Meet the New Vice President Elect: Sarah McHone-Chase

Illinois Association of College & Research Libraries Forum (IACRL)

September 29, 2022

Interviewed by Lori Noe, Frontier Community College

Sarah McHone-Chase is the Directory of Aurora University's Phillips Library, and the newly elected IACRL Vice-President/President-Elect.

What do you think is the most important thing for you to accomplish in your new position both professionally and personally?
I think that in both cases it is community. I have been in my role as Director of Aurora University’s Library since June and one of my big goals is to make the library a place of community and belonging on campus. Our efforts there are

Sarah is wearing fun colors and patterns as she stands outside in front of shrubbery

Sarah McHone-Chase, IACRL Vice President/President-Elect

nascent, but it seems to be going well. It occurs to me that this is what I want for IACRL, too. We’re a community of academic librarians, so I want to continue to look for opportunities for us to share our knowledge and experience, collaborate, and support one another.

What initiatives or opportunities would you like to promote?
When I ran for office, I mentioned the impact on the profession that such issues as DEIA, COVID, and mass resignation have had. I still think that these societal issues are really important, and I’d add book bans/challenges to that now, too. There are probably still other things I could add. I would translate this list to an initiative in that I want to continue to work to create spaces (committees, programming, conferences, and other places) where we can openly talk about these issues and others that are impacting the profession.

The current President of IACRL, Dan Matthews, also has some initiatives to support OER—I think those are important to highlight here, too. There is a statement from the Illinois College Course Materials Affordability and Equitable Access Task Force that was crafted by the CARLI OER Committee and was supported by ILA.

What do you think is the biggest barrier to pushing for more equity and diversity in libraries today?

I think this is a great question and I think the answer is probably complicated. I am interpreting this question as being about barriers to equity and diversity among librarians and library workers—I hope that’s what you meant.

We need library schools to produce librarians who look like the communities that those librarians serve. Of course, that means that we need diverse people from various communities to apply to library schools, too. I think that librarianship is really important, and we have great opportunities to positively impact our communities. If we show our value and worth to those communities in effective ways we can get others interested in our work. For example, our collections, services, and programs should reflect our communities to reflect our relevance. I think another component of this is not just showing that value, but also being compensated appropriately. I think a lot of people would find librarianship to be an attractive field to work in if they see that it is meaningful work and that you can make a living doing that. So, the biggest barrier might be that our work is not necessarily well understood outside of the profession and maybe some do not see us as particular relevant in the modern world. We need to model the change we want to see.

What was the last book you read?
Unmasked: My Life Solving America’s Cold Cases, by Paul Holes. With my kids, I have also been listening, and re-listening, to all of the Sideways Stories from Wayside School series by Louis Sacher.

What does your typical day look like in your current position?
I came to Aurora University in June of this year, so day to day I feel like I am learning a lot and putting out a lot of small (metaphorical) fires. I do a lot of administrative work like scheduling and signing invoices, and then if there is time left in the day I have been working on helping to prepare instruction. We’re a small staff so there is a little bit of everything to do right now.

What made you decide to be a librarian?
For a while I thought I would work in publishing, but I started to realize that my favorite parts of the job I was doing in grad school (for my 1st Masters) was the library part: I was hunting down various book reviews and other sources and I found that the hunting and finding was truly enjoyable to me and that I seemed to be pretty good at it. So, I started looking further into what librarianship was all about and everything I found looked pretty interesting to me. Once I decided on that path, I’ve never wavered—it was definitely the right decision for me.

What do you think are going to be the greatest challenges facing academic libraries in the next few years?
In general, I think we see a lot of skepticism regarding higher ed in the media now. Academic libraries can’t solve that challenge, but I think that showing our value and relevance can help, especially when colleges and universities might start looking to cut costs.

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