Heather Smedberg

San Diego
Reference & Instruction Coordinator, Special Collections & Archives
When did you start in your current position?:
Feb 23, 2009
Years in LAUC: 
LAUC Role:
Division Chair - San Diego

How did you become interested in librarianship?

After college, with a degree in history and secondary education in hand, I realized that I did not want to pursue high school teaching as a career, and reassessed my future while looking for a job that could make SOME use of my schooling and interests while offering adventure and growth. Happily and with some good luck, I landed at the Newberry Library as a library assistant. I'd never given it much thought as a career, although I'd certainly benefited from the great work librarians do in public, school, and academic libraries throughout my life. A few months into working at the Newberry, and the light bulb clicked. It made so much sense and felt like a calling, in a way, it seemed crazy I hadn't figured it out before. And I know I'm not alone in this, the work of librarians can be so opaque from the outside - especially for first-generation college students and others who don't grow up surrounded by academics. And so I try to mentor, chat with, and spread the good word about librarianship whenever I have a chance!

Describe the first time you worked in a library.

The Newberry is a special place. World class collections of primary sources and the secondary sources to support them, active academic and public programs, etc. etc. As a library assistant my first job was to page books from the closed stacks and serve at the public services desk, registering and orienting researchers, as well as numerous special projects. I came in contact with a wide range of collections, researchers, and internal departments, and really came to understand the nitty-gritty of working in library, from the inside. It was a marvelous entrée into the profession. 

What is your current or recent role in LAUC, either locally or systemwide?: 

I was involved in the LAUC-SD Diversity committee for a few years, including a stint as chair, and learned a tremendous amount through that work. I have also served as a mentor, LAUC-SD member-at-large, and am currently the LAUC-SD Chair.

What do you like best about being a UC librarian?

I love being part of the educational process, and supporting and contributing to new scholarship. And of course I love learning, and as a librarian I think it's safe to say I learn something new nearly every day.

Describe a recent or current project on which you are working.

We recently transitioned from a paper-based registration and request system to an automated system specifically designed for special collections workflow needs, called Aeon, and I was the project implementation manager for our campus. It was a major system implementation that could not have been accomplished without great teamwork, hard work, and intelligent contributions from colleagues throughout the library, and in particular, ITS, Metadata Services, and of course here in Special Collections & Archives. UC San Diego has been one of five campuses implementing the system around the same time. It's been wonderful to have it up and running for several months now and I look forward to seeing the different was we can pull out data to assess our services and collections use!

Describe your recent professional work outside of work, such as association work, writing, research, or anything else.

Recently, my professional research and writing has focused on efforts surrounding primary source literacy. Last year, a book I co-edited was published, titled, Using Primary Sources: Hands-On Instructional Exercises. And this year we editors are leading a couple of workshops on the same topic. I've also been one of the key players in the formation of a Society of American Archivists/ACRL-RBMS joint task force to develop primary source literacy guidelines. That task force is set to begin it's work this year. It's been an exciting time!

What would you like the next big thing in libraries to be?

Whatever the next big thing in libraries is, I want a diverse set of voices in our profession, guiding our way. 

Complete this statement: "One surprising fact about me is...”

I don't know if it's a surprising fact, but perhaps more of a "fun fact." I'm currently spending a fair amount of my free time studying Spanish. I've seen a payoff in my improved ability to work with our investigadores hispanoblantes, but it's really not just a work-related goal for me. It's a personal/life goal to develop my language skills. It's not a skill I learn as easily as others, so it's also been a good exercise in humility, and in learning something that doesn't come easily or naturally. I think (hope!) it makes me more patient with students (especially those who speak English as a second or third language), but also more deeply and personally aware of the learning process in general. 

Can you recommend a book or movie or tell us your favorite book or movie and why?

I can never easily answer questions about favorites. Some of my current favorite books from our collections are our Mexican manuscript cookbooks, like this one that we've digitized and linked to our catalog record. 

Outside of work, I would like to re-read one of my favorites, Life: A User's Manual, by Georges Perec, translated by David Bellos, but I'm waiting until I've cleared some head space. Bellos himself has said he underestimated the complexity of the major narrative puzzle until he re-read it, so I'm pretty sure I have at least a few more re-readings in my lifetime to look forward to!