IACRL Member Spotlight, Spring 2021: Olia Sweiss

Illinois Association of College & Research Libraries Forum (IACRL)

March 17, 2021
Olia Sweiss, Midwestern Career College

Olia Sweiss, Midwestern Career College

Interviewed by Elena Carrillo, University of Illinois Chicago

Olia Sweiss is the sole librarian at Midwestern Career College, wearing many hats to ensure health sciences students are connected to the resources they need. As the diversity of her patrons grows, she is invested in providing the best service to her rapidly-changing demographic. 

As the only librarian at Midwestern, you have a lot of roles and responsibilities. Among them, which is your favorite and why, how does it uniquely suit your passions?  

I enjoy many of my responsibilities and roles as a librarian. The favorite aspect of this is that this role is always expanding and allows me to learn more about other fields and areas of knowledge especially during collaboration with other departments. My role as a librarian brings new challenges which creates new pathways to expand and grow our services to meet the needs of a changing community. It fits with my passion in the field of library science as it allows exploration on new ideas on how to build and grow them. This extends to all of my responsibilities from the most exciting to day to day tasks. Everything big to small inspires ideas.

While all of academia is still struggling to come to grips with the changes broad on by the COVID-19 pandemic, what silver linings, if any, are you finding through remote instruction and reference services?

The changes in the beginning of the pandemic provided a challenge from changing focus to primarily to online services. One thing, common in all libraries, is that it finds a way to provide service in any environment. With Instruction and Reference during the pandemic, the silver lining is that online services have grown exponentially and allowed looking through different perspectives on how to utilize online resources in fun and creative ways.

Can you provide an example of something "fun and creative" you are doing now that maybe you hadn't done or thought of before?

Utilizing online resources in fun and creative ways includes creating online resources with directors and other faculty and staff such as online events with online games, program resources that support the curriculum and learning. 

You were recently made Co-Chair of IACRL’s new DEI Task Force. What issues are you hoping to address through the new Task Force?

Equity and diversity in libraries vary and carry many different perspectives and changes in time. This is evident in the growth and development of libraries from where it started to where it is now in services and new ideas on how to serve our patrons. The library is a large diverse demographic which is constantly growing, and as professionals we explore to grow and expand services in this field. Any barrier the library profession encounters causes a change in shift and addresses the question on how can we best provide services to our patrons. I am excited to learn more about these and the experiences from libraries and how they serve, grow and expand to reach our audience with a greater positive impact in the future.

Your BA from Trinity Christian College was in Social Work. Did you always want to be a librarian or did you stumble into the profession? 

While starting out with a bachelor’s degree in social work, I found my passion through the experience working as a circulation clerk at a Public Library after graduating. This gave me a taste of library services and led to my growth in the library profession. 

We have to ask something completely random. Tell us what your favorite meal is--and what restaurant you’d love to return to first when the pandemic is over! 

I don’t have a favorite meal. I enjoy many different types of meals and like to try different types of foods. When the pandemic is over, I will be exploring and walking downtown Chicago and enjoying the beautiful scenery it provides. As for the restaurant, I would choose one that appeals to me at the moment when I am enjoying and exploring a beautiful Chicago downtown.

And of course: what was the last book you read? 

The last books I read were the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

Are you a Tolkien fan or was this your first venture to Middle Earth? 

I enjoy a variety of books in multiple genres and fantasy is one of them amongst others like biographies, fiction, non fiction and much more. The books I usually read would be ones that give me a sense I can't stop reading or put the book down. Tolkien’s writing is among them.

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