Lisa Von Drasek, Curator of the Children’s Literature Research Collections, was recently promoted from Associate Librarian to full Librarian. This is one of a series spotlighting the librarians who received promotions in 2020.

What are a couple of things you have accomplished that contributed to your receiving the promotion?

Lisa Von Drasek
Lisa Von Drasek

Community engagement: I embed to teach not only in University of Minnesota classes but also at community events like the Twin Cities Book Festival, regionally at SELCO’s Camp Read-a-lot, public schools, and public libraries. Statewide, I also work with the Department of Education committees and Minitex.

Publications: Over the last three years, I have been writing and revising two books. The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter by Leonard S. Marcus. I adapted his work to the Kerlan Collection. I wrote Writing Boxes: The Reading/Writing Connection in Libraries. In the last four years, I have published three peer-reviewed articles as well as reviews and short pieces.

How and when did you decide on pursuing a career in libraries? 

That is a long and winding road. I was working in trade publishing when I was recruited by an administrator at The Brooklyn Public Library. A month later, I enrolled for my Masters in Library and Information Science with a focus on Urban Librarianship and Youth Services at Pratt Institute.

Where did you begin your libraries’ career? 

I began as a generalist at the Brooklyn Public Library and completed my service there after five years in the Central Children’s Room at the Main Library. My next 15 years were as the Children’s Librarian for the lab school at the Bank Street College of Education as a teacher/librarian pre-K through eighth grade, as well as an instructor in Children’s Literature for the Graduate School of Education.

I was the founding director of the Center for Children’s Literature. The Center provides workshops, guides, and content for learning and social-emotional/aesthetic development at all levels of childhood education. The components of the Center are the Children’s Book Committee, Irma Simonton and James H. Black Award, The Cook Prize, BookFest@ Bank Street, and the Writers Lab. The Center is housed in the Bank Street College Library, home to a circulating collection of more than 44,500 children’s books.

How long have you been at the U?

I arrived at the University of Minnesota Archives and Special Collections in Fall 2012.

In your opinion, has the profession or your specialty in it changed over the years?

In the positive, there is an expectation of cultural competency, collaboration, as well as community engagement beyond the walls of the academy. In the negative — and this may not be new — every public school does not have a certified librarian. School librarians teach and facilitate research, teach critical thinking skills, and evaluate materials, as well as collaborating with and supporting classroom teachers. Did I mention instilling the love of learning and reading?

When you look back at your path so far, have you had any surprises? 

It has all been a surprise.

When you introduce yourself to a new person as a librarian, what is the first thing most people say?

The University has children’s books?!

Do you have an inspiration — a piece of advice, a story about a mentor, a favorite book and the reason you love it, a daily motto — that you’d like to share with your colleagues?

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” —Eleanor Roosevelt

“Being brave doesn’t mean you aren’t scared. Being brave means you are scared, really scared, badly scared, and you do the right thing anyway.” ―Neil Gaiman, Coraline

True story: On the outside, I look confident and competent. And for the most part, I am. I am also a person who gets physically ill every time I have to do any public speaking. I do it anyway. I am a fearful, anxious flyer. I get on planes anyway. Every time I write and have to submit for publication, there is anxiety and fear. I do it anyway. With practice comes competency.

Asking for help is the way to walk through these fears. Do nothing alone.

Do you have a favorite library building or location (not limited to the U, can be here or anywhere else)? If so, what makes it your favorite?

Recently, it’s been the gardens at the Bell Museum. There is a prairie garden with bluestem, a rain garden, and a small pond.

—Allison Campbell-Jensen

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