Meet Molly Beestrum: 2020 IL Academic Librarian of the Year!

Illinois Association of College & Research Libraries Forum (IACRL)

September 23, 2020

Molly and her 5 year-old son, who has become her “work-from-home-buddy”

Meet Molly Beestrum, 2020 Illinois Academic Librarian of the Year!

by Elena Carrillo, University of Illinois, Chicago

We congratulate Molly for being selected as ILA’s 2020 Illinois Academic Librarian of the Year!  Molly is the Education and Curriculum Coordinator at Galter Health Sciences Library & Learning Center at Northwestern University. Her liaison areas include Medical Education and Obstetrics & Gynecology.

This award, which recognizes an Illinois librarian who has made an outstanding statewide contribution to academic or research librarianship, will be presented at a virtual ceremony during the October 2020 ILA Annual Conference.

Of your many accomplishments which led to you receiving this award, which are you the most proud of? 

As ILA President I was concerned about my ability to lead without having experience as a library director. But leadership isn't always defined by your position. You can develop leadership skills and be a leader by using your voice and your actions. I am proud of my leadership during the initial phase of COVID-19; I never thought I would be in that position but you never know what you’ll have to deal with in a leadership role! 

Outside of the overwhelming COVID-19 issues that libraries are grappling with currently, what would you say are the biggest challenges for libraries heading into 2021?

Libraries of all types were grappling with budgetary challenges before COVID-19. Colleges and universities had been cutting library budgets for years, but I fear this will get worse as the lasting economic impact of the pandemic becomes clearer. It has been fantastic to see how librarians have adapted to remote teaching and support for students and faculty. In some ways academic librarians were well-positioned to move online but we need healthy budgets to continue to support remote learning with e-books and electronic databases. 

What inspired you to go down the path of academic librarianship when you began 15 years ago?  What continues to inspire you about the profession today?

Working with students is always the most rewarding part of my job and what drew me to academic librarianship. When I was an undergrad I NEVER asked a librarian for help –even though I really could have used it. I want to short-circuit that by providing library instruction when students need it, and show them that librarians are a wonderful resource for them. I love meeting with students one-on-one and learning about their projects; instructing students and connecting NU/Galter resources to their coursework is incredibly gratifying. I get to see their excitement when they learn about a database that will help them with their project, or their relief when they realize that I can help them with their literature searches. 

Molly shared this picture of her family during quarantine. “That was an unexpected benefit of all the time together–we all got to spend more time outdoors and rediscovered bike riding.”

For library sciences graduates of 2020 who may be struggling this year to find their footing, what advice or encouragement can you offer?

I always recommend relying on your network – and if you don't have one yet, now is the time to start building one! Attend webinars, join a professional association (I recommend ILA and IACRL, of course!), keep in touch with classmates and faculty. It's so helpful to have some trusted people to look over your application materials, advise you on interview preparation, commiserate over tough days, and celebrate successes. 

What things are on your “to-do” list when all the pandemic health and safety restrictions are finally lifted?  How has 2020 made you reconsider your bucket list (if at all)?

The first thing I'm going to do is take my family to visit my mom in Seattle! We were supposed to fly out to see her in March the week everything shut down, so I'm really looking forward to making that trip. So much of "normal" life has to be reconsidered, so I suppose I'm looking forward to things like going out to eat, going to a baseball game, and seeing a concert again!

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