Why I joined RefME: My Ringside Seat to the Evolution of Academic Libraries

Thoughts from a tech enthusiast, library evangelist & higher education devotee 

Having spent the majority of my working life within higher education software companies, I realised that this was never my intention at the onset of my career and I was certain that “library land” would be just another stop along the journey. Fast forward 15 years, and I’ve learned it’s the consistent culture of innovation, the opportunity to develop new tools and methodologies for leveraging information and affecting real change at so many different levels of the institution, that has kept me so engaged.

This year, I have taken the unique opportunity of being the first North American-based member of RefME. I am charged with representing RefME to North America, as well as, representing North America to RefME. In addition to removing the errant ‘ou’ or ‘zed’ for ‘z’, there are considerable differences in our higher education systems on these two sides of the pond – though, one thing remains the same: the exciting opportunity within education due to the rise of technology and big data.

When I left the large vendor space for an EdTech startup, I fielded many questions from friends, family, colleagues and clients about my decision. In my mind, it came down to two simple questions: when was I the happiest in my career? And, when did I have the most to offer to the community that had been such a big part of my life over the past 15 years?  The answer was clear: It was when I was able to directly impact the user.

I spend so much of my time in libraries all over North America and to see a user interact with the tools and services that I’ve played a part in delivering is an experience that I will never grow tired of. Never before have I had the opportunity to experience this concept more vividly than with RefME.

Throughout my various roles in this industry, I’ve had a ringside seat to the evolution of academic libraries in North America. Content left the confines of the physical library, card catalogs began storing ketchup packets and salt and pepper in the staff lounge and, Google, mobile devices and “the cloud” were the new challenger. Higher education libraries needed to embrace the idea that they could remain the center of information on campus. The burden fell to software developers to ensure that their solutions could provide the same user experience that “digital native” patrons had been accustomed to while at the same time, enabling libraries to stay true to Library Science and the professional librarians who manage, curate and disseminate their institutions’ collections. It was the first step towards shaping libraries to what they have become today, centers of campus that offer new tools and services to patrons like media suites and maker spaces.

I’ve decidedly joined the RefME team during this exciting phase of growth – so far – it’s been beyond a rewarding ride. It showed considerable faith and foresight on behalf of the RefME founders to recognise the need for a presence in the North American market. With that said, I thought I would share some guidance from amazing mentors that have played a part in not only my success, but further enabled me to be positioned to make this move to RefME:

1. Be passionate about what you’re doing and surround yourself with passionate people:

I have the opportunity to work with a young, dynamic, group of innovative professionals who are dedicated to providing leading edge technology solutions to meet the needs of our users and clients. This group includes not only our founders, but the sales and marketing team, our developers, support staff and office management.

2. Wear as many hats as you can make fit:

Variety and challenging assignments have always been the motivating force in my career. RefME provides me with the ability to stay creative in multiple roles and with the autonomy to to make the decisions necessary to extend RefME’s success into North America.  

…and while not direct advice, I’ve always subscribed to the idea from former Google CEO Eric Schmidt:

 3.  “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, get on, don’t ask what seat.”

The excitement that my role today may not be my role tomorrow, and that every day poses a new set of challenges and successes is something that I look forward to every day.