Impromptu: Michelle Hammond
By Molly Englund
Michelle R. Hammond joined Goucher College as the associate vice president for the Library and Learning Commons in February 2022. With more than 20 years of library management experience, Hammond was most recently the dean of university libraries and archives at Emporia State University in Kansas.
Where did you go to college?
My undergraduate experience was at James Madison University. I received an emerging degree at the time called music management. Part of the degree was in the music school, and part of the degree was in the business school. The best of both worlds. I also have my library science degree from Catholic University and a master’s degree in music performance and business from Howard University. I was on a music path for a while and lived outside of the country. I came back to the U.S. in the ’90s.
I got a call when I was living abroad; “Hey, we’re starting this new thing called satellite radio. You should come home and check out this job.” And that’s what I did. XM Satellite Radio started in this little office in Washington, DC, and I was newly back from living in Tunisia. My music and business degree provided me with the exact background for the music librarian job there.
Are you a musician?
Yes, I am. I’m a vocalist.
You must have heard amazing music in Tunisia.
Yes, it was an amazing experience. It’s amazing to go to other places outside of this country and see parts of yourself or how you function. My parents sent me to Paris when I was 15, 16. They always said, “Open your eyes, open your mind, and try to understand how others view the world, because your view can be siloed and small.”
I thought that was an excellent requirement that my parents had of me, because I was able to thrive in a multiplicity of places and with lots of different people.
Do you look for that atmosphere in your career?
Absolutely, because I think that cultivates the most well-rounded, open, and adaptable person. I went to Kansas. I was there for almost six years at Emporia State University because there was a culture of being kind. “Kansas kind” is a real thing. It was also a culture of being adaptable. [Emporia State] call themselves the adaptable university, and that was intriguing to me, that they knew how to be nimble.
Being nimble seems important in library science.
The last 30 years, which have been my career in this space, have gone from card catalogs and physical items to this whole digital world that functions very differently. It’s information still, but that information is a veritable sea that has to be navigated in various digital spaces, along with our books, which haven’t gone away. Even our younger folks still like that tactile and physical experience. I don’t foresee books going away in this whole digital space.
With a background in music management, you must have entered academic libraries already thinking about digital access.
I was with a group of folks [at XM Radio] at the beginning of conversations about the DMCA, the Digital Millennial Copyright Act. So it was an amazing time to be introduced to the digitization of information. Music is still information, it has all of the complexities that undergird accessing information in digital ways. It was a wonderful learning opportunity for me.
How do you like Goucher so far?
Love it, love it, love it, love it. I loved Goucher when I came here for meetings, when I worked in the Maryland area before I went to Kansas. I remember coming to a meeting here in the Athenaeum, on this very floor I’m on now, and maybe I looked a little lost. Some kids down in Annie’s were like, “Hi, there. How are you? Can we help you get somewhere?” Just beautiful spirits and a beautiful space. The Goucher that I remembered from previous years I spent in Maryland was still the Goucher today. It was a very strong part of how I made my decision to come back.
Are there initiatives you want to implement here at Goucher?
Absolutely. My first step in any space is intense analyzation. I want to hear from my space, my people—what works for them, what doesn’t work for them—and make decisions based on our needs.
I’m focused on recreating some of our technological infrastructure. I’ve gotten a lot of support from the library team that it’s something they want to do. You’ve got to have that foundation before you bring in a lot of additional content-based materials.
I’d like to increase our digital materials. I’d like to look at the potential of OER—open educational resources—in a deeper, more formalized way. I’d love to open up some conversations with faculty who are already doing that and assist in growing that as an initiative.
I’d also like to look at how we can expand offerings and expand access to resources. That’s not just purchasing more materials, it’s understanding how we fit into the various resources we already have access to and marketing to students how to utilize them.
With the way information is disseminated in the 21st century, do you think students have a different relationship to libraries than they used to?
People in general became much more independent, but libraries kept up. But I still think people became more siloed. You don’t necessarily have the interaction that you would have if you were coming into the library, looking for a physical book, then going up to the desk and having conversations with a librarian on a regular basis. It was part of the culture of physicality.
Sometimes I don’t think we articulate clearly enough that there’s a difference between independent work on Google and what an academic library has to offer. It’s our job to bridge that gap with our students. There are so many trajectories, spaces, and highways that one can go down inside the academic library that we need to make sure our students are aware of.
What are your ways of relaxing and having fun?
I enjoy getting my hands in dirt. I’m a Virginia girl, so I enjoy planting. Yoga is a good way for me to center and to focus. I used to do Tai Chi in Kansas, actually. Within walking distance from my house was a Tai Chi master who did a class in the basement of a church. I really enjoyed that, so I’m still looking for a Tai Chi instructor in Maryland.