23:3 (2008:09) Profiles: Jill Emery

September 16, 2008 at 12:29 pm | Posted in Profiles | Leave a comment
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Susan Davis, Profiles Editor

Our new president, Jill Emery, is head of acquisitions at the University of Texas Libraries in Austin. She has lived in Texas almost all of her life, having graduated from UT’s information school and having previously held positions at the University of Houston, the University of Texas, Arlington, and Texas Southern University.

NASIG president Jill Emery

NASIG president Jill Emery

She has been the subject of several other profiles and interviews on the web. See: Library Journal when she was named one of 50 “Movers and Shakers” in 2004, http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA385876.html; Emerald Insight, http://info.emeraldinsight.com/librarians/management/interviews/emery.htm; and OCLC Systems & Services, http://eprints.rclis.org/archive/00006033/01/ELIS_OTDCF_v22no1.pdf.  She was also the 2006 recipient of the Esther J. Piercy award given by the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services.

Jill was a 1995 Conference Student Grant recipient, and is the second student grant winner to be elected president (the other being Steve Oberg, a 1991 student grant winner and president for 1998/99).  I asked her to think back to that momentous occasion (the 1995 NASIG Conference) to see if she ever imagined she’d become president. She laughed.

Jill told me she was actually a bit down about her career prospects after graduation because the academic library job market was not very promising at that time.  Participating in the NASIG conference bolstered her spirits, erased doubts about her career choice, and generated interest in becoming involved in the organization.

The 1995 conference at Duke was NASIG’s 10th anniversary and we had a cake to celebrate, among other special events.  Jill remembers spending some one-on-one time with October Ivins, NASIG president at the time, who became a valuable mentor.  October was about to embark on a PhD program at UT Austin, and Jill was finishing her MLS there.  They had lots to talk about, especially comparing notes on the library school!

Jill believes her involvement in NASIG has given her a broader perspective of librarianship and the opportunity to make some really good contacts.  She has a wide network of colleagues she can tap into when she needs others to work on projects with her.

In some organizations, the president or chair has a theme for their presidency, and while some of the earlier generation of presidents simply wanted to survive the year without a major disaster, Jill has some definite ideas about what she’d like to accomplish this year.  She’d like to see NASIG build relationships with other organizations, particularly ER&L (Electronic Resources & Libraries) and SSP (Society for Scholarly Publishing). All three have important roles to play in the field, each with a somewhat different focus.  NASIG should not feel threatened by any of these–there is room for all!


Jill told the story in other interviews about being one of the “geeky” kids helping out in the library during elementary and junior high school. She found it was a good way to get to read Cricket, National Geographic, and Ranger Rick before everyone else did.

Jill’s story about how she became a librarian is not unusual. She had been working in the library during her undergraduate years and thought she’d be a technical writer. The job market for writers was pretty tough, and her colleagues in the library where she got a job after college encouraged her to go to library school because she “cared too much” about the library. So she went to library school, won a NASIG Conference Student Grant award, and the rest, as they say, is history!

In previous interviews, Jill stated that she viewed librarianship as an interim step before doing something else. Yet, thirteen years later she’s still a librarian. She still believes librarianship is an interim career for her, but she even now isn’t sure what else she’d like to do.  Jill is very comfortable with what she’s doing now, nonetheless she doesn’t envision staying with it for the rest of her life.

I noted from reading other interviews with Jill that she likes to read mysteries and had been reading Japanese mystery novels.  She has moved geographically onto the Asian continent and is reading Russian mysteries by Boris Akunin.  One series is Erast Fandorin set in late czarist times; another is with Sister Pelagia.

A couple of friends who are food sociologists have sparked her interest in the economies and sociology of food culture so she has begun reading books such as The Sushi Economy: Globalization and the Making of Modern Delicacy.  It’s about how tuna grew from a cat food ingredient to a major delicacy.

Jill used to have a blog but it’s on hiatus. She does read a number of other folks’ blogs.  I don’t know how she fits all of this into an already full workday, but here’s a list of the sites she tries to follow:

Peter Brantley (executive director, Digital Library Federation)

Karen Coyle (mostly on RDA)

The Blog Lific (Peter McCracken)

Sivacracy.net  (Siva Vaidhyanathan)

Scholarly Kitchen (Society for Scholarly Publishing)

Library Web Chic (former colleague Karen Coombs)

T. Scott (T. Scott Plutchak)

Jill does find time for fun on occasion and enjoys an eclectic taste in music.  Due to time constraints she has to be more selective in the live music events she attends, and she particularly enjoys smaller venues. In March each year, Austin hosts South by Southwest (SXSW, Inc.), a Music and Media Conference.  Jill says this is a great place to see bands you like in smaller venues or at odd times.  She also goes to see friends play live shows.  She also tries to support her friends who are artists by attending their shows and purchasing some of their works.

Jill bought a house in Austin with a big yard about a year ago and has been somewhat successful trying to get a garden going. The hot, dry conditions have minimized her tomatoes and okra plantings, and I suspect the remnants of Edouard were too little, too late to perk up her plants.

Jill was about to embark on a top-secret site visit for the 2010 conference with Joyce Tenney and Rick Anderson.  I’m sure we’ll hear more about that visit in future board minutes or via the NASIG website. That will be NASIG’s 25th anniversary so it has to be a very special venue!


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