10 Questions: Kelly Bergman and Angela Pagliaro

The co-authors of the best contributed paper presented at SLA 2016 didn’t plan to become librarians, but there’s nothing accidental about their passion for meeting clients’ needs and engaging with users.

By Jocelyn McNamara, MLS

This interview appears in the July-August 2016 issue of Information Outlook.

Like many of their peers, Angela Pagliaro and Kelly Bergman “found” librarianship—Kelly after working as a marketing analyst, Angela after a brief stint as an English language teacher and tutor. The two are not content, however, to simply let their clients “find” the library and its services.

To promote the services of their organization’s library, the two developed a graphic that defines what the library does and how it can meet clients’ needs. This graphic became the foundation of a paper they presented at the SLA 2016 Annual Conference in Philadelphia. The paper, “Levels of Engagement Framework: Meeting Users at the Intersection of Need and Know-How,” was voted the best contributed paper presented at SLA 2016, earning Angela and Kelly free registration to SLA 2017 in Phoenix.

“The Levels of Engagement Framework can be used to promote the library’s products and services as well as serve as a guide for allocating the library’s resources,” the paper states. “Typically, librarians promote their offerings by presenting a list of products and services. In this scenario, users are responsible for matching their information need to the appropriate service. However, this approach is problematic if the services are unfamiliar. Librarians should consider the framework to help define what the library can provide.”

Information Outlook sat down with Kelly and Angela in Philadelphia, shortly after the two had presented their paper at SLA 2016.

I’d like to start out talking a little bit about your backgrounds. What are you doing now professionally, and how did you get to this point in your careers?

Kelly: Librarianship is my second career. Prior to this, I was a marketing analyst for a greeting card company, and I really enjoyed the research aspect of it. I tried to find ways to learn more about how I could further my research skills. I ended up finding the MLIS program at Rutgers and was very intrigued by it. I knew I’d always wanted to get my master’s degree, and I found a really good fit with Rutgers.

I earned my MLIS in 2009, and then started working at ETS , Educational Testing Service, as a temp. I was in a temporary position for two years, then was hired as a full-time employee. Due to internal opportunities, I moved from being an analyst to a consultant, and now I’m managing Knowledge Services at ETS.

Angela: I started in libraries when I was an undergraduate, working in an archive. I didn’t know that I could make a career out of librarianship, but I kept it in the back of my mind. After I graduated, I taught English abroad and worked in some schools, and I thought I would just become an English teacher. But when I found myself thinking about graduate school more and more, I gravitated toward library science.

I had very little knowledge of what librarianship looked like or what I wanted to do with it, but I just knew that it was for me. I earned my MLIS at Rutgers, and when I was approaching my last semester, I saw there was a temporary position available at the ETS Library. I got in touch with the staff, the temporary work became full time, and the rest is history.

ETS is a nonprofit, so I’m curious: What you would say are the salient features, if any, of working in a nonprofit library as opposed to, say, a public or corporate library?

Kelly Bergman

Kelly Bergman

Kelly: From the perspective of Knowledge Services, the way things run is similar to other types of libraries. You still have budget issues, and you still have to make sure you’re getting information to clients in a timely manner.

I think the big difference is that the work we do in a nonprofit is very mission driven, which for our organization means making sure there’s quality and equity in education. We have our mission printed on our badge, which is really a nice feature. But in terms of the inner workings of the library, it’s very similar to a corporate library or an academic library.

Angela: Like a public library, we are nonprofit. But unlike a public library, we have a very tailored collection. We have a big research and development division at ETS. Historically, and even now, it’s a great place for researchers to come to work. And when researchers from academic settings come to visit ETS, they see the library, and I think there’s a feeling of comfort there.

Kelly: At its core, ETS is a research-based organization. They really try to leverage our unit, Knowledge Services, to help recruit researchers to come to ETS. And like Angela said, it gives them comfort to know they’ll have resources available that are equivalent to those at an academic library.

Apart from the library, what does Knowledge Services encompass at ETS? What other resources are available?

Kelly: The ETS Library is at the heart of Knowledge Services, which also includes an archive of the history of ETS. The main non-library functions we support are data collection and reporting related to finance and other special projects. Our skills in collecting, organizing, and reporting data make us an attractive resource to other divisions.

Angela: I think a lot of corporate libraries have eliminated their physical collections. We retained ours, and it’s growing—slowly, but it’s growing. A physical collection is a common staple of libraries, and yet untraditional in the corporate setting.

Kelly: Yes, we have a very large physical collection. And we’re so fortunate, because they showcase the library’s collection in the headquarters on the first floor. So when somebody comes into the headquarters, where the office of the president is, they see it. We have about 20,000 physical books, we circulate items, and we still have print journals that route. Any way that we can get information into the hands of researchers who need it, we’ll do it, no matter how traditional the service.

Angela: In addition to seeing the physical collection in our headquarters, our patrons see the ETS Library staff in an open environment, just beyond the collection. Our resources seem traditional, but in a corporate setting they are pretty unique!

Working every day with researchers who understand the value of what you’re doing is pretty special. I imagine they’re probably a great ally to have as customers.

Angela Pagliaro

Angela Pagliaro

Angela: I think our users in research are definitely our biggest advocates. We do check-ins with them, and we’ll ask them to try out something new to help us decide on purchases or identify the bugs. They contact us when something isn’t working for them, and we contact them when we acquire new resources. We co-construct searches with them from time to time and provide learning sessions. They are definitely friends of the library.

I think that our interactions with the researchers and our other users may have influenced our topic for the contributed paper. Our library services are more than categorizing and fulfilling requests; we want to be a partner and a resource for our patrons and understand what they need to do their jobs. This goes beyond the folks in research—we want to ensure that anyone at ETS can reach out to the library for anything.

You just mentioned the contributed paper. Tell me more about it and the “levels of engagement framework” that it’s based on.

Angela: The paper was almost a byproduct for us; initially, we wanted to create something that would represent the different ways people engage with us. The Levels of Engagement visual started as a marketing tool to inform users of the services we offer. We found ourselves with an overwhelming list of examples that support each level, and those examples eventually drove the content featured in our paper.

Kelly: I agree with what Angela said earlier that the researchers here at ETS are our biggest advocates, but we have so many resources applicable to other areas, such as finance, legal, marketing, HR, etc. We want users to take advantage of our corporate-wide subscriptions and understand that the library has something for everyone.

The Levels of Engagement framework [below] shows this assortment of services. The last two levels of the framework, Organize and Embed, are probably the ones most unfamiliar to our users. Having them understand that we’re available to help organize their data and partner with them on critical projects helps expand the reach of Knowledge Services.

Levels of Engagement

For example, the whole concept of embedded work is new to the ETS Library. Before I became the manager of Knowledge Services, I began working very closely with the folks in New Product Development. The idea of a librarian being embedded in a group was new to ETS, and it ended up being a huge success. So now that role has expanded to other divisions.

What kind of new product development does ETS do?

Kelly: We design new ways to measure knowledge and ability. For example, our current tests include the GRE, PRAXIS, TOEFL, and TOEIC. We’re developing new types of tests, really trying to look beyond the edge. We’re asking, what is testing going to look like in five years? How are people going to want to measure ability in the future? What kind of technology will support that measurement?

Angela: Some of the people who work in New Product Development have business backgrounds, and there may be some gaps in information management. Knowledge Services provides that intervention for them by performing customized search requests, keeping information organized, and connecting people to people for knowledge transfer.

You’ve mentioned technology a few times here. Is there a piece of new technology or a trend in the field that you two are excited about, either personally or for ETS specifically?

Angela: I think we have to move a little bit faster than our users and anticipate what kind of information or technology will be needed for them to perform their work. In the industry we support, the library needs to be responsible for knowing what’s trending in education, technology, and policy. In a different scope but the same principle, the library needs to know how our own industry and resources are evolving.

Kelly: A new favorite of mine is virtual reality. I think virtual reality is a technology that could influence a lot of different areas, including educational measurement. That’s something on the horizon that I think is going to be revolutionary for a lot of different industries. It’s also a lot to fun to play around with different devices that enable the VR experience!

Kelly, you’re a professional woman in a leadership role. Is leadership something you fell into, or did you always have leadership aspirations? What has your leadership experience been like?

Kelly: I did sorta’ fall into that role. I have to say that the key to my success is my manager, Karen McQuillen. She’s now the executive director of our entire division; she used to be in my position, manager of knowledge services.

Having her as a mentor has really helped me develop as a leader and understand the different qualities of good leadership. I have to say that, based on what I’ve seen so far, leadership is very dependent on the team you lead. I think a lot of leadership is related to finding ways to have each employee work on things that match their skill set. In the library world, you have a lot of tasks: circulation, inter-library loan, archives, reference. I think one of the goals of good leadership is to match each person’s skills to those tasks, so I do a lot of shifting of responsibilities among the staff.

Angela and Kelly "take the cake" at a surprise party given by their ETS co-workers in honor of their paper being named the best contributed paper at SLA 2016.

Angela and Kelly “take the cake” at a surprise party given by their ETS co-workers in honor of their paper being named the best contributed paper at SLA 2016.

Right now we have five team members in Knowledge Services, and I manage each person differently. I meet with the team weekly and with each person weekly just to do a check-in and make sure everything is aligned. I’ve only been in this role for about six months, but so far, I see the biggest success when someone is doing what they enjoy because their work matches their skill set.

Angela: Kelly and Karen both exhibit qualities of leadership. They’re both listeners and learners. They will always give you time. I can have honest conversations with them when I feel discouraged or in need. That thoughtfulness is who they are as people, and they carry it through with everyone they work with, inside and outside the library. I think the root of librarianship is wanting to help, and that’s what the two of them are about.

We hear a lot in library land about needing to do a better job of demonstrating our value. You say the ETS Library has been around more than 50 years, but there are a lot of libraries that have been around for 50 years that don’t have the same prestige or recognition. Do you perform a lot of outreach or develop metrics to quantify your value?

Kelly: I think you have to be very flexible and shift with the times. I think a lot of libraries that don’t succeed just stay in the mindset of, this is what we do as a library, and we only do this kind of service. I think you need to be very agile and responsive to the needs of your clientele.

There are a lot of different ways that we engage with our clients and get to know their needs. One of the things Angela can probably speak about is how you can take a single information transaction, like someone looking for a book, and dig further to find out what that person is working on. And a lot of times, relationships develop from that.

Angela: We just gave our contributed paper presentation, and one of the examples we cited was of a patron who came to us because she followed a journalist on social media and needed full access to the resource. We added it to our subscriptions, but then we realized there was another group at ETS that could also find that service valuable. That other group informed us that the resource completely reshaped how they were getting work done.

We captured their testimonial in a qualitative way, but we also looked at it in a quantitative way. We asked them, what does this content allow you to do now that you could not do before? How often do you use the resource? How much time does it save, and has the quality of the work improved?

When it comes to library sustainability and talking about value, I think you need numbers. That said, the numbers aren’t helpful unless they come with a narrative. Without that narrative, everything’s relative—you have no idea what the results really mean and how to measure impact. Tying numbers to work is essential for understanding the library’s value.

My last question is about the coolest thing you guys have done in your career—something you’ve seen or an experience you’ve had, whether at ETS or elsewhere.

Angela: I had this really great professor in college. It was his last year teaching, and with the final class approaching, we all wanted to make it a really special day.

I was working in the archive and came across a picture from his first year of teaching. He was giving a lecture and he was in a natural pose, one we’d all seen before. The archivist allowed me to make a copy of it, and our class framed it and gave it to the professor. He had such a genuine reaction, a mix of happy, sad, surprised, honored, humbled. It was clearly special for him. All I was thinking was, this is connecting him to a time of his life that he forgot, or maybe it was a picture he never saw.

Being the intermediary was extremely gratifying in a way that I didn’t think much of at the time, but when I look back now, it’s the first thing that comes to my mind. I think it was my first exposure to connecting someone to something they don’t know was out there or had forgotten. There’s something really exciting about that, especially when they show gratitude. It doesn’t always happen, but when it does, you need to catalog it for yourself—not just as a librarian, but as a human being.

Kelly: Wow, I can’t top that! I think that’s a perfect way to end this conversation!

Jocelyn McNamara

Jocelyn McNamara is the client engagement manager at LAC Federal in Rockville, Maryland. She can be reached at jocelyn.mcnamara@lacfederal.com.

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