Since launching RedLink Network and Library Dashboard at the Charleston Conference in 2016, we have been lucky enough to get to know many interesting and dedicated librarians, and we thought our readers would like to get to know them, as well.  This interview introduces Kate Hill of UNC-Greensboro and the Carolina Consortium, and is intended to be the first in an occasional series.


Tell us about your current role at the Carolina Consortium, and a little bit about how the Consortium works.

Carolina Consortium, as we say on our website, “enables libraries in North Carolina and South Carolina to use their bulk purchasing power to obtain favorable pricing on a variety of electronic resources.”  Based out of the University of North Carolina Greensboro (UNCG), we work with our libraries to bring potential deals before them, get feedback in terms of level of interest, and if there is enough interest, work with the vendors to develop discounted pricing for all libraries.  We generally only negotiate price, not licensing.  We have no membership fee; you are a member if you participate in one of our deals.

We are a small operation.  There are only about five of us, mostly out of UNCG, who handle deals.  I am one of those folks; I negotiate, monitor, update and promote about ten deals, including Redlink!  I also am always on the lookout for new products that might be good to offer to our libraries.  As the main licensing librarian at UNCG, I handle license negotiation if we need to do any of that for our offers.

Please tell us a bit about yourself – where did you grow up, where and what did you study; do you have any hobbies?

I am originally from a small town of 7,000 people in Wisconsin.  I went to Macalester College in St. Paul Minnesota, where I studied the highly practical subjects of Religious Studies and Archaeology, and then made my way to University of Wisconsin Madison for my Masters of Library Science.  When not working, I love hiking, watching true crime shows, and larping (live action role playing, or adults playing fancy games of pretend mixed with a bit of theater).

How did you enter the field of academic librarianship?  What was your first role, and your path to your current position at UNC-Greensboro and the Carolina Consortium?

I had worked in academic libraries throughout college as an undergraduate work study student and as a summer job.   I also ended up working at both a public and school library while serving with Americorps.   I seemed to just be destined for librarianship! In library school, I realized that I enjoyed academic librarianship the most, and I focused my studies there.  I was very fortunate to get a fellowship at North Carolina State University, and that two-year position really pushed me forward and gave me incredible opportunities.   Part of that job was working in Acquisitions, and I discovered I enjoyed the work of electronic resources librarianship and wanted to continue in that field.  I was very happy when this job opened soon after my fellowship ended, and I have been at UNCG now for four years.

How would you say the role of consortia has evolved in recent years? 

Carolina Consortium is the first consortia I have worked closely with, but I also did work with a consortium in Wisconsin and worked a bit with NC Live, another statewide consortium.  I think one of the big changes is that I am seeing consortia branch out beyond just traditional resource purchasing and into both creation of systems and different purchasing models.  For example, Lyrasis just brought Duraspace under its leadership, which indicates a move towards offering platform services as well as content and they have been offering products like Islandora for some time.  We at Carolina Consortium have been seeing a greater interest in shared print and shared PDA/EBA collections, allowing more libraries to benefit from distributed purchasing power.  We also have seen more and more push back against models like the big deal, a model which has formed the heart of consortia purchasing, especially within Carolina Consortium.  It will be interesting to see if we as consortia can take our purchasing power and move it towards putting pressure on scholarly and scientific publishing.  Can we become a more activist unit in terms of scholarly publishing?  Should we?

How do you think the roles of academic libraries and librarians have changed in recent years?  Are there particular challenges you see for the future of scholarly communication?

This is a huge question!  In our own library, there have been many changes.  The print collection is becoming less important, but library space in an academic environment is still paramount.  Students use the library for so much more than materials at this point, and are looking for a good place to focus, relax, or work together.  A focus on creating an inviting space for people not books is a huge change.  Librarians also no longer can assume that people WILL use their collections.  One area that technical services has become much more involved in is understanding users and their marketing and outreach needs.   This type of research used to be mostly in the hands of reference and public services, but as we need to make smarter decisions about what to purchase and what to cancel (especially with stagnant budgets and inflation),  conducting user research through surveys and focus groups and then combining it with usage statistics and other types of analytics becomes essential.  We are becoming much more user centered and assessment driven.  In addition, I think we are seeing libraries become partners and specialty service providers for the academic sector beyond information literacy and collections.  Instead, we see data management, GIS and data visualization, digital media creation, digital humanities, and other specialties that help researchers expand the vision of what the library can be and should be.

What are some of the key issues facing libraries around strategies for electronic resources at this point?

As an electronic resources librarian, my key issues include: how to manage of a lot of content and metadata with a small staff using limited tools, stagnant budgets and an ever increasing amount of material to purchase,  lack of communication between vendors, knowledge base providers and libraries and the constant question of how do we get users to actually take advantage of all of the materials we do make available.    I spend a great deal of time trying to make things discoverable, realizing that metadata is incorrect and moving data from one siloed system to another.  Automation and communication is key, but I feel that having these problems solved well is something that is a ways off.

What is your favorite part of your work?

I love my job, but there are two aspects from where I derive a lot of satisfaction.  One is implementing new workflows and tools to improve processes for staff on the backend as we work to control all the material that exists around electronic resources.  I love developing a project to improve an aspect of our workflow, be it gathering usage statistics or troubleshooting access issues, and seeing it to fruition.  I also greatly enjoy conducting user research and using that research to better inform user-facing systems and resource discovery.  I started out at NC State in both Electronic Resources and User Experience as a library fellow, and I appreciate UNCG allows me to keep a bit of that usability role in my current job.

At RedLink, our customer base includes both libraries and publishers, and one of our goals is to support the community of shared interest.  Do you have any thoughts about the relationship between libraries and publishers?

Libraries and publishers can regularly be seen as enemies (Open Access and freedom of information versus profit) and while I do believe that complaints against some publishers are fair, I also think we must recognize that we both want the same thing: to have high quality scholarship and literature made available to readers.  We are mutually dependent on each other, and because of this we need to treat each other respect, in good faith, and not enter into all interactions with hostility.  Because of this, it is essential that libraries and publishers freely share information, and act with transparency.  Libraries tend to do a good job at this, but publishers need to be open with their usage statistics, with their metadata, and need to enter conversation with libraries about what information we truly need to help us do our jobs.  Only through working together and listening and sharing can we develop workflows that help us all.