Faculty Voices: Sean Gaffney, Lecturer

Faculty Voices: Sean Gaffney, Lecturer


What were you doing before you joined SJSU’s School of Information?

I joined SJSU in 2008 as a part-time faculty member. After almost 10 years with the Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) in Decatur, IL in a variety of roles, including senior information scientist, manager of information resources and head research librarian, I accepted a position at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in Tampa, Florida as a senior associate researcher analyst in the firm’s KSO (Knowledge Services Organization). As a part-time faculty member, I have my day job – currently this is as manager of research and analysis and lead chemical and metal analyst. I enjoy this since I am able to use both my LIS background and my accounting background. In addition to my MLIS (Kent State University) and CAS (University of Illinois), I have an MBA and I am also a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and a Certified Management Accountant (CMA).

What experiences led you to your professional area(s) of interest?

My interests are in scientific and business librarianship, as well as knowledge management. As director of the research library at ADM, I had the opportunity to build a library from the ground up. I developed consortium relationships with the state library as well as local libraries where we created resource sharing agreements. I was also fortunate to be able to mentor a number of students from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science through a practicum program in which I had a student come into my library each summer and work on special projects.

As an information professional, what do you find most challenging about the field?

I think it has become more difficult for graduates to break into the field. When I left library school in 1998 it was tough; but, with recent cutbacks, I think it is even harder to break in. My suggestion? Volunteer. Be an intern. Work as a volunteer. Any kind of experience will help. Also, be geographically flexible. There are places (like Ohio where I got my degree) where competition is really tough. I worked part-time at a corporate library but was forced to move to Illinois to get a full-time position. Be open to moving. We cannot always live where we want to if we want to pursue our passion for librarianship.

What is your favorite piece of advice from a LIS professional?

My advisor at Kent State University told me that I should do what makes me happy, and not worry about what others think about it.

LIS and IT: Are the lines becoming too blurred? How does this impact job prospects for newly-minted LIS professionals?

I teach systems analysis, so I think I have a unique perspective on this. Should librarians be IT people? I would say no. Should librarians be a bridge or conduit to IT folks? Absolutely! I teach my systems class that communications is key. We probably spend a third of the semester discussing how to bridge the gap between IT and the rest of the staff. Ask any student that took my LIBR 243 course and they will say “Communication is key!” For the second part of the question – I think that LIS professionals need to be technologically savvy, not IT folks, but skilled users. An understanding of basic system design, social media, and some HTML coding goes a long way.

Where do you see the future of LIS going, and how do you hope to shape the evolution of LIS during your career?

I think that information professionals need to recreate their brand, as the folks that can deliver quality information, and lead patrons to reputable resources. I want to teach the next generation of LIS professionals how to: a) discern appropriate information resources (e.g., separate the “wheat” from the “chaff”); and b) teach patrons how to do the same.

What is your favorite Banned Book? Why?

There are many. I would guess that my favorite is A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle. I read that the first time at age 12 after checking it out from the Phoenix Public Library in 1975. I have a copy of it in my home office, and all three of my kids have read it and enjoyed it. Why? It is great literature and shows why what is inside is more important than what others might see on the outside (re: Meg).



Please view Lecturer Gaffney’s faculty bio here.