Subscribe rss.gif

Recent News


Interview with retiring Michigan State Librarian, Nancy Robertson

Nancy Roberson

Q: Can you tell us about a favorite moment working at the Library of Michigan?

A: Actually, it came in fall of 2003 when we had the grand opening of the Martha W. Griffiths Michigan Rare Book Room. It was a lot of work but it was very special to be so involved with the architects and the construction contractors and everyone on the design and building and outfitting of the new facility. I was very proud and happy!

Q: What is something unexpected that you learned in this role?

A: The most surprising thing to me was the extent to which working with, and for, Michigan libraries of all types can be such a political tangle. Librarianship is so much about organization and accessibility of information and resources and politics throws such monkey wrenches in to all that orderly thinking. All of us taking on leadership roles in libraries need to assess impact and really pick our battles. We certainly cannot win them all, but we should strive to win the most important and impactful ones.

Q: What is the biggest current challenge to Michigan libraries?

A: For all libraries, not just Michigan libraries, the biggest challenge will continue to be accurately and insightfully envisioning the most relevant roles and services provided by libraries. Technology, community needs, and the needs of special populations (job seekers, 3rd graders needing to read proficiently, business owners seeking successful practices and data) are constantly evolving, and we have to evolve in anticipation of their evolution.  As they say, you need to be where the puck is going to be, not where it is right now. Tough challenge, but an interesting one.

Q: Where do you think there is the most opportunity for growth within the Michigan library community?

A: I think that the best opportunity we have is to continue to work together, not splinter out into public, academic, special and school library focused activities and services. Funding sources like municipalities, state legislatures, Congress, and even non-profit foundations don’t know the nuances of all the different kinds of  libraries and how they are different from one another. We need to present a united view of the value of libraries. Additionally, we need to engage with our various communities and find ways for our libraries to be viewed as part of the fabric of their entire community’s structure and strength. We can’t do that by focusing only on what we have to offer; we have to focus how we can help communities achieve their goals and prioritize our services, activities, and outcomes accordingly.  Well, that has been my mantra for years now, but I still believe it.

Q: What are you most proud of during your time at the Library of Michigan?

A: My staff. In the face and midst of some very tough and disheartening times, we had to slog through a lot of hardship, loss of hope, sadness at having to give up some important services in which we were  extremely invested.  But we met the challenge and re-envisioned the Library of Michigan, and the staff were able to turn the corner from the past and fully engage in the future going forward. Because of the staff’s resilience, professional commitment, and expertise, the Library of Michigan stands strong and is recognized as an essential agency of state government.

Q: What else should we know?

A: I have loved being the state librarian in so many ways, but especially because of the people and the places I have had the opportunity to get to know. It has been a wonderful ride for me. Thank you.