New York Library Association. - The eBulletin

An Interview with Tom Sloan: The New Face of the Mid-Hudson Library System

Tom Sloan, the new executive director of the Mid-Hudson Library System, is a new face on the New York library scene but not to the wider world of libraries.  We asked Tom to answer a few question so that the NYLA community can better get to know him.

Tell us a little about your background in libraries?

Prior to MHLS, I served as Manager of Library Services for the City of Boca Raton (FL). One of my favorite activities was the final planning, construction, and operation of a new LEEDS certified downtown library building. A two minute time lapse film of the construction is available here.

Previous to Boca Raton, I was an administrator at two Illinois library systems and had the opportunity to serve as a coordinator for the merger of five systems with more than 3,200 libraries located in a 27,000 square mile service area. 
As the Executive Director of SEFLIN, I had the chance to work with all types of libraries serving the culturally rich region of Southeast Florida. Our system provided a continuing education program for more than 3,000 library staff members, demonstrated Florida’s first Spanish language library portal, and lead the way in developing federated searching for libraries.

Advocating increases in state funding for libraries, establishing benchmarks for public library services, and extending network services and digital content were the focus of my work as the State Librarian of Delaware.

I earned a MS in Library Science from Florida State University and a MPA from the University of Delaware. I started regular visits to the library as a first grade student and have never stopped.

What attracted you to the Mid-Hudson?

MHLS has a history of outstanding cooperation and collaboration among members, system staff, and trustees. System staff members are very talented and dedicated to serving member libraries throughout the five county area. New York has one of the best professional library associations and one of the great state library agencies.    

As the New York Times recently reported – “The Hudson Valley is vast and varied. With hundreds of miles of sandstone and granite cliffs, cattail-lined riverbanks, former factory towns, orchards, farmland and forests, the scale of its geography and the scope of its history are daunting.”

How is New York library service different from Illinois and Florida?

Five MHLS member libraries were recently selected as American’s Star Libraries as reported in Library Journal. It can be challenging for small public libraries to provide high quality service and New York has many very successful small libraries. 

New York’s four governance models for public libraries differ from the two model options in Illinois and Florida. Also, in Florida, due to county library systems, no population or area is “unserved” by a public library.

Even with the difficult challenges faced with the Great Recession, New York’s continuing financial support for library systems was unfortunately not mirrored in Illinois or Florida, where severe system funding and service cuts were implemented. 

To date, what would you consider to be your major career accomplishment?

MHLS member libraries very recently agreed to fund and implement Encore, Innovative’s discovery tool, which will become the search interface for our OPAC. Encore will provide federated searches of databases and an API integration with Overdrive allowing patrons to use Overdrive’s downloadable content within the standard catalog, including downloading content, placing holds and tracking checkouts. 

In Illinois, we were able to find a sustainable model for system services during a state fiscal crisis described as the worst in the nation. Merging organizations required process analysis and skill sets well outside normal library experiences, however, with cooperation among a very wide range of stakeholders we were successful with mergers and systems survived. 

Through partnerships between SEFLIN and two Florida graduate library schools, we were able to educate the next generation of Florida library leaders, receiving $883,000 in grants from the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program. This program focused on students with skills that supported library services to Southeast Florida’s culturally diverse communities.

Who would you consider to be your librarian mentors?

  • •    Alphonse Trezza - Former FSU Professor; Former Executive Director of the U.S. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science (NCLIS)
  • •    Dr. Fred Heath - Vice Provost and Director of University of Texas Libraries
  • •    Joseph Shubert - Former New York State Librarian and Assistant Commissioner for Libraries
  • •    Dr. William Miller - Dean of University Libraries, Florida Atlantic University
  • •    Sarah Ann Long, Former Director of the North Suburban Library System (IL); Former President of the American Library Association and the Public Library Association 

What are your plans and dreams for libraries of the Mid-Hudson Library System?

We are very excited about MHLS implementing Encore and providing a more user friendly discovery solution that enhances access to the great resources libraries provide.

Continuing the success of MHLS member libraries passing referendums is core to providing MHLS Library Sustainability Services. With more than 85% of member library referendums passing every year since 2006, supporting this political success is high on our planning list.

My dream is all 66 MHLS member libraries will meet the New York State Education Department connectivity goal of 100Mbps for each library building by the year 2015. Such broadband connections are required for public libraries to advance their roles as service providers, community technology destinations, and key contributors to workforce development and education.