Susan Hildreth is professor of practice at the University of Washington Information School and treasurer of the American Library Association. Previously she was the director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Before participating in the Zócalo/WeHo Reads event “Do Libraries Have a Future?”, she explained in the Zócalo green room why she has no nostalgia for old-fashioned card catalogues.
Old-fashioned card catalogues—miss ’em or good riddance?
You know I think they’re kitschy and nice as antique end tables. I love to see how people are repurposing them. But I don’t miss the card catalogues. People used to have to file in the card catalogues. They all had rods, and if you were new you had to put your card above the rod, and someone had to check it and stick it in the rod, and the rods would be bent. I don’t miss it at all.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
When you’re asking me that question I’m thinking about my dad, because my dad is no longer with us, and he was my friend and my mentor. But the thing about my dad was that he let me be me. I would go to him and ask about things, and we would talk about things, but he wasn’t a parent who over-managed or told me what to do. I guess I would say the advice was really a relationship with my father that was a very open one.
What’s the last habit you tried to kick?
I’m having a hard time kicking the evening snacking. I’m fine during the day, but it hits at 9 or 10 p.m. when I’m watching my favorite TV shows.
What are those TV shows?
Breaking Bad, Ray Donovan, Veep. Also Silicon Valley, which I think should’ve won the Emmy. I’m very selective, but I’m a TV buff.
How do you like your coffee?
I usually have a latte that’s nonfat. I don’t like a lot of flavors, and I’m still trying to get the whole pumpkin spice thing.
What’s the one thing every great library needs?
You need a staff who, at all levels, are committed to providing great customer service and are there to be welcoming … No matter what the physical structure is—it could be fabulous and beautiful—the attitude of the staff is critical.
How do you procrastinate?
I’ll let myself be distracted by checking email or by doing little tasks that don’t require the concentration you need to have for the very significant—writing an article or preparing a lecture or something like that. I’m not a big procrastinator, but I do it once in a while.
What inspires you?
Trying to make a difference in the communities that I’m involved with.
What book have you re-read the most?
I am not a re-reader. [Laughs.] So that’s a tough question.
Tell me about the library you frequented as a child.
I moved a lot as a child, so there wasn’t one library I frequented. I would usually move in the summertime. I would come to a new town, and I was an only child, and I would always make a point to go to whatever library was there, get my library card, and start reading. The library was my friend, particularly all summer long.