Member of the Month

Gary Fitsimmons – 05/2021

Gary is the Director of Library Services and Professor of Information Literacy at Bryan College in Dayton, TN (1,089 FTE). He has been an ACL member since 2015.

Describe yourself using a book title: Paradoxology: Why Christianity Was Never Meant to Be Simple by Krish Kandiah. I haven’t read the book, but it sounds like my life message!

What’s the best thing about being a librarian? The best thing about being a librarian is being able to help students when they don’t even know they need help.

What are you currently reading? Foxe’s Book of Martyrs

Describe ACL in three words: Relevant, Relationships, Potential.

How do you (or How have you), as an academic librarian, contribute to your campus? Besides the usual and obvious library services, I have always tried to use the library to fill in the gaps on my campus to make it successful in its mission and to add richness and depth to campus life. To that end, I participate in recruiting by introducing myself to campus visitors and telling them about library services, interview potential students at scholarship events, pass along information that I come across to the specific individuals that might benefit from it, and constantly try to come up with new services that we can offer, or new ways of offering traditional services.

I began my career as a librarian…in library school as a practicum student at American Airlines corporate library. I had not had any library experience before choosing librarianship as a career based on an interest test. I had been underemployed for ten years while trying to make my undergraduate degree in drama into a career that would support my family. (Whew!) I intended to become a corporate librarian, but took the first position I was offered after graduation at Wayland Baptist University as a reference and acquisitions librarian due to a dire lack of funds and a difficult job market. I didn’t make much money, but it was more than we were used to living off of and I really enjoyed the academic calendar and the academic culture, so I stayed in academia.

What do you value about ACL? I have learned to value relationships the most in any human endeavor, and ACL is no different. I am such a task-oriented person that I constantly have to remind myself that relationships are what life is really all about and that they take work to develop and maintain. It’s not a talent that I naturally excel at, but ACL offers me abundant opportunities for practice with peers and colleagues with whom I share a lot in common.

How were you introduced to ACL? I don’t exactly remember, but it was back in library school. Ever since then I have always felt it important to be involved in advancing the profession so I poured time and talent into another library association. I couldn’t afford more than one association membership and felt that it was the most beneficial for my career at the time. A few years after coming back to work on a Christian campus, I decided that I could no longer justify expending time, effort, and money on an organization that was becoming increasingly hostile to all that I stood for, so I switched my membership, efforts, etc. to ACL.

How are you or have you been involved in ACL? I contribute frequently to discussions on the ACL listserv, have reviewed books for TCL, participated as a mentor in the mentoring program, run for offices in LAS, and am on the new prayer team.

Do you have any specific interests in the library world? I am interested in library management, particularly relative to innovation and seeking new paradigms for library services. Libraries have been reinventing themselves to stay relevant throughout my career of 31 years so far, and that process won’t change until Jesus returns and we have perfect knowledge!