In each issue of this newsletter, we profile a staff member who works in the library or other related department. This issue features Douglas Black ’86, who works in the Discovery and Access Services area of the library, and graduated from Middlebury with an degree in English.
What Library department do you work in?
I’m in Collections Management (CM), which acquires and provides access to almost everything in the building (Special Collections & Archives makes their own purchase decisions): books, periodicals, journals, CDs, DVDs, microfilm and microfiche, maps, government documents, etc.; and online through the Library’s web site, including electronic books & journals, streaming music & video, data sets, maps, and more. Collections Management provides the cataloging and applies labels and antitheft devices to make sure patrons can find and continuing using our materials.
What does your job entail?
As the person most directly responsible for the library’s collections, I supervise our acquisitions and cataloging staff; shape policy and procedures for purchasing, licensing, subscribing, and processing library materials; analyze data to evaluate usage and value of library collections; and develop strategies for managing the library’s acquisitions budget and its collections spaces. In simpler terms, I support and coordinate various CM staff with their work; meet with vendor representatives; crunch a lot of numbers with and without dollar signs; think about the curriculum and research, what we buy, and how; and consider how to shape our collections to best support our students, faculty, and staff in their work and their lives.
What is interesting about this to you?
Working with my staff is a genuine pleasure, especially collaborating on short-term projects and longer-term initiatives. One of the best parts is seeing how closely they work together to solve problems and enjoy the workday company. Overall, managing an academic library collection is a great big continuously evolving dance, with the music constantly shifting and changing in both tempo and style. Each individual decision is a puzzle to solve (some much easier than others), and the challenge of keeping things in multiple dimensions all in balance forces me to keep learning and coming up with new ways to approach new challenges.
How did you come to be interested in working in libraries?
After years teaching undergraduate writing and literature, then writing and editing full time, I gradually realized I was happiest hanging around in libraries and with people who worked in libraries. There’s so much to discover, and so much freedom to learn, I wish I had thought of it ten years earlier.
What did you do prior to working at Middlebury College and where were you located?
I was Collection Development Librarian at Northern Michigan University, which is in Marquette, MI, on Lake Superior. Coming to Vermont was a move south!
What do you like best about working at Midd?
The people: staff, students, faculty, and alumni have been interesting, engaging, helpful, and personable—just being on campus is truly an enjoyable experience every day.
As a new employee/resident of Middlebury/Vermont, what is the most useful piece of advice you’ve received so far?
Probably the tip to check out Old Spokes Home in Burlington, and go bicycling along the Island Line Rail Trail to South Hero.
What are your hopes for your next few years at Middlebury?
I hope to develop my administrative skills further, as well as my understanding of budget management and managing collections in our rapidly development environment. I also want to further develop and apply my skills with data analysis, providing improvements in assessment and better tailoring the Library collections to College needs.
Is there any person on campus who mentored you, or you feel helped you grow in your job?
Long ago in my student days at Middlebury, David Price in particular helped shaped a lot of my thinking about literature, and John Elder taught me a great deal about writing. From them and several others, including John Wilders, Bob Hill and Eve Adler, I learned a tremendous amount about teaching. I had wonderful role models here.
Have you discovered yet a favorite place on campus or in town?
The restored central portion of Starr Library holds special memories from long days at study, as does Dana Auditorium. Off campus, Ilsley Library, Rikert, and Fire & Ice were among my favorite haunts, and they’re still a pleasure, along with the Ripton Coffee House.
What is something significant happening in your life outside of work right now?
My wife Michelle and I just bought a home in Cornwall, and we’re eager to move in once the new furnace, water heater, range, chimney lining, etc., are installed and working. We also love to sail, having restored an antique sloop and sailed on Lake Superior for the last five years. We’re looking forward to the spring day when we can pull Selkie out of storage and introduce her to Lake Champlain. Finally, Michelle’s been bugging me to pick up my guitar and sing again, and with a new granddaughter and three new great-nephews and -nieces adding their voices to the choir, I’m weakening.
Anything else that you would like to share about your time at Middlebury?
It’s great to be back. So much is different from when I was a student, yet so little has really changed.