Friday, March 18, 2011

Interview with Jon Haupt

This week's interview is with Jon Haupt, who is the interim director of the Hamon Arts Library at SMU in Dallas (which is a fantastic visual and performing arts library, by the way). In addition to this, he is currently serving as the music librarian, so as you can imagine, these two jobs keep him very busy! Without further ado, let's get started!

What is your educational/professional background?

In addition to the MLIS degree from the University of Washington, I also have bachelor's and master's degrees in music (piano performance and musicology, respectively) from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. After finishing the MLIS, I took a job as Fine & Performing Arts Librarian at Iowa State University, where I worked for about four years before coming to SMU as Music Librarian at the Hamon Arts Library. In October 2010, I was named interim Director of the Hamon.

When you graduated college/graduate school what were your career goals/have they changed since?

I was originally pretty focused on being a music librarian in an academic library. One of the reasons why I moved to SMU was to focus more heavily on music. I've always felt at home around other music librarians. I've always tried to combine various things that I enjoy, and music, technology, research, and helping other people are all intertwined. I don't know if I'll always be focused on academic libraries, but you can be sure that I am going to stick with some combination of those four things.

When/how did you decide the LIS career path was for you?

I thought I would major in computer science until my senior year in high school... when I suddenly decided I wanted to be a music major. After my undergrad, however, I decided I didn't want to have to pay the bills with the piano; my music history master's degree was excellent, but I knew I didn't want to pursue the Ph.D. and contend for faculty positions in that, either. I started thinking about it even before I started that musicology program, but it wasn't until after talking it over with other music librarians that I knew that is what I wanted to do.

What does a typical work day look like for you?

Haha. Well, the most typical thing is that my day is completely different from any other day... but basically you can mix and match and plug in things to do across my week until there is no time left. These days, since I am doing two jobs (my old job and the interim job) every day can be very hectic and busy. When I arrive at work, I have to deal with some bizarre thing, like, say, a mysteriously locked door, or a problem with a student worker, or keys dropped down an elevator shaft. I then spend the next 30 minutes trying to figure all that out. As soon as I can sort things out, unless I have to run across campus for a meeting or something, I sit down and sort through my day a little. I use Hiveminder ( to keep track of to-dos and a paper planner to keep track of phone calls and meeting notes. I try to organize myself on Sunday a little bit so that I know what the most important thing(s) I need to finish by the end of the week, and then I use Hiveminder to show me only the to-dos that I need to do on a particular day. At some point, I dive into voicemails and e-mail. Some days there are many, many meetings and I feel like I can't get anything done. Other days, the patrons all seem to need assistance or want to make a complaint or something. I'm usually able to find a day here or there where I can focus and finish a lot of to-dos all at once. So... my days are a mixture of administrative tasks, meetings, helping other people with problems, and typical public services librarian work--collection development, reference shifts, and instruction sessions.

What is your favorite/least favorite thing about your job?

My favorite thing is the sense that all of us in the library are helping to make the library a better place. I get a lot of satisfaction out of students leaving the library with new knowledge of useful research tools and/or how to use them, or getting excited about the new scanner or our new digital music library system and what these tools can do for them. I love working with the other librarians and the rest of the staff to figure out how to improve. We're very lucky that our staff gets along very well right now and is able to maintain a singular focus pretty easily.

My least favorite thing is what happens on the other end of the spectrum—not every interaction can be good. That said, I really don't mind dealing with direct complaints or difficult patrons; passive aggression, deceit, and unexplained opposition by others are more draining. It's hard to keep looking forward sometimes, but our approach is to continue treating others the way we would like to be treated—with respect, honesty, and authenticity.

What is your salary range/What can students interested in working in your type of LIS profession look to make as far as salary (both starting out and over time)?

Academic librarians seem to be typically starting around $35K and going up slowly, possibly to around $100K annually and occasionally beyond—all depending on experience and various aspects of the particular position they hold. I would expect library deans would be paid the highest. Pay differs a lot based on location and other factors.

How do you think your education prepared you/didn't prepare you for your current career?

When I was in library school, there was a lot of talk about practice vs. theory and a lot of people thought we spent too much time on theory. Really, though, I think the mixture was about right. I took two different terms of directed fieldwork and those were obviously pretty practical. I also worked as a student assistant and circ supervisor in the library while doing library school. Anyhow, the coursework that was highly theoretical in nature (information behavior, information in society, general classification, etc.) has also been really useful—just more over time and not so much at the very beginning. The more you get into library work, the more you realize that what you are doing is grounded in theory and that your understanding of the theory is important to understanding why it occurs to you to do something one way or another. That all sounds highly esoteric, I'm sure... but I think about it a lot when doing a card sort to figure out the best way to organize web pages or am trying to explain why browsing subject headings in our catalog is useful and actually matters.

What advice do you have for current/graduating library and information science students?

First off, when looking for a job, you really have to either choose a narrow field (based on subject knowledge or some sort of job niche) or narrow location (you want to live in X city) but generally not both. The more broad you are with where you're willing to live, the more likely you'll find a job in the particular area of expertise you want. Of course, some people just get lucky and the job is available when they want it.

I'd also suggest that you look beyond traditional jobs. Many people who graduated with me are working at pretty neat private companies, doing related work (using the same theory!) and probably getting paid pretty well. Many different career paths are rewarding and you can use what you have learned in this program on many, many things. What company doesn't need someone with a really good understanding of categorization or indexing?

What changes do you foresee for the field of Library and Information Science in the next five to ten years?

Not only did a lot of people graduate from my program and go work at all kinds of different types of places, they planned to all along—it seemed like about half of the students were not really comfortable with the whole "librarian" concept, but loved the program anyway and happily found work doing things they liked. I think the most successful schools right now are doing a brilliant job of balancing theory and practice as well as balancing librarianship with information science. All of the concepts mesh very well together—but it does take some work to organize everything so that it makes sense. Right now, people graduating from different types of schools sometimes don't feel they have a lot in common, but I think more and more you'll see that is not the case. We really all are studying the same thing—schools are just tipping one way or the other on those scales.

Special thanks to Jon for taking time out of his busy schedule to participate in the interview! If you have any questions for him, he can be reached at

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