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I Am MLA: Lisa K. Traditi, AHIP

Submitted by Lisa K. Traditi, AHIP; edited by JJ Pionke

Institution: Strauss Health Sciences Library, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus–Aurora

Title: Deputy Director and Associate Professor

Brief description of responsibilities

As deputy director, I am involved in library-wide planning, budgeting, and staffing decisions. My role is the chief operating officer of our library, while the director is the chief executive officer. Our four department heads report directly to me, and they collectively manage twenty-seven employees. In addition to personnel management of both faculty and staff, I work with the department heads to coordinate library operations; oversee and enact our strategic plan; coordinate library committees; oversee emergency preparedness; represent the library on campus, system-wide, and extramural committees; and advise the director on policies and practices.

Why is MLA important to you?

MLA is where I have found opportunities to learn and grow as a professional librarian. Within MLA, I have made lifelong friends and gained trusted advisors. I honed my leadership skills while chairing committees for my chapter and section (now caucus). MLA is where I had my first taste of presenting a scholarly poster/paper. I learned what I should be doing by seeing what other hospital, and later academic, librarians were doing. My MLA colleagues provided me with a safety net when I took a risk or wasn’t sure how to solve a sticky problem. Through my involvement with the Midcontinental Chapter of MLA and the national association, I was encouraged and mentored to seek and accept leadership roles that have helped me grow, through being challenged to think in different ways, stretch my skills as a librarian and leader, and use my voice to have a positive influence (I hope) on the association and profession.

Why did you become a librarian?

My undergraduate degree is in English with an emphasis on creative writing. After college, I was working for peanuts at a small magazine in Phoenix, when an Alpha Delta Pi (ADPi) sorority sister called to tell me about a chance to apply for a job with ADPi that included a full-ride scholarship to grad school. It sounded too good to be true, but it was real! I didn’t know what I wanted to study, so I went to the Phoenix Public Library and presented my dilemma to the reference librarian, telling her I wanted to stay close to publishing, writing, and information. She pulled out the Occupational Outlook Handbook and opened it to the section on librarians, then talked about the role of special librarians in the business and engineering world. The job sounded interesting and challenging. I remember the average salary back then (1983) was $24,000/year, which wasn’t a lot, but it was significantly more than I was making! Starting library school was intimidating, as I had only ever been on the other side of the desk. But I soon grasped the acronyms and loved my classmates—and my first internship, at Garrett Engineering Library, assured me that I had found my people!

What was your first library job or first professional position?

Right after I finished grad school, I was hired as a part-time, temporary reference librarian at Scottsdale Public Library. I worked thirty-nine hours/week; anything under forty hours/week meant part-time, which meant the city didn’t pay me benefits. However, I spent most of that thirty-nine hours each week on the reference desk, answering everything that came at me. It was a wonderful, trial-by-fire training, under the guidance of experienced and dedicated colleagues. Since this was a temp job, covering for a librarian on maternity leave, I kept up my job search and was hired to build the first library for a new division of a company that made missile guidance systems in Tucson. It wasn’t until three years later, when my husband was transferred to the Denver area that I got my first job as a hospital librarian and my career in health sciences was launched.

What is your advice to someone taking on a new role in leadership in MLA or in some other capacity?

Show up! Your professional reputation can be enhanced or harmed by how you participate (or not!) on a committee or task force. Do what you say you will do. If you mess up, own it, and work to be better. Don’t be a prima donna and insist that everything go exactly your way. Compromise is the name of the game, as long as you are working to move things in the right direction. Also, shine light on the team and lift up everyone so they get credit, too!

What has been the most interesting project you have worked on?

For fourteen years, I was the librarian coordinator for the Rocky Mountain Evidence-Based Health Care Workshop, held annually somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. The workshop hosted health care providers, consumer advocates, journalists, and policymakers. The tutors were an incredibly accomplished group of clinicians, researchers, and educators, many of whom literally wrote the books about evidence-based medicine. Every year was a master class in teaching, managing small groups, presenting complicated information to large groups, and being informed about what was happening on the forefront of evidence-based practice research.

What do you consider to be the most pressing issues or trends in librarianship?

Data science and management and open access are the two areas that I believe will change our profession over the next five years. I’m so pleased to see librarians and information professionals engaged in both areas and how many of us are providing leadership.

Bucket list

See all the US National Parks, see the Pyramids of Giza, and meet Michelle Obama, just to name a few!

What do you do in your spare time?

Read, head to the mountains, watch a good movie, or take a nice long walk or hike.

What is the best thing you’ve read/watched/listened to recently?

Best read this year: The Warmth of Other Suns. Best binge watch: Dead to Me, also we’ve been re-binging West Wing (wishful thinking!). Listened to the audiobook of Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming.

Five words to describe you

Positive, friendly, funny, dependable, creative.

Is there anything about you that others might be surprised to know?

I used to have a southern accent. I’ve flown on the Concorde and ridden on the Orient Express. I knew Sheryl Crow growing up (we’re from the same town).

What are you most proud of?

Being elected president of MLA, my thirty-five-year career as a librarian, and still being best friends with my husband of almost thirty-four years.

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