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Q & A with Logan Ludwig

Interview by Jason Young, Medical Librarian
Genesis Medical Center, Davenport, IA

Logan Ludwig, Associate Dean, Loyola University Health Sciences Library, hails from Prairie du Rocher, Illinois. He is married, has four children (a son and three daughters) and two granddaughters. Fishing, golf and collecting Aladdin oil lamps are among his favorite hobbies. Ludwig is a recent recipient of the Virginia L. and William K. Beatty MLA Volunteer Service Award and was named the Midwest Chapter's 2008 Distinguished Librarian of the Year.

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What's the biggest challenge facing most health sciences libraries today? What would your first step be in facing it?
There are actually two big challenges facing most health sciences libraries — economics and staffing. Economics drives technology acquisition, ability to hire personnel, scholarly communications models, collections and a whole host of other things. Staff skills, knowledge and quantity influence the library's ability to provide existing and new services, adopt and implement technology. The first step in facing these challenges is to learn as much about each as one can by reading, attending professional meetings and being engaged in your institution as much as possible.

How is the role of reference/instruction health sciences librarian going to change in the next 10 years?
As Mark Twain said, "It's difficult to predict things, especially when talking about the future." A few things do look pretty clear: 1) titles will change and roles will blur 2) all of us will need to think more globally and more "businesslike" 3) teamwork and cross training will become more important, but expecting library staff to be competent in all areas of library service may become increasingly impractical 4) opportunities will arise for new alliances, key partners and clients 5) and more effort will be necessary to relate to our stakeholders.

If you were given $1 million to spend on your library, how would you spend it?
Is that before or after grants accounting and the government take their share? Either way, since this is a one-time gift, I'd put it in an endowment fund specifically for the maintenance of the library, its collections and special projects personnel. It's very difficult today to keep our libraries well maintained. Certainly, the current economy will force a loss of much information content; however, I feel strongly that parent institutions have a responsibility to provide the tools needed by their clinicians, researchers and teachers. That includes library knowledge-based resources and librarians who have the skills and knowledge to effectively use those tools and/or show others how to use them.

What is your greatest professional accomplishment?
Loyola University Health Sciences Library. When I came here 23 years ago it was a sleepy little library, hardly known outside of Chicago, with few services (we had only one phone line for the entire staff). Much has changed since then, and I'm proud of what the staff and I have accomplished. I suppose consulting on the building of nearly two dozen health sciences libraries would run a close second.

What is your greatest personal accomplishment?

It is something I call "paying forward." I've been involved in the Knights of Columbus for many years and during that time I established 27 councils throughout Illinois that now serve their parishes and communities in thousands of ways. I've also had the opportunity to help young librarians along the way, and some have gone on to do great things in this profession and others.

Will the physical library exist in 50 years?
Definitely! Libraries won't look like they do today, but then we don't look like the Alexandrian Library, monastic libraries or the great German libraries that appeared after the invention of the printing press. Libraries of the future will be less homogeneous, both in size and service, as we learn to become more responsive to the information needs of our parent institutions. We may be smaller in size, but that doesn't mean we'll be smaller in stature.

What was your first job in the libraries?
My first library job was as a student assistant in a high school library. My first paying job was filing catalog cards in a university library.

What's the funniest thing that's happened to you in a library?
Once a user asked me to store his research files in the library's vault (we didn't have one) because he was afraid that someone would steal his discovery of a cancer cure. He said he had discovered that popcorn shrimp was a cure for cancer. Turns out he had incorrectly interpreted the results of several articles about treatment for "popcorn shrimp"-shaped polyps. By the way, he was a patient AWOL from a nearby mental health facility.

Who are your heroes?
At first, famous people like Lincoln and some not so famous heroes like those of September 11, 2001, come to mind. To be a hero, you must demonstrate some form of excellence. To be a hero, you do not need to stand out by doing something extraordinary. All managers looked up to in any way are still heroes to those who look up to them. Being such a hero will enable you to lead those who admire you; however, being too much of a hero can be counterproductive if it disempowers others. To me, heroes are not defined by the scale of the opportunity but by the quality of their response.

What was the last book you read?
The last book I read was What You Accept Is What You Teach by Michael Henry Cohen. The pursuit of mediocrity is almost always successful. This book is a brief guide to navigating the maze of challenging employee communications and performance problems.

What's your favorite book?
That depends on the subject matter. I like Kennedy's The Rise and Fall of the Super Powers, Axtell's Gestures: the Do's and Taboos of Body Language Around the World, all of Gary Larson's The Far Side stuff, Tom Clancy's Red Storm Rising and the Collected Poems of W.H. Auden.

How many presidencies have you held?
If we count local, state, regional, national and international boards, groups and associations, probably 9 or 10, perhaps more. Lately, I have been trying to say "no" more often.


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