LMU’s very own William H. Hannon Library recently won the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) Excellence in Libraries Award for supporting the LMU mission through its outstanding services and programs. After achieving this national honor, I sat down with Head of Outreach & Communications John Jackson to chat about library outreach, Hannon’s best spots and paper cuts.
Riley Hetherington (RH): What does the ACRL Excellence in Libraries Award entail and what requirements did the library achieve to win it?
John Jackson (J.J.): The ACRL Excellence in Libraries Award is an award is given by the professional organization that represents academic librarians. The award is given by our peers, so there is a committee made up of academic librarians from across the United States that meet every year to select the winner. It is meant to recognize libraries that support the educational mission of the institution, so at LMU we have the education of the whole person, promotion of justice and faith — those three pillars of the LMU mission. We have to show how the library supports that, so we’re looking at what we do in the classroom, what we do in the library, our programs, our services, our collections, both behind the scenes and out in front. There is a huge application process; our dossier is about 78 pages long because you have to make your case. We applied back in 2014 and we didn’t get it, and then it kind of took us another six years to get our courage back.
R.H.: As the Head of Outreach & Communications, what does your job entail?
J.J.: My job is to connect the library to the campus community and beyond, so anything that involves the library collaborating with other units on campus. For example, we often collaborate with the academic resource center, we collaborate with the Office of International Students and Scholars. Anytime we’re doing something that requires us to combine our forces with other groups on campus, I sort of oversee that. I’m also in charge of basically sharing the story of the library to the campus community, and that can be done through social media, that can be done through the events and lectures and programs that we do. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the puppies outside of the library, that’s one thing we do. My job is to get people to engage with the library and that can be through fun things like therapy dogs or can be through more intellectual stuff like the faculty pub night series. I’m sure you’ve heard the story of if you build it they will come — that’s not true, you have to invite them and even though we have an awesome library with really great resources and incredible people and you still have to sell it, and my job is to sell it.
R.H.: Do you have a favorite spot in the library?
J.J.: My favorite spot in the library is probably the Von der Ahe Suite on the third floor, which is that big room with the 80-degree view of the Marina and you can see the ocean, the Santa Monica mountains and on good days you can see the Getty and the Hollywood sign. I liked going up there during my breaks and sitting by the window and watching the traffic down on Jefferson Boulevard. I miss that a lot.
R.H.: What is a book you would read over and over again without getting sick of it?
J.J.: Hold on, I’ll grab it for you. It’s right over here. It’s sitting on my bedside table and it is called "Mindfulness in Plain English" by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana.
R.H.: If you could have a dinner party with only fictional book characters, who would you invite?
J.J.: I would go with the protagonists of the book "Good Omens" by Neil Gaiman. The two characters are named Aziraphale and Crowley. I would love to chat with them.
R.H.: Hardcover or paperback books?
J.J.: I’m agnostic when it comes to format. Honestly, I prefer audiobooks, especially ones that are read by a really good reader.
R.H.: When you were working in person, how many times a week would you get a paper cut, if any?
J.J.: I don’t work with physical materials ever. [laughs] My job is almost entirely digital. You would have to ask one of our catalogers that question.
R.H.: Libraries are often seen as calm, peaceful and even boring. Are there are any unexpected or surprising elements to working in the library?
J.J.: We talk a lot about invisible labor when it comes to libraries. There’s a lot of work that goes into making a library, it’s not just as simple as buying books and putting them on the shelves. To give you an example, we recently changed the subject headings in our catalog from ‘illegal aliens’ to ‘undocumented immigrants.' A term like illegal aliens has baggage, it has cultural weight, it has an impact on people. We as a library decided we want to change that, but it’s not as simple as just going in and clicking replace all. That project took more than a year to do because there’s just a lot of technical details, but it was the right thing to do. There’s a lot of technical work that goes into what we do in order to provide the services that we do for our students that is never seen and it’s not sexy and it’s not fun to talk about, but it is essential for making us useful to students.
R.H.: Any co-workers that have worked particularly hard to achieve the award?
J.J.: I would shout out two people in particular. Kathryn Ryan was the co-editor with me on the award. Saata Bangura was our designer, she is actually an alum of LMU. She helped us make it look pretty. And of course, Dean Kris Brancolini. She’s the driving force behind the library, everything we do she either initiates or supports. She lets us do things we think are important, so props to her for always supporting the library staff.
Check out the library's website and resources here.