Interview with Lisa Waskin, MLA Board of Directors Candidate

This month, one of Superiorland Library Cooperative’s member library Directors, Lisa Waskin is on the MLA ballot, seeking a Member-at-Large Board position. If elected, Lisa will serve a three-year term beginning July 1, 2023, and ending June 30, 2026. We spoke with Lisa to learn about her work in libraries, why she’s interested in the MLA Board, and what makes her a great fit for the role. Read on for our conversation with Lisa!

Tell us a little about yourself!

I was born and raised in Peoria, Illinois and have always loved libraries.  I have six children ranging in age from 34 years old to 10 years old, and two grandchildren.  After working in several libraries throughout college, I was first a field archaeologist for the University of North Dakota.  I then started a law firm and real estate company with my first husband, before finally getting back into libraries in 1999.  I earned my library degree in 2005, and have been the Director of five libraries total. I moved to the Upper Peninsula in 2014, to take on the amazing opportunity to help shape a brand new district library, the Superior District Library, which is made up of nine libraries and covers approximately 2,300 sq. miles across two counties.  In addition to library work,  I love cooking, hiking, being outdoors, and time with friends and family.  As a card-carrying extrovert, I love working with other librarians and especially enjoy mentorship and sharing everything I have learned over the past 40 years, as well as continuing to learn new things from others.

Can you share how you got your start working in libraries?

My first library job was as a Page at the Reference Department of a large, downtown, public library in 1983.  At that time we did not have computers, internet, or even fax machines.  Patrons still used Reader’s Guides to search out information, and we had a whole selection of reference books behind the desk to answer questions.  I had an amazing Department Head, who believed that everyone there was capable of helping patrons, not just the degreed librarians. This taught me that not only can we learn from the top down, but also sometimes from the bottom up. It is one of my most important life lessons that I bring into every job I have ever had. After that I worked in the cataloging department of a large university library, the circulation and serials department of a junior college library, circulation and archival work in a small, private college, head of a private grade school library, in the marketing department of a Talking Book Center, and finally a Library Director at a small, rural Carnegie Library, all before earning my degree.  After receiving my degree, I worked as a Director in public libraries of all sizes and a variety of communities.  I feel that I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to work in all types and at all levels in various library settings because it has definitely broadened my perspective on the different types of library service.

Why are you interested in continuing to serve on the MLA board?

Prior to serving on the MLA Board, I had been involved in several committees and work groups over the past several years.  Last March I was asked to finish out a term left by an outgoing Board member, and I was happy to step up to help out.  After being on the board this past year, and seeing the challenges faced by our libraries and getting to help come up with solutions to these issues, I feel that serving on the MLA Board is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.  It’s not just about being on the board for me, but rather getting down into the trenches to combat book challenges, racism, and inequality; as well as promoting advocacy within our communities and at the state level with our legislators.  I feel like I really get to make a difference for the entire Michigan library community, beyond the borders of my district. I would like to have the opportunity to continue this work by continuing to serve on the MLA Board.

How will you use your own experience and expertise to benefit MLA and the Michigan library community?

Having not only 40 years of library experience, but also outside work experiences in management, law, and working with special needs children and adults, I feel I have a unique opportunity to share knowledge that I have gained over the years with the Michigan library community.  Having worked in such a wide variety of libraries, as well as in multiple states, also gives me a better understanding of what our members deal with on a daily basis.  I also recognize that everyone in an organization plays an important role in the success of a library, and I can share those insights with my colleagues.  Sometimes I feel like I have been in libraries so long that I have forgotten more than I know, but then a situation will come up, and I have many times been able to look back and draw on my experiences to help others navigate whatever they are dealing with in that moment.  With age comes wisdom, but it also comes with the ability to recognize good ideas come from many places, and we are never too old to also learn.  My experience has taught me that listening to others can be more important than always being the one speaking, and that an organization like MLA is strong because we can all learn from each other.

Tell us about a recent favorite read.

The past several years have been difficult for all of us, and for me personally because I have suffered some pretty devastating losses starting with the death of a good friend and colleague on Valentine’s Day of 2020.  This was followed by one of the hardest things I have ever had to deal with, the suicide of one of my manager’s, a young man with his whole life ahead of him.  As with many others, Covid also brought loss of family and friends, and the overwhelming weight of being responsible for the health and safety of my family, my staff, and the communities we serve.  And just this past October, my father very suddenly passed away right after the MLA Conference and just recently a close family friend.  I was struggling, and luckily, my Board President, who is also a friend, recommended a book of poems by Donna Ashworth, titled Loss.  I have never been much of a poetry person honestly, but this small book has brought me comfort and peace lately, and helped me to reach deep to heal the scars that the past three years have left on my heart.  For anyone who is going through tough times of any kind of loss, not just through death, I highly recommend this book.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Finally I would say that the Michigan Library Association is important to me because it has given me a chance to connect with other library staff and communities throughout Michigan in the best way possible.  Living in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula we are sometimes very isolated from Lansing and other larger libraries downstate.  But in the same token, the downstate libraries are also isolated from what happens up north.  By having members of the board there to represent all of the library voices across Michigan, we are stronger, wiser, and more connected to each other.  I hope that you see value in having me as one of your MLA Board representatives, and humbly ask for your support to continue to serve on the MLA Board.  Thank you.

Voting for the MLA 2022 Board of Directors Election is now open. MLA will hold elections from April 3 to April 24. This year MLA members will vote for an MLA President-elect and four Member-at-Large board positions. These positions will serve for three-year terms beginning July 1, 2023.

Visit this link for information on all candidates. 

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