Movers & Shakers 2008: Veronda Pitchford
ULC's Veronda Pitchford tells LJ's Rebecca Miller why new or prospective librarians should make the schlep to ALA annual.
Tags: LibraryJournal ALA2008 M&S Movers&Shakers
Added: 3 years ago
[scene opens with Veronda Pitchford speaking directly to the camera]
REBECCA MILLER: [from off camera] We're here with Veronda Pitchford from the Urban Libraries Council. She was named a Mover largely for her work with recruiting ...
VERONDA PITCHFORD: Yes.
REBECCA MILLER: [from off camera] And what I'm wondering from her today, from one library chick to other library chicks and chucks, or ...
VERONDA PITCHFORD: [laughs]
REBECCA MILLER: [from off camera] What do you say for guys?
VERONDA PITCHFORD: Die-hard library chicks ... and chucks, it can be chucks!
REBECCA MILLER: [from off camera] If you were gonna talk to these young librarians, or librarians-to-be about whether or not to make the schlep to ALA ...
VERONDA PITCHFORD: Uh-huh.
REBECCA MILLER: [from off camera] Would you tell them to come?
VERONDA PITCHFORD: I would definitely tell them it's worth it, because it's a great way, in person, to build a network of people you know around the world. It's great to talk to people online, to Twitter them, to follow them, to be on Facebook with them. But this is a great way to expand what you see libraries as, and what they can be, and what you can be. I always tell people, especially new librarians, to find people who are doing things in the field that you think are really super-cool and go up and talk to them and say "Can we have lunch?" And that's best done in person, rather than a cold call virtually. Although I love-love-love being online and want everyone to do that as well, but nothing beats the face-to-face time. The people you wanna dig, so that's what I would say! Definitely come!
REBECCA MILLER: [from off camera] Cool, thanks a lot!
VERONDA PITCHFORD: Thank you! Library love!
Movers & Shakers, which Library Journal launched in 2002 to identify librarians, vendors, and others who are "shaping the future of libraries," is now over 400 innovators strong, with the addition of the Class of 2008. Together, these individuals comprise the coming generation of library leadership. They've embraced library technology, particularly library 2.0, "to provide exceptional service and kick-ass collections that respond to the real interest of patrons," as one of this year's Movers so aptly phrased it.
Overachievers all, they represent a Who's Who of creativity and library trends in the field. But, as we've discovered in the past eight years, there's no end to the number of library leaders we could include. We've already started compiling our own personal lists for next year.
Pure energy: that's one way to describe Veronda Pitchford, the assistant director of Chicago's Metropolitan Library System (MLS). And she uses that energy to transform the profession one recruit, one project, one library supporter at a time.
At work, she is involved with recruitment and taps her public relations B.A. to help member libraries market themselves inside and outside their organizations. She also works to coordinate Illinois Library Advocacy Day and leads training on how to "educate" legislators.
Go to a national library conference, and you're likely to see Pitchford at a microphone, infusing her subject with humor and necessary doses of the "real deal" attitude. She speaks on any number of issues—creating a forum for young leaders, addressing diversity and recruitment strategies, and developing marketing savvy.
"I really would like to see upper management diversified," Pitchford says, "not just in racial diversity but in age and thought." ALA's Spectrum Initiative is one approach, but "the funding is so low that it would take them a million years to catch up with the retirement boom that's going to happen." The rest of the profession has to get involved. "It shouldn't be the job of one entity to diversify the profession."
Librarians also need to learn "how to advocate for ourselves better. We don't tell our story enough, market ourselves, fundraise for ourselves." She recommends a much more aggressive stance: "Waiting for the budget from above is passive; we need to get out and advocate for libraries. If we don't step up to the plate, no one else will."
She speaks straight to the public library's core ethos. "I have a passion for the fact that libraries are one of the great equalizers in this society," she says. "When I start to talk to legislators about this, it is such a freakin' easy sell!"
Pitchford turns this take-no-prisoners position toward mentoring and recruiting as well. She believes it's never too early for recruitment. She works with high school students on job shadow days and gauges from them how well the profession is thriving. "Unfortunately, a lot of the same stereotypes are still out there. People have no idea what we do or how and that we're not all old white women."
Nor is there a single place for recruiting. Pitchford recently had a woman in her yoga class come up to talk with her about the profession. "It can happen anywhere."
Current position Assistant Director, Metropolitan Library System, Chicago
Degree MLS, North Carolina Central University, 1994
Board Member FOLUSA, Illinois Center for the Book, ALA Spectrum Initiative Advisory Council
Self-definition "Die-hard library chick"