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I Am MLA: Charlotte Beyer, AHIP

Submitted by Charlotte Beyer, AHIP; edited by JJ Pionke

Become an “I Am MLA” ambassador today by completing the I Am MLA profile form.

Institution: Boxer Library, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, North Chicago, IL

Title: Library Director

Brief description of responsibilities

I am responsible for managing the resources, services, and spaces in the library at my university. Prior to becoming library director, I worked in positions in every level of the library including student worker, graduate intern, library assistant, part-time and full-time library positions. These experiences have given me an unique perspective on what it takes to make the library pieces work together. My most important job is making sure staff in every position have the resources and support they need to thrive both personally and professionally.

Why is MLA important to you?

Most of my career has been spent at smaller institutions with smaller libraries in terms of staff. The benefits of working at these institutions include being able to experiment with instruction and services since there are fewer hoops to jump through. One of the downsides is there are not a lot of people who do what you do, so peer interactions can be harder to come by. MLA fills that gap by providing not only meaningful peer-to-peer career development, but also leadership opportunities that have helped me not only advance my career, but also increase the impact of the library on our university community.

Why did you become a librarian?

It’s cliché, but I literally grew up in the library as my mom managed the elementary school library I went to as a child. There was a joke that I could put away books before I could read. As a teenager, I worked in the Youth Services Department in the local public library. One of my favorite things was helping kids and parents search databases and connect to information. I don’t like doing the same thing every day, and the nature of information is that it always changes, making things exciting, which I love.

What was your first library job or first professional position?

My first job was a page in a Youth Services Department in a public library. This was a great experience and entry into working in libraries as I got to meet a lot of people from a variety of backgrounds. The library was next to a refugee center, so the families I helped came from all around the world. Communicating with patrons whose first language was not English taught me a lot about active listening and really engaging with people. My first professional job was a part-time librarian at a community college where I worked with a lot of first-generation college students. There were many paths that these students took to get to college. One of the greatest things I learned from that job was the importance of acknowledging the barriers students face, especially if no one in their circles had gone to college before. Letting them know they are not alone and putting their needs first.

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

Always be open to learning from others. Things will constantly change throughout your career no matter where you work, and you need various perspectives to be successful. Life is like a choir. The richness of the sound depends on the amount of different sounding voices you have; not a lot of voices sound the same. Being a leader is like being a choir director whose job is to not be the only voice, but instead to highlight and bring voices together to make a sound that cannot be ignored. Also just be open to leading even if you never planned it. Fun fact: until recently, I fell into most leadership experiences because no else wanted them. There were even a few times I ran for positions, lost, and then a winner dropped out and I was asked to step up. Don’t be discouraged if you put yourself out there and you don’t get to lead right away. Be persistent and opportunities will come around. Also, it is OK to say no and be selective as burnout does not help anyone.

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

The process of adapting and designing spaces is really interesting to me. In the past ten years, I have helped move our entire collection twice. This collection move included multiple floors and the design of collaborative space, which was greatly needed. There were a lot of moving parts from weeding to talking with our student and faculty stakeholders, to envisioning new spaces. It truly was a team effort in every sense of the word. These projects had, and continue to have, a significant impact on students’ educational experiences.

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

Being able to adapt to our changing environment. In graduate school, we did a library of the future project, and few of us could have predicted the library of the last few months with COVID-19. Continuously being open to new ideas and knowing that being able to adjust to unexpected things should be the norm. Having the ability to be creative while meeting the needs of the communities we serve will be vital in the coming years.

Bucket list

Probably traveling, which is not happening much with COVID-19. My husband and I joke that when we are retired that we will go on a road trip to all of the state fairs.

What do you do in your spare time?

I like the challenge of sewing. During the pandemic, I have created masks, but pre-pandemic I sewed neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) bed sheets for the Preemie Project and made some clothes for my toddler.

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

I just watched Toni Morrison: The Pieces That I Am, which is a documentary about Toni Morrison and was an amazing insight into her career, activism, and writing process.

Five words to describe you

Upbeat, resilient, caring, creative, loyal.

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

I spent the majority of my childhood volunteering in youth sports in some capacity whether it was working the concession stand, the door, or the scoreboard. Nothing teaches you the importance of consistent attention to detail quite like working a scoreboard during a playoff game.

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