After extensive research and planning, Albert S. Cook Library at Towson University launched its resident librarian program last fall. The first of its kind in Maryland, this two-year program provides a new librarian from an underrepresented group with practical experience as a professional librarian and the opportunity to bring creative and fresh ideas to an academic library setting. Shannon Simpson, Towson’s first resident librarian, started in August 2009 and has already contributed extensively to the library and beyond. She looks forward to both her future as a librarian and the future of the residency program at Towson.
Towson’s resident librarian program first began to take shape in 2006 when Deborah Nolan became University Librarian and brought the idea to the university. Nolan’s proposal won the enthusiastic endorsement of the university provost. Nolan and Associate University Librarian for Administrative Services, Patty MacDonald, then worked with recently-hired librarians to craft the program. “We researched other residency programs across the country. We wanted to incorporate their best attributes into our program,” said MacDonald. The end result is a two-year program that starts off with rotations in technical services, reference/instruction, and archives, and concludes with a capstone project based on the resident’s interests and the needs of the library. Nolan explained that the resident librarian has the full responsibilities of a faculty librarian, is an active participant in library and university committee work, and contributes to the library’s overall mission, that is, to support the academic and scholarly endeavors of Towson’s students, faculty and staff. An emphasis on mentorship is built into the residency as well. “This program isn’t meant to just be an internship,” noted MacDonald. “It’s meant to be a mutually beneficial experience that nurtures underrepresented voices in librarianship and fosters innovation at the library.”
Out of a pool of over 300 applicants, Shannon Simpson was selected to be Towson’s first resident librarian. She is a 2009 graduate of Kent State University’s (Ohio) Library and Information Science program. As a graduate assistant in Kent’s University Special Collections and Archives, she worked on various archival projects including an oral history project about the 1970 Kent State shootings. Since coming to Towson, Simpson has decided to make diversity initiatives a part of her residency. She had a poster accepted to the National Diversity in Libraries Conference to be held this summer, joined the university’s diversity action committee and led a library book discussion centering on racial issues. Simpson sees herself, however, as contributing not only to the ethnic diversity of the university and librarianship, but also adding a new way of thinking. “Diversity is not just about ethnic background,” said Simpson. “I see myself as bringing diverse talents and fresh approaches, including a willingness to embrace change, to the residency program.”
Everyone involved views Towson’s resident librarian program as a success and looks forward to seeing it continue to thrive. According to MacDonald, “In just a few months Shannon has had such a positive impact on the library and university that we definitely see the program continuing in the future.” Simpson also emphasized how valuable the program has been for her professional development: “Towson’s resident librarian program has allowed me to explore a variety of areas in librarianship, and I now have a better understanding of what I’d like to be doing after my residency is completed.”