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Rick Anderson

Associate dean for Collections and Scholarly Communication, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah

Rick AndersonPlease tell us a bit about yourself (e.g. hometown, current locale, course of study).

I grew up in Arlington, Massachusetts, but attended college at Brigham Young University in Utah. I earned a bachelor’s degree in family science (I was originally planning to be a marriage and family therapist, believe it or not) but fell in love with the library while a student employee and eventually ended up getting a master’s degree in library and information science. I currently live just north of Salt Lake City, Utah, in the small town of Centerville. My wife and I have three kids: a daughter who is married and teaches fifth grade in the Salt Lake area, a son who is halfway through the Air Force Academy but is currently taking time off to serve a two-year proselyting mission for our church in Taiwan, and another son who will be a senior in high school this fall.

Describe some of your current responsibilities, and what type of organization you belong to.

I’m the associate dean for collections and scholarly communication in the J. Willard Marriott Library at the University of Utah, which is a Research 1 university in Salt Lake City. I oversee collection development, acquisitions, the interlibrary loan and document delivery service, facilities maintenance, library security, and our scholarly communication program (including the institutional repository). The Marriott Library is a middle-tier ARL institution.

What was your first scholarly publishing role? How did you get that job? What path led to your current position?

My first job after graduate school was as a bibliographer with YBP, Inc. (which was then called Yankee Book Peddler), a job that involved creating profiles of academic books in order to help ensure that they got to the right libraries. Later I worked more directly with libraries to help them build and maintain approval profiles and to trouble-shoot issues with their approval plans. From there I went to the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, where I served as head acquisitions librarian, and then I moved to the University of Nevada, Reno, where I was director of resource acquisition. I’ve been at the University of Utah since 2007. As for my first scholarly publishing role, I guess it depends on how loosely you define “scholarly publishing.” I’ve been an author and an editor for most of my career, and I currently oversee the library’s IR-based publishing initiatives, which include several journals.

If there was a pivotal moment or key person in your career development, please describe briefly.

I’ve had so many wonderful examples, role models, and mentors throughout my career that it’s hard to point to one moment or person as pivotal, but one of the most notable and important influences for me has been Bob Nardini. He’s currently a VP at ProQuest, but I worked with him closely in the mid-1990s when he was a sales rep at YBP. He took me with him on trips to customer libraries and I watched everything he did. He was very patient with me, and I learned so much from him about every facet of the library and the book business. He’s still one of my biggest heroes.

What tools, web sites and organizations do you find most valuable for your career development?

One of the reasons I got involved with SSP was because I found the Scholarly Kitchen such a wonderful resource – it was a tremendous honor to be invited to join the Chefs, and I still kind of pinch myself every day that I get to be a part of that group. I also find listservs like SCHOLCOMM and LIBLICENSE to be very useful with keeping up on current issues and controversies, and of course conferences are huge. I try never to miss a Charleston Conference or SSP meeting, and I attend UKSG as often as I can. The Researcher to Reader conference is also shaping up as a very important event.

What are some of the surprises/obstacles that you’ve encountered during your career?

I keep being surprised and disappointed by how difficult it can be to have constructive and dispassionate analytical discussions about important but controversial topics in the scholarly communication space. I’m very concerned that we undermine our ability to resolve some of the most urgently important issues we face by our inability to step back and examine those issues in a dispassionate and analytical way. By no means do I claim to be a paragon of virtue in this regard myself, and that’s something I constantly try to improve in my own approach to discussion. Nor is this to say that there’s not a legitimate place for passion and advocacy in scholarly communication—there absolutely is. But there is also a very important place for dispassionate analysis, and I worry that the former is threatening to overwhelm the latter and push it out of our professional discourse.

What do you wish you knew more about?

Everything, but I especially wish I had a more comprehensive knowledge of publishers’ and vendors’ various business models and could better keep up with the constant churn of new products and offerings. It’s overwhelming, but that’s part of what makes this work so exciting. Sometimes people ask me what I do, and when I tell them I’m a librarian they basically say something like “Oh, so I guess you love to read?” or “Hey, the Dewey Decimal system! All right!” And I just think, “Oh my gosh, you have no idea how crazy and complex this world is and the significance of the stakes we’re dealing with.”

What advice would you give to people interested in a career in scholarly communications?

Talk to as many people in as many different spheres of scholarly communication as you can. Ask them what they love the most about their work and what they hate the most about it. Ask them what personal values shape their decisions and priorities. Keep your mind open, because there may be aspects of scholarly communication that are deeply, thrillingly interesting to you, but that you haven’t yet heard of. Think about your financial and life goals: How important is money to you? Do you need to support a family? How much do you want to travel? Where do you want to live? Answers to those questions will help to determine which career paths are viable for you.

If you have a blog or personal/professional website, please provide a link.

I’ve never been able to maintain a personal blog, but I do write regularly for the Scholarly Kitchen at