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Mission Bell Media publishes print and digital media for the library market with a focus on leadership. Publishing authoritative and empowering leadership content for libraries worldwide.

On Leadership

Leading Voices: Sue Polanka

Rolf Janke

On Leadership aims to highlight relevant issues centered on leadership in the library. We are pleased to welcome today a librarian and leader, Sue Polanka. Sue’s popular blog, No Shelf Required focuses on the issues of electronic reference in the library.


Name:  Sue Polanka

Professional Title:  Interim Associate University Librarian and Head of Reference and Instruction

Organization: Wright State University Libraries

Blog: No Shelf Required

As a recognized leader of the business of ebooks in the library, can you comment on what challenges librarians face with the growing number of business models for ebook purchasing?

Libraries are challenged with finding a sustainable business model that provides access with few barriers. Due to the variety of publishers, aggregators, and licenses available, this can be a difficult task to achieve.  Often they must give up something (unlimited use, ILL, other resources) in order to pay for access to the content needed. Most libraries also did not receive a pot of gold in their budget to pay for this new format so many are juggling with decreasing or flat budgets to pay for ebooks while maintaining access to other book formats and material types.  Business models are just one of the many challenges librarians are faced with regarding ebooks.  Marketing, accessibility, preservation, multiple interfaces, training, compatibility with devices, cost, discovery, ILS integration, and a host of other issues arise when working with ebooks. 


In your new position as Associate University Librarian at Wright State University Library (congratulations!), what leadership aspects are you most looking forward to in this new position?

One of the tasks I will complete in my role is updating our strategic plan.  I’m really looking forward to learning more about the planning process, working with colleagues to do an environmental scan, and aligning the library’s plan with the university’s strategic plan.  I also will serve on a newly formed assessment team.  Our team is conducting a data audit and will use this information to help us decide how to share data with stakeholders and determine what new data we should collect to measure the success of our goals and objectives. We hope to launch several studies in the next couple of years – building use and faculty use of/satisfaction with the library are just a couple of ideas.  I think the strategic plan and assessment plan will be key tools to help the library move forward.

If you were to mentor a newly minted LIS graduate coming to work in your library, what would be the first piece of advice you would give to them?

 Thank you, Sue!

Thank you, Sue!

Fail often and recover quickly. That’s advice I usually give everyone.  I think it shows you are open to exploring the full range of opportunities that libraries can offer and willing to accept when something isn’t working and change the situation. When you fail, (and you will), accept the blame, learn from your mistakes, and move on.  I might also tell them when someone says, “we’ve always done it this way” (and yes, they will hear that A LOT in libraries) to challenge it. 

What leader are you keeping your eye on right now? Why?

There is not one particular leader who receives my full attention.  So many people have leadership abilities so I tend to watch how leaders interact in their environment and learn from the positive and challenging things they do.  I do that with public speakers as well!  I can always add more to my tool kit, so I just keep my eyes and ears open for those opportunities to learn.  


Want more? Check out a round-up of all our leaders and innovators here.