University Libraries intern, Stephanie McEvoy, interviews the new Head of Health Sciences Library, Ann Gleason.
Stony Brook University found a gem when Ann Gleason took over the position of Head of the Health Sciences Library two weeks ago. The mother of three grown sons, she is warm and sparkles with life, knowledge and genuine interest in the needs of the students that the HSL serves. I had the pleasure of interviewing her and I would like to introduce the SBU community to Ms. Gleason:
Can you retrace the stepping stones that led you to your new position as Head of the Health Sciences Library?
AG: Librarianship is actually my second career. My Bachelors Degree is in Education with endorsements in Math and Computer Science from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. Much like the past few years, jobs in education were scarce, so I looked for employment in higher education. In 1988 I was hired by St. Martin’s University in Lacey, Washington. Due to my computer science background I worked in computer technology. This turned out to be a great career because I learned so much about computers including networking and hardware. I provided computer desktop support and worked in a networking group installing networks, just me and mostly male colleagues. There weren’t many women in that field back in the early 90’s. I have to admit it got pretty tiring constantly having to prove myself as a competent woman in the IT field. In 1999 I took a position with the Puyallup School District where I traveled throughout the district providing tech support. At this time Microsoft funded many educational technology initiatives so tech support was in demand. In 2001 I moved to Massachusetts where I got a job as the Tech Director and taught computer science at the Worcester Academy. During my time there I earned my Masters Degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Rhode Island. At that point I was promoted to Chief Information Officer (CIO) overseeing the library and all academic and administrative technology. I enjoyed my time at the Worcester Academy but decided I wanted to do more library type work. In 2007 I decided to move back to the west coast and got a job at the University of Washington as Head of Computer Systems for their Health Sciences Library. During my 7 years there I was promoted to Associate Director of Resources and Systems. I decided my next challenge would be to be the Director of a library so I applied for this job and here I am.
What three characteristics do you credit for your professional success?
AG: Primarily persistence; that has helped me every step of the way. Secondly, my IT background has served me very well. Finally, the patience to learn to work within the academic library structure. I am a team-oriented person; however within an academic library you must learn to navigate successfully through the hierarchy of the system. Patience was not my strong suit so it took mindful cultivation to acquire it. I am very glad that I did. Additionally, being a lifelong learner by nature has contributed positively to my career. I am always taking professional development classes which are crucial to getting to the next level.
What is your proudest achievement?
AG: One of the things I am the most proud of is my work at the University of Washington. One of my primary responsibilities was to rebuild their website which is a huge portal to all the information provided by the Health Sciences Library. It had not been rebuilt for 10 years, it wasn’t organized very well, and the equipment was failing. The University of Washington has 2 hospitals attached to it and provides medical education to students from Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho, known as the WWAMI regional medical education program. There aren’t many schools available for medical education; it is still like the wild west out there. The website I rebuilt was processing 4 million hits a year, so it gets a lot of usage. It was a large and complex project. Luckily I am a strong project manager and my team and I rebuilt the system over a 4 year period and released it to the public. It now runs great and is very popular with users. It’s nice to leave behind a legacy and move on to the next challenge. I’m looking forward to building a robust health sciences library here at Stony Brook.
Where do you see SBU’s Health Sciences Library in the future?
AG: It is currently a very popular study space; students love to study here. I heard recently that libraries are viewed as “emotionally safe” places and that seems to be the case here. There are other places to study but none as comfortable for students as the library. We provide areas for quiet study and teamwork, among other options. The students are very adamant about what they need for studying; especially with medicine; they really need to focus. Students already know that the library is a great place to study so I would like to build on that. I would like to transform the currently very basic study space to a more innovative space with collaborative work areas with technology to support student learning, study rooms and extended hours. The students are asking for these things but it involves spending money which can be difficult. At previous jobs I applied for outside grants for some of these kinds of improvements; I plan to do the same here. I want to provide as much as possible to make every student successful. Another area I am working on is providing more outreach and instruction to health sciences academic departments and the medical residency program, as well as increasing outreach to the wider Stony Brook community through exhibits and events. Electronic resources are also in demand and I am evaluating the collection and hoping to find ways to increase access to materials within a limited budget.