A Look Back: Question and Answer with Linda Katz and Rebekah Kilzer
By: Jenny James Lee
Things at Drexel change quickly – as evidenced by the rapidly changing landscape of the physical campus – and there is no better way to look at some of the changes, than to talk to people who witnessed them firsthand. Libraries staff members Linda M. G. Katz, associate director of health sciences partnerships and Rebekah Kilzer, manager of learning engagement, share their experiences as they leave the Libraries in June 2013 for retirement and relocation, respectively.
Q: When did you join Drexel University Libraries and in what role?
Rebekah Kilzer: I first came to Drexel as a student in 2002. I was enrolled in the MSLIS program at the iSchool, before it was the iSchool, and I worked in Technical Services at the library.
Linda Katz: I started out at the medical library at the Medical College of Pennsylvania [MCP], which was acquired by Drexel a little over ten years ago. I worked my way up through the ranks at MCP after I moved to Philadelphia from New York. I never really left MCP, just changed my position several times.
Q: Was there something about being a librarian that really appealed to you?
LK : You know, people always say this, but I like working with people and I like the order of things in libraries. Technology didn’t exist in the same way when I entered the field. We had a card catalog and the only technology we really had, other than a photocopier, was in interlibrary loan and it was a large machine [a teletypewriter] that looked like a typewriter. It punched holes into a tape and that was how we requested materials.
RK: For me, I was going through that period that many young adults do when they’ve graduated college and are facing what they want to do. I thought, I should really pick something and focus on it. I really thought about my favorite jobs, and especially remembered working in the library as an undergraduate – interacting with patrons and spending time in the stacks. So, I decided to pursue my library degree. It has been a great experience, and I don’t think I could have picked something that suits me better. I really enjoy the atmosphere in academic libraries. There is a collegiality among librarians, which I don’t think exists in many other professions.
LK – It hasn’t turned out at all how I anticipated it. The opportunities have been incredible – due to the growth of the institution and my personal growth – as well as the changes in libraries.
RK- It really is incredible, the changes. I’ve only been in “this” for a little over 10 years and it’s just so different.
Q: What were the Libraries like when you first joined the staff?
LK: We did literature searches manually, going through indexing tools. It was really totally different. We would plan our searches in advance before dialing up to the National Library of Medicine because we had to pay for the time. We developed elaborate tools and books of hedges to make sure that we didn’t miss anything. It was an art and a science.
RK: The way we have to go about problem solving is totally different. Using the OCLC client we had to upload our holdings and download information very quickly to maximize our time, because there was an expense associated with how long it took. It was a motivator to be as efficient as possible. Now, with technology we have new challenges for efficiency and tackling new problems.
LK: For people like me who went to library school and started working so long ago, we’ve really had to absorb and learn things on our own and to continually reinvent ourselves. Librarians will have to continue to reinvent themselves.
Q: What was the biggest change you’ve seen in the Libraries during your time there?
LK: The biggest major change for the Libraries at Drexel has been Danuta’s [the Dean of Libraries] arrival. She has forced us to rethink everything. We had always evolved to meet new challenges but have never had to think in such a futuristic way. It has been challenging and fascinating.
RK: Yes, it’s Danuta. A lot of things in Libraries are changing – spaces, etc. – but those things are happening everywhere. The question of “what does a library mean on campus’ is being explored in a lot of places. For us, being prompted to continually thing “what this means” is new and it is new that everyone [all staff] is involved.
LK: It is a big shift from the library being a source of support to becoming collaborators. We are used to helping people, but now are working to engage with faculty and researchers on a peer level.
So, instead of being responsive and evolving when you had to – would you say you’re working to lead your own future?
LK: Things in the past seemed to always evolve more slowly. We’re now moving much faster.
RK: Our whole organizational structure has been rebuilt to reflect these changes and to make the new model easier. It will place the staff in the right places to foster collaboration.
LK – The transition has been a challenge and I don’t think we’ll see the full results in the short term.
RK: I will be really interested to see how everything falls into place in the next few years.
Q: What has been your favorite thing about working at Drexel’s Libraries?
RK: For me it has been the people that I have worked with. The collegiality that we have is unsurpassable. The people working here are very thoughtful, understanding and supportive. I’ve really built some lasting relationships during my time here.
LK: I would absolutely agree with that – the relationships with people [have been my favorite thing]. Also the intellectual growth that working in this environment has made possible. That is one thing I’m concerned about when I retire – will I have the same stimulation?
Q: What is your advice for up and coming librarians and library students?
LK: If you are going to go to library school and want to find a job as a professional librarian, you have to work in a library. It is competitive and it is hard to find a job if you have no library experience. Get a job while you’re in school or before you go to school. You should also build a good skill set in technology and have a knowledge of emerging technologies.
RK: In addition, once you find a job, say “yes” to things. Do not be afraid to try something new and step out of your comfort zone. Those are the moments that build your confidence and force you to grow as a librarian and an individual. Put yourself out there professionally.
LK: Embrace change.
Where do you see Drexel and the Libraries in five years, in ten years:
RK: I think that having new physical spaces will be the biggest, and most apparent, potential improvement. It will help to serve as a stimulator to help people see the other changes that have taken place. It’s why you rebrand your company or a store changes its storefront, it’s why people move. It serves as a visual marker of how things are different.
LK – And working at Drexel, anything is possible. I don’t know whether the Hahnemann Library will be there. It is really exciting – but it’s hard to know how things are going to develop. It’s going to be very different in five years.
Q: So, what is next for each of you?
LK: I will be retiring in June and I am looking forward to discovering new opportunities, traveling, and spending more time with friends and family. It is definitely bittersweet and I am going to miss being here. I am very excited about the new possibilities and getting away – not having to check email or feel obligated to check in at the office. Even when you go away on a vacation or take a day off, you’re never really away. There is a draw to check in and a worry about what you will have to take care of when you get back (or before). Your job can start to take over your life. I am also very excited about the flexibility of retirement and being more active -- no longer sitting at a desk all day.
RK: I will be facing some new and very exciting challenges in my new role as Library Director at Shawnee State University. It is a beautiful place and I’m looking forward to working with the staff, faculty and students there.