Leslie Sult (MSLS '02) is an instructional services librarian at the University of Arizona. She was awarded the 2013 Association of College and Research Libraries(ACRL) Instruction Section (IS) Innovation award for work completed on the software Guide on the Side, which helps instruction librarians create tutorials for database instruction.
Q: Tell us a little about your job. What are you working on now?
A: At the moment, I am working to expand the functionality of the "Guide on the Side" tutorial creation software that we developed at the University of Arizona and have since released on an open-source basis. In the next year my colleague Mike Hagedon and I plan on ensuring that tutorials the software creates are ADA (American Disabilities Act) compliant and that they work well on mobile devices. I am also on a project team that is working to scale library research guides and integrate them into our campus course management system, so that students can have access to library resources where and when they need them.
Q: What’s the library scene like in Arizona? Are you from the area or did you choose to live in the area because of your career?
A: I was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona and have lived in Arizona all my life other than the two years I spent at SILS. My husband and I moved to Tucson after leaving North Carolina so that he could attend school at the University of Arizona. I was hired as an assistant librarian during our first year in Tucson and have been working as a librarian ever since (10 years this month). Arizona has a good state library association, so I have had opportunities to work with public, community college and K-12 librarians through my position and through the state library association.
Q: What are some of the most interesting things about working at the University of Arizona libraries?
A: I have great colleagues and a work environment that continually challenges me to think about the best ways to help students. We are encouraged to innovate and to look for new ways to deliver services that support students in their learning and faculty in their teaching.
Q: How did SILS support your education and training for your career?
A: My education at SILS has helped me in my career in so many ways. Since librarianship is constantly evolving, it is important to be able to think creatively and flexibly. The coursework I took and the faculty I worked with at SILS (Dr. Daniel, and Dr. Saye were both great teachers and mentors to me during my time in graduate school) provided multiple opportunities for me to be able to think about problems and issues from different angles. Additionally, the reading and research that were required in a number of my courses helped me develop the habit of reading library literature and keeping up with innovations and advances in the field.
Q: I see that you have also worked in a high school setting as an educator and librarian; what prompted your movement into academic/higher education librarianship -- and library instruction, in particular?
A: I loved being a high school librarian, but after a few years in the rural school district where I taught, I realized that I wanted and needed to learn more about librarianship if I wanted to keep growing in my career. I applied and was accepted to SILS and was very excited to move to North Carolina. I had the amazing opportunity to work for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s U.S. Libraries program during my time at SILS which helped me realize that I wanted to continue teaching once I completed my degree. The position that I currently hold has allowed me to keep teaching as well and to keep growing as a professional, which is pretty great.
Q: What do you see shaping the field of library instruction the most for the next few years?
A: I believe technology will continue to play a big role in the future of library instruction. The use of course management systems will provide libraries with a number of opportunities to better integrate library instruction and resources into students’ online instructional experiences. Many libraries (including ours) are looking at adopting improved search and discovery tools. Once these tools are implemented, I believe that instructional librarians will have a number of exciting opportunities to keep moving toward helping students evaluate and use the information they locate through these improved searching tools.
Q: Are there any other aspects of your library science education and/or career that you would like to mention?
A: Librarianship is a great career for people who want to keep learning and pushing themselves in new directions. Along with having great professors at SILS, I have been fortunate to have great mentors at the UA Libraries. In both environments, I have been the beneficiary of librarians that have remained active and engaged throughout their professional lives.
Originally published as a School of Information and Library Science Alumni Association (SILSAA) "Featured Alumna" profile. Thanks to Ben Carter (MSLS ’06) for compiling the interview.