Column Description: Kristin will talk with people from across New York State working in libraries to discover what and how they keep learning and growing. 


Kristin will talk with people from across New York State working in libraries to discover what and how they keep learning and growing. In this piece, Kristin interviews Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, Executive Director of the Mid-Hudson Library System (MHLS).

Tell us briefly about yourself. 
I am the Executive Director of the Mid-Hudson Library System (MHLS), before that I worked as the Coordinator for Library Sustainability for MHLS for about 20 years, helping library leaders with issues related to governance and management, facilities, and sustainable funding. I'm a career-long NYLA member, serving as a Councilor-at-Large, past-president of the Leadership & Management Section, past-chair of the Legislative Committee, and co-founder of the Sustainable Libraries Initiative. In addition to my MLS, I hold a post-graduate certificate from LIU's Palmer School in Public Library Administration and am a Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design Accredited Professional (LEED AP). I've written several books, including the Handbook for Library Trustees of New York State, the Handbook for New Public Library Directors in New York State, Sustainable Thinking: Ensuring Your Library's Future in an Uncertain World; Resilience - part of the ALA Futures Series; and the forthcoming title from ALA Editions, Libraries & Sustainability: Programs and Practices for Community Impact. I live in Hudson, NY with my husband Adam.

What is your relationship with lifelong learning?
I guess I never thought about it as a relationship, it's a state of being for me. I'm always seeking knowledge, understanding, answers. I try to be humble and never think I know it all as I've learned there is always something new out there to dive into - a new law, a new interpretation, a new trend. I try to have an attitude of continuous learning, continuous improvement.

How do you share your passion for learning with others? 
I am always excited to help others and share what I've learned or figured out or seen another library figure out. I'm truly in love with our profession and being of service to others in the profession so I do my best to be open and welcoming when others are trying to learn and figure things out for themselves. I think encouraging folks, ensuring they know that no one has all the answers and that we're all in this together are some of the key ways we learn from each other and keep striving to learn more.

What do you see as the connection between libraries and learning? 
That's what is so exciting about libraries, we can follow the thread on things we are interested in and learn from others who take the time to write and present on topics of interest to us. I think the key connection is freedom - libraries provide, or should provide, that safe space for people to explore ideas, learn more about a topic they are interested or passionate about, and most importantly, connect with others in the community who want to learn more as well. It creates this self-propelled learning eco-system powered by local libraries staffed with wonderful professionals who are psyched to help you learn. It's such good energy and results in good stuff for individuals, families, communities, and the world.

What is your favorite quote or idea about learning?
"Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better." - Maya Angelou

Do you have a favorite tip or resource you visit for instruction or inspiration?
My colleagues. I have learned most of what I know (that is useful) from watching and interviewing my colleagues. Many here in MHLS and many across the state, nation, and world thanks to connections I've made through associations like NYLA, ALA and IFLA. People who have been there, survived that, figured this out - they are a wealth of knowledge and insights. I find most of our colleagues to be very generous with their time and expertise, lending their wisdom to the folks who are coming up and doing their best. It is one of the best things about NYLA, getting to meet others who do what you do and are passionate about the same stuff you are passionate about.
 


Kristin’s career as a librarian has been defined by her constant learning and exploring. She has been in the library field for more than nine years; first as the Adult and Teen Services Librarian at the Kingston Library (part of the Mid-Hudson Library System) and now in her current role as the Assistant Director at the Town of Esopus Library (also part of the Mid-Hudson Library System). She is active in NYLA and credits the association with providing her with so many learning opportunities, including the Leadership and Management Academy and serving as a mentor to the Developing Leaders Program.