23:2 (2008:06) Profiles: Linda Pitts

May 27, 2008 at 4:37 pm | Posted in Profiles | Leave a comment

Susan Davis, Profiles Editor

I used the Title Changes section of the NASIG Newsletter to look for possible profile subjects and came across Linda’s name. I’ve met Linda at NASIG conferences and thought she would make for an interesting column. Fortunately I was right! Linda is presently assistant head of Serials Cataloging at the University of Washington Libraries and a member of the NASIG Publications and Public Relations Committee. And not so coincidentally this committee is also profiled in this issue.

Linda Pitts
Linda Pitts

Susan: How did you become involved in NASIG?

Linda: In May of 1996, I had accepted a temporary position at the University of Washington Libraries as the Serials Projects Librarian, but I hadn’t actually started yet. Some of the librarians in the Serials Division thought it would be a good idea for me to go to the NASIG conference, so I filled out the required paperwork and was approved to go before I even started my job! The conference that year was in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I remember the weather being very hot, but the conference was fabulous! I had a wonderful time and met some great people. I joined NASIG officially in January of 1997.

Susan: How has being involved in NASIG impacted your career/philosophy of librarianship?

Linda: As my primary area of professional involvement, NASIG has been really important to my career. Without it, or something like it, I wouldn’t have a permanent job at the UW Libraries! But seriously, being in NASIG has helped develop my view of librarianship as an inclusive, unifying profession. We’re all in this together, the librarians, publishers, and vendors, and it doesn’t help to have an “us versus them” mentality. NASIG definitely encourages people to get out of that negative mind-set.

Susan: What is your most memorable conference experience?

Linda: I think that would have to be being on the Conference Planning Committee for the 2003 conference at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. It was the first conference where we stayed in hotels instead of on a college campus. Along with generally helping out, I was in charge of arranging the all-day-long transportation between the hotels and the conference site, as well as the transport to and from the evening event at the Multnomah County Library. I had never, ever done anything like that in my life–it was a true learning experience! Being involved behind the scenes was great and gave me a whole new appreciation for what it takes to put on a conference. If you ever have a chance to be on the Conference Planning Committee, take it!

Susan: What made you chose a career in librarianship?

Linda: I stumbled into librarianship almost by accident. I was working at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Library as a library technician and was lucky enough to be allowed to do some original cataloging. I realized how much fun that was and decided to go to library school and get my degree. It probably helped that I’d done a number of other things first, some of which had been pretty demanding physically, and I’d come to realize that it would be a good idea to get into something that I could still do when I got older.

Susan: What positions have you held and where?

Linda: I’ve worked at the UW Libraries in the Serials Division ever since getting my degree in 1996. I started as the Serials Projects Librarian, splitting my time between Serials Acquisitions and Serials Cataloging. This was a temporary position that transitioned into a permanent-track position for which I had to apply. Fortunately for me, I was the successful candidate for the new job of serials services librarian! This was again a split assignment between Serials Acquisitions and Serials Cataloging. Then the person who headed up the Serials Receipts Section left to take another job, and I was asked to take over as head of Serials Receipts. (Besides checking in the serials, the Receipts Section took care of check-in record maintenance in our OPAC and, among other things, functioned as a kind of go-between between Serials Acquisitions and Serials Cataloging.) Then we reorganized the Serials Division in 2005, eliminating the Serials Receipts Section. At that point, I became assistant head of Serials Cataloging, the position I hold today.

Susan: How did you end up in serials?

Linda: When I was first getting my feet wet doing original cataloging, I found that cataloging serials was more interesting and more fun than cataloging monographs. The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Library (UAMS) had a history of medicine collection that included a fair number of uncataloged serials, many of which were newsletters issued by various colleges and departments at the medical school. I ended up cataloging the serials in this collection, and naturally a fair number of the local publications had no records at all in OCLC. I literally spent hours reading AACR2 while I was inputting original records. I felt strongly enough about what I had learned to convince my boss that we should be doing the records for the local newsletters correctly in OCLC as (mostly) corporate body main entry and then changing them for our local catalog to title main entry, which was how the history of medicine librarian wanted them. So I went to library school knowing that I wanted to be a cataloger (yes, I know, I’m weird), and hopefully, a serials cataloger. For part of my course work, I did a field work internship in Serials Cataloging at the UW Libraries. After the course was over, I continued working one afternoon a week as a volunteer in Serials Cataloging. This turned out to be a good move, because when they were looking for a projects librarian for the Serials Division, there I was, already slightly trained and looking for a library job.

Susan: Did you have any mentors?

Linda: Steve Shadle was my field work supervisor and has been one of my primary mentors ever since. He has an amazing depth and breadth of knowledge about serials and cataloging, and he’s really good at sharing it. And Kris Lindlan, my boss, has also taught me an enormous amount about cataloging serials and about librarianship in general.

Susan: What do you enjoy most about your current position?

Linda: Cataloging! Although it can be frustrating at times, especially when I’m trying to set up complicated name authority headings with incomplete information, it’s really challenging and fun, like solving little mysteries all day long. We’re a CONSER library, so I can lock and replace records on OCLC. It’s great to be able to just fix things that are wrong instead of having to report them to OCLC and then hope for the best.

Susan: Did you have another career before you became a librarian?

Linda: Well, I didn’t so much have another career as a series of different jobs. Besides being a library technician, I’ve been a clerk in a music store (my first job out of college), a clerk in a hardware store (twice), a kitchen boss, a house cleaner, the manager of a condominium property owners association, and a quality control chemist in a soybean processing plant.

Susan: How did those experiences contribute to your library career?

Linda: In an indirect way, my string of jobs did contribute to my library career because it acted as an incentive for me to find something I could do and would want to do for the rest of my working life. Working in the soybean processing plant was really what started pushing me seriously in that direction. It was a dirty, noisy, unpleasant place with lots of half-ruined buildings, and one day while I was outside checking something (I forget what, exactly) about the vile-looking water in the coolant tower collection pond, charmingly surrounded as it was by a rusted, pigeon poop-encrusted railing, I realized that what I wanted was to do interesting work in pleasant surroundings for decent pay. My next job was at the UAMS Library where I realized that I had finally found my niche in cataloging, and after that, I never looked back!

Susan: Have you always lived in the Pacific Northwest?

Linda: I’ve been in Seattle since September of 1991, when we moved here so I could go to library school. Prior to that, I’d lived in the South (Texas and Arkansas) all my life except for going to college in Wisconsin. I find I miss Southern voices, warm summer evenings, and thunderstorms (despite our reputation for rain in Seattle, it almost never thunders), but I definitely don’t miss the mosquitoes and giant cockroaches or the extreme heat and humidity.

Susan: Do you have a favorite author, movie(s), TV show(s) or a favorite hobby or

Linda: W. Somerset Maugham is one of my favorite authors. I’d not read much Maugham before I started working at the UW Libraries, but after I read Ashenden: or, The British Agent, I decided to read everything that the Libraries have of his works. I think I’ve now made my way through everything except the acting editions of his plays. I think my two favorite movies are Little Big Man and Time Bandits. I really enjoy South Park on TV for its outrageousness; MythBusters is another favorite show. Also, I love SpongeBob SquarePants, although I think that may fall under the category of (not-so) secret indulgence! Oh, and I read a lot of mystery novels. I think that probably counts as a guilty pleasure, if not another secret indulgence.

Susan: Do you have any secret indulgences you’re willing to share?

Linda: I have a huge sweet tooth (I blame my father for that). Once in a great while I’ll just have ice cream or maybe cookies for dinner and then later will need to drink a big glass of orange juice just to sort of balance things out. And I love deviled eggs–I could probably eat a full dozen in one sitting if given the chance.

Susan: Where would you like to go “to get away from it all?” Or do you have a favorite hangout place in Seattle? A favorite vacation spot?

Linda: Bryce Canyon is one of the coolest places I’ve ever been. It’s simply beautiful, and I’d love to go back there and just spend time exploring it and the surrounding area. The night sky is so clear and dark that you can see all the stars; it’s easy to forget what that’s like, living in a city. I also like the Washington/Oregon coast area a lot, and it’s easier to get to!

Susan: Is there anything about family, friends, pets that you’d like to mention?

Linda: I’ve been married to my husband, Martin, for 33 years. We live in a communal household with our house-mate of many years, Gordon Kuhns, his wife, Lisa, and daughter, Lizzy, who will soon be six. It’s really cool because Martin and I got to be more-or-less instant grandparents without ever having been parents! While being “Auntie Linda” does have its challenges, it’s also great fun, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I have one sister, Ann Miller, who lives in Flagstaff, Arizona with her husband, Rick; they have two children, Tasha and Michael. I’m going to visit them after the conference. That’s going to be great, because I haven’t seen them since October 2005 when Tasha got married. (Doesn’t seem like I should be old enough to have a married niece, but there it is!)

Susan: Have you had an interesting experience or something else that I haven’t asked about?

Linda: Nothing to do with librarianship, but I’ll just share one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. This happened while I was working at UAMS. I was running a little late one day, and instead of parking for free a couple of blocks away from the campus, I decided to pay for a few hours in the closest patient parking lot (hard to believe now that I didn’t want to pay $36 a year for a place in the parking deck!). The lot was at the top of a pretty steep hill. It was raining that day, one of those Arkansas thunderstorms that I miss so much. I had just gotten out of my car and was looking back down the hill when I saw a tree get struck by lightning! The whole tree danced with a crackling blue light that seemed to outline every leaf for a second before dying away. Ironically, the tree was really close to where I normally parked. If I hadn’t decided to park on campus, I would have been just a few yards from the lightening strike when it happened, and I might not be here to write these words today. So let that be a lesson to you about something or other.


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