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Karla Strand, Gender and Women's Studies Librarian
Karla Strand, Gender and Women’s Studies Librarian

Our March Staff Spotlight is with Gender and Women’s Studies Librarian Karla Strand. Karla sat down with our ISIP student, Genesha Murray, to talk about her work and how she landed her role as the Gender and Women’s Studies Librarian.

~By Genesha Murray

Did you always know you wanted to be a librarian?

I don’t think I knew I wanted to be a librarian until I started working in a library during my undergraduate years, but this was sort of my undergraduate 2.0. I went to college as a traditional age student and really didn’t know what I wanted to do. I went and worked at the airport for several years, I worked in the travel industry, I did a bunch of things, I had a son. As soon as I had my son I thought, I need to get back to school, I need to figure out what I want to do finally.

I was volunteering at the Civil War institute they had at Carroll University here in Wisconsin and someone there used to work at the library. They knew they had an opening for a part-time supervisor so I went and worked at the library as a part-time supervisor then they had a fulltime opening and they interviewed me, I got it!  Once I started working in the library full-time, I thought, “Well why didn’t I think of this before?”

What kind of work do you do here in Memorial?

I am the Gender and Women Studies librarian for the University of Wisconsin System. In the position I do all the things a regular librarian would do. I answer a lot of reference questions. I do some teaching, collection development for gender and women studies in Memorial, library guides and things like that.

Then we have so more unique projects and tasks. We have three publications that come out of our office. That’s why I employ a couple editors, I’m actually the only librarian in the office. A lot of what we do is the publications.

One of them is a review publication, Feminist Collections. One of them is Feminist Periodicals and what we do with that is one is duplicate the table contents for over 150 gender and women studies focused journals. The third one is New Books on Gender and Women’s Studies and Feminism, but it is a bibliography, it’s not annotated at this point, it’s all in print. It’s a thick listing of everything that’s new and being published in those areas.

Then I would say there is some outreach and special projects. I do travel around to the UW schools and make sure that I maintain contact with them and support their gender and women’s studies staff departments, which vary in size.

Do you see your role evolving or some of the projects you’re working on changing?

I think not only in this field but as a librarian in general you have to evolve, but with this office in particular I see a few things.

A couple of our publications are only in print, for instance our new book bibliography, I would love to somehow get that set up as a database. I don’t know exactly how to do that or what that looks like but we are investigating that at this point. In essence I’d really like to make those publications as utilitarian as possible. The other thing my focus is on is internationalizing. I think as technology evolves and our world almost gets smaller in a way we need to be helping one another and having those international relationships as well.

What do you enjoy most about your position?

I think for me so far it has been the variety and it’s surprising because maybe you think gender and women’s studies is a more narrow focus, but the size of the UW, the fact that we serve the System as well as Madison, the amazing colleagues that I get to work with who have these outstanding knowledge bases in their specific areas, the amount of things the UW is doing from outreach, programming and collaborations is just really phenomenal. It’s like you have to be careful not to say yes to too many different interesting things!

What are some things you enjoy to do outside of work?

I am a doctoral candidate right now for the University of Pretoria in South Africa and so there really isn’t a lot of free time for me! I am in the last two months of my program so I am feverishly trying to finish my dissertation and get that submitted.

Because my research and program is based in South Africa, I’ve been able to travel there five or six times now. It has been really rewarding. I don’t mean to complain about it, it is a problem I built myself by entering the program, but it has brought me so many opportunities!

Favorite inspirational quote?

The quote that has guided me is from Nelson Mandela, who said, “It always seems impossible until it is done.” That one is my screensaver, it’s everywhere. I love that one. It keeps me going.