Posted By Susan Shen, UCB Intern, UCOP. The conventional image of a librarian is often someone behind a desk taking inventory of books. As Director of Educational Technology Initiatives for the UCSF Library, Gail Persily is so much more.
Persily went to Grinnell College in Iowa, where she majored in history and minored in Russian literature. “I loved literature in a historical context, and I almost did an independent major, but I was too lazy!” she said. True to her love for history and culture, Gail traveled the world before settling down in San Francisco and getting her master’s degree in library and information studies from UC Berkeley.
While a student at UCB, Persily worked at the Pacific Film Archives designing a database to manage their film collection, and then became a librarian at a television news station. But she longed to further develop her technical skills. She said, “You have to put out the news every day, and in this production environment, there wasn’t enough time to improve how we did it.”
Opportunity knocked in 1990. The UCSF Library was about to move to a new location to expand its services for faculty and students, provide an online catalog, and set up computers for users to do their own database searches. The library was looking for people to help institute these services, and Persily joined the team.
Persily remembered that “there was an exciting feeling of getting things ready.” She started out as a systems analyst, determining what technology the library staff needed on their desktops to support this new environment. Now, as director focused on technology to support education, Persily oversees two teams. One is the IT support group, which runs several computer labs and a walk-in help desk for students. The other is the learning technologies group, which supports the creation of video content, audio, and e-learning modules and manages the campus learning management system. In addition to running these services, Persily works closely with the education leadership to plan services and systems that meet the dynamic educational technology needs at UCSF.
“When I went into libraries as a career, I wanted to work in a place where I could provide solutions that were customized to meet users’ needs,” she said. With the help of her staff, which she mentioned receive frequent accolades from their customers, she is fulfilling this dream, and helping students and faculty along the way.
Photo credit: Sean Gabriel McClelland