Steven Galbraith

Steven Galbraith

  • How did you first get into the information and library profession?

My first library position was in 1982 when I served as a library helper to our school librarian Ms. Bickford. I was 10 years old and in fourth grade (I still have my certificate of achievement somewhere in my office). I’d love to say that this experience made an impression on me, but all I really recall was Ms. Bickford telling me she was a witch and showing me an amulet.

I think what really led me to study library science and take my MLS was the experience of regularly going to the public library as a kid (often with my father, who still reads constantly) and an undergraduate circulation position at Lockwood Library at the University of Buffalo (USA).

  • What qualifications did you take?

I have an MLS from the University of Buffalo and a PhD in English Literature from The Ohio State University (USA). My PhD focus was on the literature of the English renaissance (Shakespeare, Spenser, Sidney—all the S’s), but my approach was the history of the book. This eventually led me to become more of a printing historian than a literary scholar.

  • What is your current job title?

My current job is Curator of the Cary Graphic Arts Collection at Rochester Institute of Technology, New York, USA. The Cary Collection, for short, is one of the country’s premier libraries on graphic communication history and practice. Our greatest research strength is the history of printing. Our library features a pressroom with a working collection of historical printing presses, including the famous Kelmscott/Goudy press.

  • What does your job involve? What do you particularly enjoy about your job?

When I ask my young daughters what they think I do all day, they either say “put books on shelves” or “fix books.” Both sound lovely, but I hardly do either. It varies of course, but among my responsibilities are: building the collection with new acquisitions and donations, fundraising, planning and preparing exhibitions, and supervising student workers. I also teach quite a bit.  We have a large number of classes that come through, and I also teach an annual class called “Tablet to Tablet: A History of the Book.” I still try to be an active scholar in the history of the book and in my field of rare book librarianship, so in my spare time I keep up with my research and writing.

  • What skills do you think are most important for today’s information and library professional?

The skills vary to some degree depending on what area of librarianship you are in. I think the most important quality of a librarian is curiosity. A librarian should also be comfortable with learning new skills and adapting to change, while finding wisdom and inspiration from the past.

  • What advice would you give to anyone considering a career in Information Management?

I would advise someone considering going into the field to visit a number of libraries and speak with librarians about their work.  Once in library school they should earn as much practical experience as they can in the types of settings they hope to work in. Mentorships are also a very helpful way of being introduced to the profession and receiving guidance from successful.

Photo by Julie Ainsworth

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