Five questions with Jo Cates
The University of Wisconsin-Parkside's new Library Director is Jo Cates. She joined the university earlier this year from Chicago's Columbia College. She has also worked at Harvard, Northwestern, and Ernst & Young. She is a published author and she has ambitious plans for the physical and virtual space of the library. Ranger Today asked her about her career, her goals for this new position, and her predilection for cookbooks with recipes involving Jell-O and tuna.
Ranger Today: Give us a quick synopsis of your professional career and how your experiences have prepared you for working at UW-Parkside?
Cates: I spent the last 11 years at Columbia College Chicago, first as library director, then as dean of the library and associate vice president for academic research. I started my career in libraries as Head of Reference at the Lamont Library at Harvard. From there I was founding director of the library at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies; this was a pivotal job for me, as my undergraduate degree is in journalism. At Poynter, I wrote and published the first edition of my reference book, Journalism: A Guide to the Reference Literature (Libraries Unlimited/Greenwood Press). In addition, I served as Director of the Transportation Library at Northwestern University and Research Manager at Ernst & Young's Center for Business Knowledge. I'm excited to now be at UW-Parkside, and I hope my experiences in both special and academic libraries, all with particular space challenges, will allow me to visualize the many opportunities we have at UW-Parkside. Working with our great staff and those who use and care about the library and archives, we hope to recast this beautiful space to meet the needs of our 21st century users.
RT: Is there a professional accomplishment of which you're particularly proud--an award, a commendation?
Cates: I was really pleased to return to Simmons College in April to accept their 2012 Alumni Achievement Award. I received my library degree from Simmons, and I was honored to have the opportunity to say 'thank you' to an academic institution that helped define my career.
RT: What are your immediate priorities for this position?
Cates: We have key positions to fill, including a new Emerging Technologies Librarian, a role that will be critical as we design the next generation library. We are examining all library roles, determining our staff's key strengths and aligning their work with those strengths. We also have a new library catalog to introduce to our learning community, and we are in the process of doing that.
RT: What are your long term goals at UW-Parkside?
Cates: My staff and I plan to create a place, both physical and virtual, to truly empower student learning and enrich the lives of faculty and staff. In order to do this, we need to collaborate across the university. We have to find the right balance between print, electronic, and digital resources, and we have to truly understand and appreciate what the digital divide looks like at UW-Parkside and establish a plan to best support our users. We need to know enough about our users to anticipate their research and space and technology needs. We need to create and support a learning environment, a teaching and learning space to test new pedagogies and technologies that will act as an incubator for new ideas. It means a new space, both physically and philosophically.
RT: What are your favorite leisure activities? What are we most likely to find you doing during your time away from work?Cates: I have a handsome but ill-behaved Black Lab mix named Kenny, and I spend a lot of my time either correcting him or just letting him get away with things. He was a rescue dog, so he has many neuroses, and I keep discovering more of his quirks. I also collect books--I have a number of first editions of Little Women, and I also have a large collection of regional ladies club and church cookbooks from the 1950s and 1960s. I'm interested in these books as bits of regional and cultural history, and also, because, really, you can't have too many recipes involving Jell-O and tuna.