APA Excellence in Librarianship Recipient Brian Quinn: In the Flow
We are very pleased to introduce Brian Quinn, MS, recipient of APA's 2010 Excellence in Librarianship Award. The award was presented at the Educational & Behavioral Sciences Section (EBSS) Research Forum at the annual meeting of the American Library Association on June 26, 2010.
Brian is the Coordinator of Collection Development and Social Sciences librarian at Texas Tech University. He emerged as the winner from an unusually large and talented panel of nominees based on his superb service to his university and impact on the greater library community through publications and other professional activities.
Long before he was a librarian, Brian Quinn was developing skills that would make him a superb one when the time came. He earned a BA and an MA in sociology from Adelphi University in the 70s, providing the scholarly roots for his focus in the social sciences. Always a writer from his days as editor of his high school newspaper on, he was a Madison Avenue ad man (yes, a Madman, for about a dozen years), a copywriter, a creative writer, and a technical writer, and for all of those roles he made constant use of libraries. He loved them and appreciated the librarians, and when he decided to make a career change, library school was a natural fit.
Brian attended library school at the University of Illinois. From the beginning, he focused on becoming an academic librarian, and he knew he wanted to continue his work in the social sciences. Immediately after library school, Brian volunteered at Adelphi University. That decision permitted him to gain experience and led to a paid position and also provided the opportunity to work with collection development icon, Hendrik Edelman, who was working on a collections analysis project. When a tenure track library position as liaison to a broad spectrum of the social sciences became available at Texas Tech in Lubbock, Brian pulled out a map and went for an interview. He got the job, and the rest is history.
Brian is a key member of the Texas Tech campus, and he touches every aspect of that community. One of his colleagues refers to Brian's "ripple effect." It's an apt phrase. He is known across the campus, working extensively with both students and faculty. To take just a couple of examples, his interest in critical thinking projects has led to him giving undergraduates classes in critical thinking as well as research methods.
As a subject librarian, his faculty reports him to be "on the cutting edge of academic scholarship" and to provide them with alerts on new information that is amazingly timely and useful. And his interest in collection development led him first to join the collection group, then become its chair, and eventually, coordinator of collection development.
Brian began to produce papers for his classes with an eye toward their eventual publication, while in library school. He has been a prodigious researcher and writer, and today he has about 40 publications to his credit. He started with research bibliographies but soon moved into his real passion—applying social science theory to the library world. His publications have been widely recognized in the field, and his ripple effect has lapped into the greater library community.
When talking about highlights in his career, Brian reflected with some wonder on times when he realized that "I could have an impact on the field past my own library and campus." One of those followed the publication of "The McDonaldization of Academic Libraries?" and its sequel "McDonaldization in Cyber Space: Examining Commercial Education Websites," which generated mail and emails from librarians all over the world and publication in one of the leading library journals in China. On another occasion, while serving as chair of one of the sections of ACRL, he put on a program called Games Academics Play. To his amazement, it created an audience of hundreds of people, spilling out into the corridor.
Reflecting on his own experience, Brian quoted the late Joseph Campbell's injunction to "follow your bliss." His advice to those entering the field today is to do just that. Be serious about "finding something in the library world you're really interested in and pursuing that.…It's like Csíkszentmihályi's theory of flow, focus your motivation toward performing and learning: Get into a flow state where you're completely engaged.…I had a gut feeling, that I was strongly drawn to social science librarianship, and I followed it." The library world is the better for it.