Kristen Mastel, an outreach and instruction librarian at Magrath Library, is the liaison to the College of Continuing and Professional Studies, Extension, Agricultural Education, and the Institute on the Environment. She was recently promoted from Associate 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?
I am very proud of my service record to the profession. As someone who is a Woo in StrengthsFinder, I have a natural talent to bring folks together around a common issue or project and have used that skill while President of the United States Agricultural Information Network and as President of the Minnesota Library Association. Currently, I am using my event planning and online teaching background to support online learning opportunities and conferences for the profession.
Outreach has been a strong component of all my roles as a librarian. Through my various experiences, I have sought to share successes (and failures) to push the profession forward. Outreach can sometimes be seen as a “nice to have” and not mission-critical, especially during difficult times. Working with my colleague Shannon Farrell on outreach assessment is more important now than ever. We wrote a foundational article on the topic that led to invitations to write an ARL Outreach & Engagement Spec Kit and to leading discussions around outreach for ALA and at other associations.
Last year I had the opportunity to attend the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP25) in Madrid, Spain, with staff and students from the Institute on the Environment. This illustrates how integrated liaisons are with their departments and was a remarkable opportunity to learn more about sustainability from top researchers in the world and, unfortunately, also to see how politics can get in the way of change.
How and when did you decide on pursuing a career in libraries?
Although my aunt who was a children’s librarian at Hennepin County Libraries for 41 years would like to take credit, it was really my art history advisor who steered me towards librarianship. She was a librarian before becoming a professor and groomed my natural curiosity and love of research assignments with independent studies.
Where did you begin your libraries’ career?
My first position was as a solo librarian for the now-defunct Brown College. While there I was able to teach courses and also was a substitute librarian for Carver County Libraries.
How long have you been at the U?
I began my career at Minitex in the Reference and Outreach department. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet library staff and users from all across the state. I was able to hone my teaching and outreach skills, which brought me to my current role as an Outreach and Instruction Librarian at Magrath Library.
In your opinion, has the profession or your specialty in it changed over the years?
While I will never see such a drastic change as my aunt did from no computers to where we are today, our work certainly has changed in the 15 years that I have been a librarian. When I started, areas such as e-books, open educational resources, data management, systematic reviews, creative commons licenses, and assessment were not taught or discussed in the profession. Now, I get questions on these topics and others all the time. I went into this profession because I love learning and our expanding portfolio certainly allows me to do that!
When you look back at your path so far, have you had any surprises?
My supervisor always tells me that I take advantage of opportunities that come my way, sometimes, maybe, too many. 🙂 I have been lucky that my roles professionally have dovetailed and built upon one another nicely.
On another note, being able to bring my therapy dog, Jiggs, to work on occasion for PAWS animal therapy sessions has been an unexpected and wonderful way for me to build connections with staff and students!
When you introduce yourself to a new person as a librarian, what is the first thing most people say?
What books can you recommend? Then I get to explain the wide variety of services and things we have to offer. And I am happy to wear my old Minitex hat and share statewide resources when talking to the public.
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?
“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” —Marcus Tullius Cicero
Do you have a favorite library building or location (not limited to the U, can be here or anywhere else)? If so, makes it your favorite?
I really love visiting the UMN Arboretum and the Andersen Horticultural Library. It has a very special place in my heart.