Interview with Michelle Bagley, Portland Community College

Michelle Bagley is a long-time Portland resident, but is new to Oregon libraries, having worked as the Library Director at Clark College in Vancouver, Washington for many years. She is now seven months into her role as Dean of the Library at Portland Community College.

Photo of Michelle Bagley
Michelle Bagley, Dean of the Library, Portland Community College

Tell us a little bit about your work background. How did you get into librarianship?

I was working in private industry and serving as a liaison to the inaugural First Book Local Advisory Board (Portland, OR) when I began considering a career change. One of the board members urged me to look into a career in librarianship. After some research and reflection I enrolled in the Emporia State SLIM program. I graduated in 2004 and began working in libraries shortly thereafter. Librarianship has been a terrific career path for me. I have been able to use my extensive management and customer service skills developed in my previous career and apply my passion for access to information and education.

What has been the greatest influence upon you so far in your career?

As a graduate student I strongly considered a career in corporate librarianship. This was due in large part to my educational background and work experience. I became a member of the Special Libraries Association (SLA) and the Oregon Special Libraries chapter. As a new librarian, volunteering in a professional association was instrumental in getting established in the profession. I attribute the relatively small membership and extremely diverse range of libraries represented in SLA in equipping me with the skills to advance pretty rapidly. My involvement with SLA gave me the opportunity to chair meetings, plan conferences and professional development events, to work on strategic planning, and to develop professional relationships to SLA leadership. I also joined the SLA Education Division and had the chance to work with some terrific library educators who were staunch advocates for the role of information literacy and libraries.

When I began working as the library director at Clark College (Vancouver, WA) I immediately became involved in consortium and state/system library leadership. Through participation in the Washington Library Leadership Council and the Orbis Cascade Alliance I was able to deepen my experience and work on initiatives with the goal to enhance library services and promote effective state/regional partnerships. Also I worked with leaders from across Clark College. Serving as a member of Instructional Council and other key college groups provided me with the opportunity to learn and contribute to the college’s work focused on student learning and success. As I progressed in my role at Clark we were able to bring other key academic supports into the same unit as the library.  In this transition I was able to take the lead on integrating tutoring, eLearning, student technology support, and faculty support into library services. This was a model we had put into practice at my first library job. This change in my responsibilities had a big impact on continuing to build my capacity as a college leader. I became much more involved in instructional planning and decision making.

What is an achievement in your career of which you’re particularly proud?

The achievement that I am most proud of, at this point in my career, was the work that I lead renovating sections of Clark College’s Cannell Library and developing a new student service area, Tech Hub. The development of Tech Hub originated during the revision of Clark’s comprehensive IT plan. A key outcome for the plan was to develop centralized student technology help. The partnership between IT, eLearning, and the library demonstrated the best of collaboration.

Shortly after the development of Tech Hub, the library presented a proposal to the Student Technology Fee Committee to fund a some necessary improvements to the library. The first part of the proposal was an update to the lower level of the library to accommodate a collaborative commons, including improvements to the electrical/data infrastructure in the library. The renovated space is beautiful and has become a destination for students looking for collaborative learning spaces. The second part of the project was a modification the second floor computer lab which presented some hazards for building evacuation and was consistently mentioned in the student satisfaction survey as being too crowded, too hot, and too loud. By moving roughly half of the computers from this lab to the new collaborative commons, the space became an inviting “quiet” computer lab.

I am proud of these projects because they demonstrate the things that I am most passionate about – listening to/observing library user needs, developing services based on these needs, and having a positive impact on learners.

What would you like Oregon academic librarians to know about your institution?

PCC Library is a very innovative library with a focus on instruction, student success, collaboration, assessment, and student-centered services. The library staff and faculty are very active contributors to work related to teaching and learning, assessment, and librarianship. They are strong partners in collaborative efforts at the college, in the Pacific Northwest, and nationally. These partnerships range from work with PCC faculty on integrating information literacy and library resources into to their courses, to advocating and promoting the use of Open Educational Resources, to developing new programs and services that provide access to library collections and technology across our service district.

What is the biggest challenge facing your library in the upcoming year?

A big challenge that PCC Library is facing in the coming year is continued pressure on our budgets (which is likely a common theme at many academic libraries).

Also PCC has recently joined Achieving the Dream. This year is a planning year; the challenge is to find a balance between letting the foundational work occur and having the college include information literacy and the library into the re-imagined student experience.

What does advocacy for academic libraries look like from your perspective as a library director?

While the library director plays a key role in this work I have found advocacy is most effective when all library staff can speak a common message to the college community (and beyond). This is particularly important because academic libraries are multi-faceted – definitely academic in nature, strongly linked to student services, part of the college’s physical infrastructure, and a place for community engagement. We all can keep the library on the radar of college leaders and decision makers, develop and maintain solid collaborative relationships with faculty, student services and other college staff, and promote student-focused services and spaces.

This means that everyone working in an academic library benefits from being involved in library planning. Ideally each person has the capacity to highlight the library as an important campus learning space, communicate the importance of information literacy in our students’ learning, speak to the cultural importance of libraries for campuses, respond to the growing need to support our faculty and staff in their work. When library faculty and staff are actively involved in planning and operations in all areas and all levels of the college, the library benefits.

As the library director I have the responsibility to advocate for and demonstrate the impact that integrating academic libraries into the college’s instructional programs and student supports has on our students and our community. I am also responsible for creating an environment that prepares all library staff to be engaged in the conversations and activities.

Anything else you’d like Oregon academic librarians to know about you?

I am very excited to now live and work in Oregon. I am eager to get more involved in working with academic libraries, to learn more about specific initiatives that are important to Oregon libraries, to promote our value to students, faculty, and staff as well as to state leaders. I think it is crucial that we continue to advocate for libraries to ensure that libraries are involved in key educational initiatives, are funded to accomplish our objectives, and are recognized for the impact that we have locally, regionally, and nationally.

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