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Shadow a Professional Day

In an effort to advance the professional development of members through a practical, collaborative learning experience, and to grow professional networks, the SSP Career Development Committee is trialling a new scheme: Shadow a Professional Day

Anyone who is keen to get involved should contact PDC co-chairs: Victoria Rae ( and Adam Etkin (

SPP Shadow a Professional Day
Victoria Rae, Freelance Scholarly Publisher

21 June 2016
Austin, Texas

Colleen Lyon is the Scholarly Communication Librarian at the University of Texas Austin. Her office is located within the Perry-Castañeda Library, the main library on campus – one of 17 – serving 18 Colleges and Schools, 3000+ teaching faculty, and 50,000+ students.

The purpose of Scholarly Publishing Services is to provide resources and expertise surrounding the scholarly publication cycle – from initial stages of data management planning through the dissemination and archiving of scholarly works. Colleen and her team also work to raise awareness of new tools and initiatives that may help faculty, students, and staff more effectively communicate the results of their research.

I started my Shadow Day at 9.30am, being welcomed by Colleen and spending 30 minutes chatting about our previous experiences and work history within publishing and scholarly communications. I was in for an exciting and informative day as Colleen had lined up various meetings with colleagues and working groups. I felt very fortunate to be included in these meetings and to have the opportunity to talk with several librarians, all highly skilled and specializing in different services, from research, subject liaison, and collection development to metadata, licensing, and data management.

The first meeting of the day was with librarians working on digital humanities projects. The Humanities Librarian for Architecture & Planning was very involved in coordinating and promoting digital scholarship initiatives to faculty and students. In addition, she’s currently an IMLS Doctoral Fellow in the School of Information, where she focuses on digital preservation and the integration of born-digital records into existing architectural archives.

I then sat in on the Scholarly Communication Group Meeting, an informal meeting that brought together librarians working on data management, the digital repository, reference services and the University of Texas Press. The group meets once a month to provide updates on projects, collaborate on events, share feedback from conferences and plan brown bag events such as a journal article club! The agenda for June’s meeting focused on finalizing activities and speakers for the 2016 Open Access Week. Colleen also updated attendees that UT is now a member of ORCID and the library will again sponsor a travel scholarship to the 2016 OpenCon Conference.

Once the meeting wrapped up, we took a short walk across campus to the café at the Blanton Museum of Art, where Colleen and a couple of her colleagues treated me to lunch. The Head of Research & Liaison Services highlighted work undertaken by the Liaison Roles Action Team to capture current services provided and to identify skills and training needed to ensure the liaison librarian’s ability to support their constituents and engage in the research lifecycle, whilst aligning with the University of Texas campus priorities. 

In the afternoon, we met with the Metadata Coordinator who explained her work relating to cataloging and metadata services, collaborative projects with the Digital Public Library of America, and recent training on the implementation of linked data for library resources.

Our final meeting of the day was a Repository Management Meeting. This group meets three times a year to discuss the university’s digital repository: Texas ScholarWorks, hosted by the Texas Digital Library and currently listing over 35,000 items.  Colleen reported to the group recent additions to TSW, as well as current and new initiatives being undertaken by the Digital Projects Oversight Committee. Colleen also gave a brief report on her recent attendance at the Open Repositories Conference.

To end the day, Colleen gave me a tour of the library, which included the recently refurbished Learning Commons; an area featuring a media lab and the university writing center. There were designated spaces for collaborative and silent study, as well as specific STEM learning and study areas, a data lab and a public speaking center with presentation practice rooms for students and staff.

Overall, the entire day was an outstanding learning experience that provided a wonderful insight into the structure and daily operations of the nation’s fifth largest academic library. After working in scholarly publishing for 12+ years – always on the publishing side – the day gave me the chance to hop over the fence and enter the world of the institutional librarian! I was immensely grateful to Colleen for allowing me the opportunity to learn more about her role, attend meetings with the scholarly communications team, and talk with a variety of librarians. I believe the boundaries of publishing and scholarly communication are shifting and I was truly inspired by the library professionals I interacted with. I hope to keep them in my professional network as we all continue to work together to serve the academic community.

SSP Shadow a Professional Day
Byron Laws, SVP, Strategic Partnerships at KiwiTech

22 February 2016
Salt Lake City, Utah

Jean Shipman, director of the Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library at the University of Utah, has a cozy office with transparent glass walls on the lower level of the building. The building itself is low-slung and unassuming, though it is connected in multiple places to other university health sciences and medical school offices, auditoriums and classrooms. The library’s mission is to advance and transform education, research, and health care through dynamic technologies, evidence application, and collaborative partnerships. Jean pretty much runs the show here. I was invited to shadow her for a day to see what a day in the life of a library director is like. I hoped to arrive at an understanding and newfound appreciation for her work.

I arrived at the University of Utah early on a damp, chilly, breezy February Monday morning. The University is affectionately known as “The U”, which I am qualified to note as an Utah alum myself (go Utes…). I located a suitable parking spot and went in search of Jean. I quickly located her in the midst of making final preparations for a workshop on innovation being led by Iain Kerr, of Montclair State University.

Over the course of the next several hours, I was treated to a boundary-pushing exercise in the process of “thinking differently”. The twenty or so attendees at the workshop were separated into groups of 3-5 people and provoked with small popcorn bags containing interesting materials, which we were to use in the process of innovation. My group’s bag contained a piece of sod, with a complete ecosystem of grass-roots-dirt-rocks-bugs included. Other groups were given rocks, strange plastic boxes, paper and other materials. We talked as a larger group about the contents of our bags. We were then given a charge to create clothing from our provided materials. We did a marginal job of re-imagining our sod as a clothing item (we could rub the mud on ourselves…we could weave the grass into a hat or a loincloth…we could use the very small insects as a body decoration!). In the end, we were all left with new ways of seeing the simple items we worked with, and with very dirty work tables.

Following the workshop, Jean treated Iain and I to lunch in the library’s cafeteria (sushi, anyone?), where we had a fascinating conversation that ranged from religious backgrounds (my contribution was Mormonism, while Iain recommended a book on secular Buddhism) to the growing separation between “haves and have-nots” in the adoption of new technologies (Iain mused that a completely different species of human beings might eventually emerge, based on use of technology and innovation in health care and other areas).

From there, it was time to head for the Human Genetics auditorium, where Iain delivered the 2016 Priscilla Mayden lecture. The lecture was centered around “reframing creativity and dispelling myths”. He did so with panache, challenging our ideas of problem solving, where solutions come from, exploring the evolutionary design of dinosaurs, modern art pioneers, and finally providing a process framework for innovative creativity and design (who woulda thunk this sort of thing could be mapped out?).

In wrapping up the day, Jean introduced me to staff and students in the tech incubator at the library, all of who were engaged in interesting and useful tech development projects, such as interactive learning tools being developed for the Utah museum of natural history (build and test your own dinosaur!), assistive medical technologies, and tools that gamify air pollution policy and controls (be the most unpopular mayor in the world by forcing carbon emission reductions on your populace…see how long it takes for anarchy to ensue!).

All in all, an enjoyable day and an outstanding learning experience. I would highly recommend aspiring to Jean’s position! Jean was a wonderful hostess and I came away from the day knowing that she is both a warm and accomplished individual as well as a consummate professional who brings much to her position. SSP is fortunate to have her voice on our board.