Candidate for 2022-2024 Director: John Kromer
John Kromer is the STEM Division head in the Arizona State University Library, a position he has held since 2018. Previously, he was physical sciences librarian at Brown University and physical science and engineering librarian at Miami University.
John received master’s degrees in library and information studies and chemistry, both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and French language & literature from Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. John was the 2019 chair of SLA’s Physics-Astronomy-Mathematics Division and currently co-leads the PAM Industry Partners Relations Committee. He is a member of the Membership Advisory Council and previously served on the Students and New Professionals Advisory Council (SNPAC). He was named a 2017 SLA Rising Star.
John has published and presented on information literacy and collection evaluation in chemistry and on deploying open educational resources in a first-year engineering course. His current research focuses on electronic research notebooks and early career awards in librarianship. In his free time, John plays trombone in Desert Overture, Phoenix’s LGBT concert band, and is a founding member of the Arizona Legacy Pride Hockey Association, Phoenix’s LGBT hockey league. He is “cat dad” to Bernadette and Cody.
Question #1: Why are you a member of SLA? What has kept you a member throughout the years?
I joined SLA on the advice of my first supervisor. I was newly hired as the chemistry librarian, and he told me that SLA had sections focused on relevant subject areas. In preparing for my first conference, I applied for and was awarded a PAM Division travel stipend, and out of a sense of obligation to this group for funding me, I agreed to co-moderate a roundtable the following year. Out of this initial obligation grew a genuine fondness for members of the “PAMily,” and I wanted to give back to them. This desire led me to progressively higher leadership roles within PAM that culminated in my serving as PAM chair in 2019.
My growth within PAM had more indirect impacts as well. When I applied for my current job as STEM Division head at Arizona State University, I had no direct supervisory experience, but my current boss recognized that the faith my PAM colleagues had in me to lead their group showed my leadership—and, to some degree, supervisory—capabilities. SLA has served me well in my career, and I continue looking for ways to grow and also to give back.
Question #2: Why are you running for the SLA Board of Directors? What do you bring to the table? How do you plan to help support other SLA members, if elected?
I am running for the board on a platform of transparency. Members need to know what is going on and what factors went into decisions. Too often we are asked to accept a decision and are assured that it is in the best interest of the members and the organization without being provided the relevant information to evaluate the claims. In turn, we become suspicious of our leaders.
I have been extremely frustrated with the insularity of the SLA Board in recent years. We continue hemorrhaging money and members every year, and while we are making some changes that attempt to stem the flow, those changes are being implemented based on decisions made behind closed doors and without trying to build support among the membership. We continue operating as if we have several thousand members. While some efforts are under way to “right size” our conference, we are nonetheless focusing on recruiting new members at the expense of supporting our existing and longtime members.
We must improve trust in the board, and a primary way of doing so is through transparency. As a manager, I have extensive experience balancing the needs for confidentiality with the needs for information sharing, and I will bring that same expertise to the board.
Question #3: SLA is a leader in its commitment to diversity and inclusion and the importance of civil discourse. Share how you have demonstrated leadership or action in these areas, and how your own experiences will inform your contribution as an SLA board member.
As an international organization, our challenges with diversity encompass an even broader swath than it would if we were just focused on the U.S. or even North America. That internationality also allows us to grow by working with others from different cultures who are united in a common goal of supporting the information profession.
One way that we have tried to address inequity in my workplace is by reducing the barriers to application. We have drastically reduced the number of required qualifications, and in some cases even the preferred qualifications, to allow for more applicants. We have successfully enriched our candidate pool and, thus, our workforce. I would much rather work with an enthusiastic newcomer than with someone who checks all of the required boxes but brings all the same old ideas.
Lastly, I want to say that this question is inherently problematic. Civil discourse is absolutely important, but it’s code for tone policing, as discussed on a recent Connect post (Lessons to be learned, July 2, 2021). While we should absolutely avoid attacking individuals and instead focus on the argument being made, the way this question is asked is fraught with problems.