A One-On-One Conversation with ISL Director Jacob Speer

A One-On-One Conversation with ISL Director Jacob Speer
By: Ryan Brown
From The Wednesday Word, December 10, 2014

This week, I sat down with new ISL Director Jacob Speer and picked his brain about his personal and professional affiliation with the library. The following is a series of questions and answers from our interview.
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RB: What got you interested in becoming a librarian?

JS: I have always been interested in reading and literacy. I was a journalism and English major in college and when I was done with college I was looking around at what I wanted to do and I thought, “I really like libraries.” I worked at the University of Iowa at the main library as an undergrad and I really enjoyed it. When I moved to Washington [D.C.] I got a job in a special library and I thought, “This is for me.” I wanted to go back and get my graduate degree [in library science] because I thought it would be a good career opportunity and I like the way libraries can impact lives.  There’s a lot of interesting things going on in libraries and a lot of interesting people that to meet.

RB: How did you become the Director at ISL?

JS: I ended up going to Indiana University for my master’s, so I was aware of the Indiana State Library. After getting my master’s, I moved to Chicago and I was working in another special library and I started thinking, “I really want to work in a more traditional library doing traditional library services.” A position became available in the Indiana division downstairs and I thought, “That’s for me, I’m going to apply for this.”

After about nine months in the Indiana division, I was promoted to the head of the Library Development Office. I really enjoyed my time there because we served and supported a lot of other libraries and library types, then the director position in Zionsville at the Hussey-Mayfield Memorial Public Library came open. Zionsville is a great library and has a really great community that supports their library, so I was really happy to get that job in June of 2010 and I was there for about three-and-a-half years. I really enjoyed my time there. Then I had a brief stay in Iowa at the Waukee Public Library. That was a move more for family — because we would be close to family – but when this position became available [director of ISL], I thought it was a really great opportunity and my wife likes it in Indianapolis, so we decided to come back. It is a great opportunity to be the director of the Indiana State Library and have the ability to work with all the libraries in Indiana.”

RB: What is your favorite item at the State Library?

JS: First, I think the building is a treasure. The Art Deco style of the building is really interesting, as far as one item, there is so many fantastic collections at the library…I would say the tablet with Cuneiform script that is the earliest form of writing is a favorite.

RB: What type of activities do you enjoy outside of working at the State Library?

JS: [Chuckling] I haven’t done it a lot recently since we had the kids and moving, but I like to ride my bike and I like to play tennis and read and spend time with my family.

RB: What is your favorite book?

JS: I enjoy many authors and genres of literature. John Updike’s work, particularly his Rabbit series is a favorite of mine.

RB: Where do you see things heading for the Indiana State Library in the next five years?

JS: There will be an emphasis on Indiana Memory and digitizing select collections of the State Library including newspapers, and figuring out how to continue to evolve INSPIRE and all library services so that they meet the needs of the public. The State Library will also play a role in assisting libraries to remain strong and relevant via training, services and resources.

This blog post was written by ISL Communications Director Ryan Brown. For more information about the Indiana State Library, please visit http://in.gov/library/.