Tameca Beckett has been an architect for engagement and catalyst for dialogue within library communities, advocating for and positioning libraries to have an even greater impact on the patrons they serve. A former Board Member for the National Association of Rural and Small Libraries, Mrs. Beckett holds a Master’s degree of Library and Information Science from San Jose State University. Recognized locally, nationally, and internationally for her work to advance libraries, Tameca was awarded the American Library Association’s 2014 Emerging Leader Award and Rodel Foundation iEducate Delaware Award. She was also named an Institute of Museum and Library Services and Rare Book School Fellow. She was chosen to be the Director of the Laurel Public Library in Laurel, Delaware where she continued her dynamic, innovative and community advancing work before assuming the position of Reference and Access Services Librarian at Delaware State University. She is currently pursuing a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (K-12).
I met Tameca Beckett at the American Library Association Conference in 2019. We were both attending a session focused on research in the library. After talking for a few minutes, I realized that we shared the same interests and were seeking new ways to integrate research into our daily work. Here is my interview with her.
I first asked about her journey in the library field:
“One of the jokes that we had in the public library after I became the Director was that I had held nearly every position in the library over the course of my career. I started working as a part-time, evening, and weekend circulation supervisor a little over 10 years ago. It took me about two weeks before I knew that I wanted to go to library school. At the time, I had not completed my undergraduate degree, so I enrolled in an undergraduate library services program at the University of Maine. I had the benefit of working in a public library while I was learning the theory. This type of start to my library career has been invaluable. Upon completion, I enrolled directly in the MLIS program at San Jose State University. While I was moving through my educational journey, I was given increased responsibility within my library. Additionally, I started learning more about ALA and other library organizations that I could participate in. A colleague recommended that I look into the Association of Small and Rural Libraries (ARSL). I found ARSL to be a dynamic organization that has helped me to develop as a leader, I was their first ALA Emerging Leader. This position helped me to understand how an organization can speak to the specific needs of a population. I am grateful for my time on the Board of ARSL and the friendships that I have developed over the years. Now that I have transitioned from being in a public library to an academic library, I am able to take my experience from the public library and apply it to my research. I hope that I am able to use my background and research to bridge gaps between the public and academic library as well as the school library, which is why I decided to concentrate my Doctor of Education on the K-12 population.
Tell us about how you got started with research as a librarian. What was your first research project?
I have always had an interest in research, especially after I took my first position as a public library director. I always participated in sharing at conferences and with my local colleagues but I knew that I wanted to write what we were able to accomplish in a systematic and thoughtful way. After taking a position in an academic library, I enrolled in an Educational Leadership doctoral program. One of my first assignments was an action research project about the collaboration between public and school librarians. As I was researching the background of the issue, preparing the literature review and thinking through the study methodology, I knew I was in the right place.
What would you tell someone who thinks research is too hard or impractical as a librarian who is non-tenure track in an academic library or in a non-academic library?
“One of the most amazing revelations that I had as I read article after article was that my fellow public librarians and I were doing this work. We were!”
One of the most amazing revelations that I had as I read article after article was that my fellow public librarians and I were doing this work. We were! I was literally reading articles about successful programs that I had implemented as a director or youth librarian. I just never wrote about them. There seemed to be a disconnection between the practice of scholarly publication and the hands-on work that I was doing every day. So, the first thing that I would say is that they are probably already doing work that should be shared and published widely. One of the challenges on the public library side was the time and resources, which were in short supply. Hindsight being 20/20…I wish I had made the time. The second thing I would say is to read articles to find what type of research fits your life right now. Talk to other librarians who have published to get tips or strategies for moving forward. Think about collaborating with another librarian or researcher for your first article. Finally, give yourself time to learn the process and don’t be discouraged if your first submission doesn’t get published. Take the reviewers comments into consideration and resubmit. Don’t take the rejection of your article as a negative. Consider it an opportunity to make your work stronger.
Are there any areas in the field that need more investigation? What areas should be researched that are currently not being addressed?
The funny thing is the moment I think no one is looking at a particular issue, I meet a colleague at a conference or on social media that is doing amazing work in that issue. I think any area that you are interested in deserves more investigation. If there is an area that you feel is not being addressed, look into it. After surveying the literature, you’ll find a gap or an area that can be looked at from a different lens. That’s your opportunity!
Is it important for other librarians of color to get involved with research? Why or why not?
“It is important that our voices are represented in scholarly publication. The absence of our voice and view means that the area of research is incomplete. Decisions made as a result of the scholarship will be made based on incomplete information.”
Yes! I think this goes back to my previous response. The lens that I view a particular issue will be different from another researcher. This is such a wonderful part of research because you are able to see a full body of perspectives. It is important that our voices are represented in scholarly publication. The absence of our voice and view means that the area of research is incomplete. Decisions made as a result of the scholarship will be made based on incomplete information.
What is next for you? What projects are you working on now?
I did submit an article before the new year, which I hope will be published soon. Currently, I am nearing the writing stage of my dissertation, which is going to take most of my time. Once I complete the dissertation, I’m going to work on a manuscript and start developing my body of research. One of my professors shared the concept of scholar-practitioner with me and it brought so much clarity to my journey. I love the research but I also love the hands-on component of librarianship. This helps to bring both worlds together. As a future professor-researcher, I hope that I can continue to make a contribution to the profession.
How do you manage your schedule? Do you set aside time for your research?
Very carefully! I had to take time to assess what I could actually do versus what I wanted to do. My schedule was packed with meetings, committees, and presentations. I had to realistically look at my schedule to ensure that I was able to commit myself fully to my work, doctoral studies, and self-care. That’s the first step. Now I look at my calendar monthly and weekly to hold myself accountable to the boundaries that I set up for myself. This allows me the much needed time to focus on my research. I try to do something each day that will move my work forward. Sometimes I’ll have 15 minutes and other times I can devote hours to reading and writing. I have to remind myself that research is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. The more time I can take to be a reflective practitioner and cultivate my craft, the better my research will be. This comes back to regulating and managing my schedule effectively.
Anything else you want to add?
There will never be a perfect time to get started. Take the first step and give yourself time to learn, read and grow as a professional. Enjoy the journey!
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