as a leader in an organization? Say you’re a leader in an organization and you’re picking up on some of these toxic patterns. Is there a mechanism as a leader to help change that system? 17:27 

 Dr. Alma Ortega:

Yes. There have been places, from the people I interviewed. And, I combined it with other stories where they had enough. It takes a while because it’s not going to be fixed in three months, like people would hope right away, or a year, sometimes it could take one, or two. Because you need to recognize that there’s a pattern, officially. And then, you just follow the mechanisms where you try to deny a person a raise. Have another person also check that person’s narrate report, or grant proposal. And then, if there’s a person checking that keeps the toxic leader in balance, right?

So they can say, Oh, I don’t agree. But there are two people—Well, we’re looking at it too, and we seem to agree. So, then they get outvoted. So, you’re not directly taking away their power. You’re just letting them know there’s more than one way of looking at something, or, We’re watching you because we want to see you grow. 

There have been leaders who get a 360. I don’t know if you’ve heard of those reviews. And sometimes they felt like I thought I was hired to come in and be that tough boss, right? To get things going. And then they realize it’s been five years. Everything was pretty well in this department. It got better when you first came. Then they realize, Oh, my God. Some people honestly don’t know that they went bad, right? That they actually kept going at it thinking, This is what I’m supposed to do. 

So, some people go through training. Some people go to therapy. Some of the books that I used for the lit review come from business, and they mention sometimes you just need to be reminded you did a great job. You needed to be that tough boss for a year or two, and now you can just go back to being a good boss. Just go back to being a good boss, because you have a great department, or a great whole library. You don’t want to risk losing people. 

So sometimes, it’s a blindness that the leaders themselves don’t know they’ve become this toxic leader, or well on their way. And other times, there’s a denial, This is who I am. This is what I know works. And a lot of places, unfortunately, it is unfortunate, end up having to change once that person has left for more money. Following the Peter Principle, you know, fail up, or because they’ve retired.

Adriane:

Question #8: Sure. I can see how this would come out in some people, especially if, you know what happens is what you’re talking about, people sometimes get put in reluctant leadership positions. And they’re doing their best. They may not realize they’ve fallen into some of these patterns. And, I’m the kind of person that just doesn’t want to give up on people, right? I see redemption all the time, and that makes me happy. Because, I think people really can change. 

So, I like what you’re saying about, Hey, there are ways to turn this ship around on this, you know, really get it back on track. So what about, as a profession, like you say, we can see this as a profession, we’re all really very nice to each other. We’re all very positive. What can we be doing on a professional level to help each other as librarians with trainings? 20:12 

Dr. Alma Ortega:

I think training is part of it. I began this research in about 2013. In that time I’ve seen more workshops, or more books, or booklets, and people just talking about it. I mean, there was research on the mobbing, and bullying, and some of it was in the ’90’s, briefly mentioning it. And then somebody translated a whole bunch of work from German and Swedish into English, and especially they did it for libraries. So to me, that was a hint. In the lit review when he felt, Hey, I think mobbing is a word that is needed in librarianship, but we don’t know this concept because it’s in German, right?

It was like, Huh. So I followed more of that. And then, we have a period where there’s hardly any articles, or there’s articles on patrons bullying us, which we know happens, too. And [laughter] that’s a whole other topic. So, there were articles on that. Then a resurgence again. So, more people are specifically speaking about this. 

But one tendency that I tend to stay away from is, like I said with the dissertation now, and these cases, is that gender doesn’t really matter. It’s a power thing, period. That’s it. It’s a power dynamic. It’s not gender. It’s not race. It’s not ethnicity. And, some of the research on where this is heading, or how we train is, Are we picking on minorities of any type?

I want to push away from that because, you can be a minority with the power, and you can also be a toxic leader. 

So, that is genderless, raceless, it’s all about power. So, we need to recognize that this permissive environment allowed that person to get more power and create the toxic leadership environment. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have it. When you have strict rules and strict mechanisms, everybody reports to everybody, or it’s more open, there’s true transparency. And, I notice places that don’t use that word as much tend to be more transparent than the places that obsess with the word transparency, and they don’t do it as much, but we say it. So the doing, and what you’re not doing is more important. 

But that’s the one area where there are more trainings, and I think it’s great. And the ones that are general and open, I think, I’ve seen more on listservs about people doing research and talking about low morale. But usually they try to treat the symptoms like, Oh, you have low morale. Is it because you’re depressed? It’s you. You brought the morale from home. 

And those are just chunks. They all fall under toxic leadership. There’s a lot of things that fall under it, the bigger umbrella. That’s why I went with that one, because as a topic this umbrella topic, it fits all of our types of libraries. Some libraries are very hierarchical, a lot of libraries are flat and it can still happen.

Do you see how broad it is, what I’m trying to convey, that it’s very broad? And our organizations, when we do trainings, whether it’s online or workshops at different conferences, they need to be priced accordingly so that people can actually afford to go, because there’s nothing worse than, Oh, my God I would love to go to that workshop but I can’t afford it. So then, it doesn’t help you. And then, you can do some of these online, that would be great, too. But, they also need to be affordable because these mid-career librarians can, you know, a lot of us get money for one or two conferences a year, if we’re lucky. Other people just get half a conference. And if you can’t even buy a webinar, then how can you grow, or get the information you need so that you can have a better work environment?

Adriane:

Question #9: Right. I think those are great observations. And also, one of the things that we want to do with Library Leadership Podcast. So, I’m glad you’re on the show because anybody can click on this podcast for free, listen to it, and get ideas, and then take action. So, I’m really excited that you’re here talking to me. Is there anything else you’d like to share? 23:48  

 Dr. Alma Ortega:

I think it can be very subtle. I don’t want people to forget, and don’t doubt yourself. Don’t think I’m imagining it. What I do suggest is write it down. And then, if it happens again you can write a little check by it, and then if you do it again, you write another little check by it. 

And then be more observant at meetings, and see, Am I the only one being ignored? Is someone else being ignored? Is it the untenured? Is it this specific group of librarians? Is it that group of people? Or are we at a public event and somebody’s speaking about it? So, I think being—having your eyes open. Yes, libraries are wonderful places. But again, where there’s humans there’s going to be human dynamics. And sometimes, they go askew. So, I think that’s important.

I also would add that the public libraries, since I’ve only interviewed a dozen people and still their stories have been so broad; and I’ve got about ten more interviews over the summer to do, I think I’ll be learning more about the public library dynamic, and the politics. Because, budgets are very important, as well, and that can create a power dynamic within the different branches. Who’s the bigger one? Who’s the smaller one?

To me it’s very interesting because it is a different animal, even though we share a lot of things in just being a service profession. I’d like to add that. And, that’s why I want to pursue this research with public libraries because it needs to be done. I want to keep scratching further to find out more and see how we can—it’s going to be different mechanisms, different ways, but they can also be protected in public libraries.

Adriane:

Question #10: Yeah, and it will be interesting to see how that all shakes out as you complete your work on public libraries. I’m looking forward to seeing that because I’m a public librarian, and a leader, and I want to be the best I can be. Is there a favorite book, or resource you’d like to share about leadership? 25:29 

 Dr. Alma Ortega:

So, there’s different kinds [laughter] of, you know, there’s the academic libraries.

Right now, I think I like MacGregor. MacGregor Burns is just on leadership. That’s just like a classic. The reason I like it is because it gives a very broad interpretation of what a leader is. But, it also adds a little layer of protection, right? You work with good people. You want to keep them protected. You want them to trust you. You want them to do their work. You want them to be available to you when you need them. You can bounce ideas off of them. So, that’s why I like him. He’s seminal in the field of leadership. But, I think he establishes that. 

For library books, there’s a couple that I talk about—there’s one, I’m just pulling out the page because I knew it was Hernon and Rossiter, but I couldn’t remember the name. And it’s Making a Difference: Leadership and Academic Libraries. There’s different chapters in it. And, that’s the first time I came across the terminology for a bad leader, bad librarianship, which is, Oh, that’s the word we’re using for like a toxic leader. 

And in that chapter they mention, perhaps in the future because this book is from 2007. And, I love this section, and I took it for my dissertation, where it kind of mentions, Hah, you know, maybe in the future we’re going to do a little bit more of this type of research. What happens when you don’t have the best leader, or when the best intentions don’t work out the way you wanted them? And then the library is impacted, and the library personnel, furthermore. Then the dynamics aren’t as positive, or workflows aren’t going the way they’re supposed to. 

So, just opening up that type of conversation. That’s really a book that I enjoyed. And, there’s a—I can send you a list if you want, just two or three more books where it shows that as librarians we’re opening up more about all types of topics. And, I think leadership, speaking of it frankly, most of it is positive, thankfully. But the fact that sometimes just things don’t go the way we want them, is okay. And speaking about it, more importantly, is okay, as well.

And pushing it to the side, because my lit review for my dissertation took awhile. There wasn’t that much, and I had to keep digging, and digging, and expanding, you know?  We love synonyms, right, and related search terms, so that I could find enough. And it’s just a topic that we haven’t researched. Even leadership, we need to make it what it is. Where people are leaders in libraries and not just pollyannaish type of stories because they don’t help anyone. Yea, everything’s great. That doesn’t help anybody. Especially if you want to become a solid leader. 

Like you say, you’re a leader. You enjoy being a leader. You want to be the best leader you can. And if all you hear are sappy/happy stories, they’re like, Well nobody is challenged? How are we growing? How do we become better leaders? By being challenged and having these new, young, and bright, young librarians pushing us, bringing us new ideas, and incorporating them. Because the library field—I went to library school and we were told, If you’re going to be a librarian you’d better get used to change. So, I think we’re good at learning it, but a lot of us struggle applying it once we’re professional librarians.

Adriane:

Question #11: Sure. Talking about it. Learning about it. It’s also important. And those sound like great resources, so thank you for sharing them. In closing, what does being a librarian mean to you, personally? 28:30

Dr. Alma Ortega:

I really enjoy being a librarian. What does it mean to me? Being able to help other people no matter where they are in their research process. Sometimes doing that reference interview when you have a freshman student, and they’re like coming in and they’re like, Wow, the library. If you make them feel welcome, you give them that affectation that they’ll always have a positive relationship with the library. 

So, I love that feeling—faculty that appreciates you, and know that you’re going to help them with their research, now especially with digital archives and institutional repositories. They see us as somebody who can help them. It’s all about relationships. That’s what I enjoy about being a librarian. To me, having that relationship, whether it’s a faculty person, a student, an administrator, sometimes we have visitors. Being able to relate to them on that human basic level, I can help you, or I can try and help you. Because if I can’t, I can get you someone who can. That’s what I like. And I know it’s very cliche, but I think that’s why a lot of us do it. We like helping other people. You love it.

Adriane:

That is awesome. Thank you so much. Alma, it’s been great to have you on the show today.

 Dr. Alma Ortega:

Thank you so much for having me, I really appreciate it.

Adriane:

It’s been my pleasure.

You’ve been listening to Library Leadership Podcast. I’m your host, Adriane Herrick Juarez. Our producer is Nate Vineyard. More episodes can be found at libraryleadershippodcast.com, where you can now subscribe to have new shows delivered right into your email inbox. You can also find the show on Apple iTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts. Thank you for listening. We’ll see you next time.

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