Interview with Dr. Timothy J. Dickey

Timothy J. Dickey
[Gary W. White] How did you get into the field of librarianship?

[Dr. Timothy J. Dickey] Libraries have actually been a motif throughout my life. My first library jobs were work-study during my undergrad years, shelving books and manning the circulation desk, and then a delightful couple of years working in the College Special Collections Department. While a grad student, I worked in a seminary library, and in music libraries. A post-doc at the OCLC Office of Research brought me to Central Ohio and I absolutely loved the leadership and impact across the library community. However, I missed daily interaction with patrons and students, and needed to get back out into frontline library service and teaching.

[Gary W. White] I want to congratulate you again on your award. Can you talk about the work that you did which led to this?

[Dr. Timothy J. Dickey] The keystone accomplishment that led to the Margaret E. Monroe honor was my recent book, Library Dementia Services: How to Serve the Alzheimer’s Community. Right at the end of a personal stint of caregiving for a family member living with dementia, I attended a conference and noticed that there were no resources at all among the publishers’ tables to help librarians who might want to consider customer service and programming for persons living with dementia, and their caregivers. In other words, there was an enormous need for deeper research into how we can serve this extremely large (more than 6 million Americans) but marginalized population. Since the publication of the book, that need has been reaffirmed by the number of state libraries and library institutions (ALA eLearning, Niche Academy, LYRASIS, New York Public Library, ASIS&T) who have sought me as a speaker and clinician, and over a thousand libraries have added copies to their collections. But the award also recognizes the broader, holistic impact of a librarian’s career, and thus also encompasses my daily work as an Adult Services Librarian for Columbus Metro Library: adult reference and information services, job help and community outreach, adult programming (including programing for older adults), and a wide variety of staff training and mentoring activities. Finally, I also am delighted to teach the next generation of library professionals in the graduate programs at Kent State University and San José State University, and am a very active member of several professional associations: ALA, PLA, ALISE, and a Distinguished Member of ASIS&T.

[Gary W. White] Looking ahead, what do you hope to do in the next stages of your career?

[Dr. Timothy J. Dickey] That is actually a more difficult question than it seems. At present, I am fulfilling a promotion in duties within the Columbus Library system, where I am tasked with launching new adult programs for technology training, for senior services, and for a series of musical concerts. Also in the near term, many libraries continue to request presentations and clinics from me on adult services and on persons living with dementia, and there are deeper levels of professional service on the horizon: the Annual Conference planning committee for the next ALISE conference, and a run for more national-level service next year. Beyond that, I will continue to follow the needs of colleagues and community. It has always been connections to, and help for, human beings that drives my work day to day: serving library patrons and researchers at all levels, and developing more students in their own careers and understanding.

[Gary W. White] How have professional associations such as ALA and RUSA played a part in your career?

[Dr. Timothy J. Dickey] Throughout my career, our professional associations have brought a wide and constant variety of opportunities for professional service: local chapters, committee work, webinar and other speaking opportunities, and conference planning and presentation, both locally and at the association-level. In addition, membership in my professional associations has provided a strong and consistent source of materials for professional learning, through the professional publications, more recently through webinar content, and always through conversations and content at conferences and annual meetings. And this brings me to the greatest benefit, which has been the people that I can meet. My professional home is less the job I currently occupy at any given moment, and more the long-term community of colleagues, and interesting people of all stripes, with whom I connect in the professional associations. The ranks of the associations and their service help define me as a professional.

[Gary W. White] What advice would you give to new librarians or those considering the profession?

[Dr. Timothy J. Dickey] My advice usually starts with “Get involved, and volunteer!” Look for opportunities at different kinds of libraries and other institutions. Get involved with your local and regional associations. Volunteer to do committee service, and by all means make the investment (especially at student or young professional rates) to go to some conferences. You will gain experience and new perspectives, and you’ll learn about the profession by meeting colleagues at all stages of their careers. Second, take your coursework and your ongoing education seriously, and learn lots. Take courses or seminars in areas you might not have considered, and shape your projects to topics that are interesting and practical, and different. Especially, keep learning about emerging technologies of all kinds. Finally, keep being flexible. There is Something that brought you to this profession whether as a first or changing career, and even if the jobs are shifting and budgets are unpredictable, and job openings require you to consider moving, you can use your skills and your passion, and make a difference.

By Gary W. White, member of RUSA’s Achievement Awards and Grants Committee

Find out more about RUSA’s Achievement Awards at

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