MLIP/Ph.D. Candidate Profile: LeRoy LaFleur

September 08, 2014

Librarians need to be innovative to meet today's challenges, and they need environments that encourage new ideas, according to LeRoy LaFleur, Head of Rush Rhees Library Reference at the University of Rochester.

Librarians need to be innovative to meet today's challenges, and they need environments that encourage new ideas, according to LeRoy LaFleur, Head of Rush Rhees Library Reference at the University of Rochester. As the former Head of George Mason University's Arlington Campus Library and a former social sciences bibliographer at Cornell University, LaFleur became a Simmons SLIS MLIP/Ph.D. student "to obtain the leadership skills and training needed to succeed professionally in today's libraries," he says.

With a second master's degree in organizational development and knowledge management from George Mason University, LaFleur is interested in improving staff performance to help organizations succeed, especially in changing environments. As part of his studies, he explored knowledge management and knowledge-sharing principles for staff. He is interested in strategies and best practices for managing organizational output, such as how to capture important conversations and archive data, as well as access and retrieve information. For example, collaborative tools such as such as Dropbox, Microsoft Sharepoint, Box.net, and wikis can be used to capture important conversations to minimize the loss of tacit, institutional knowledge. As part of his doctoral research, he is interested in applying his expertise in organizational studies to examine collaborative leadership in academic library partnerships with other campus offices dedicated to student support, such as writing centers and tutoring programs. Learning Commons and Research Commons have emerged over the years to bring together units that support students' success, and they present a growth opportunity for academic libraries.

During the past year, LaFleur has been part of a working group that is designing a new reference service model at the University of Rochester library. The library plans to use a proactive access service model, which involves eliminating the reference desk, putting library assistants at the front lines to answer general reference questions, and embedding librarians in faculty and disciplinary research. While LaFleur's library already uses the subject liaison model to integrate librarians into the university's various departments, they are continuing to explore ways to increase the involvement of librarians in faculty research and teaching. "We are experiencing a culture shift as we move librarians' physical presence into areas beyond the library. We need to prepare faculty expectations of these new relationships. We are also looking at how non-librarian professional staff can provide a higher level of service, and redefine the relationships between librarians and non-librarians," LaFleur says.

Hosting and participating in events, such as online book discussions and a Banned Books Read-out demonstrates value and encourages engagement in the library. LaFleur coordinated two Human Library events at the University of Rochester, and co-designed a poster presentation on the topic for a campus-wide Diversity Conference in April 2013. The Human Library aims to "promote dialogue, reduce prejudices, and encourage understanding" by having volunteers of various backgrounds, ages, and experiences share their own stories and histories with library visitors.

Extending his leadership role beyond the workplace, LaFleur held executive positions on various Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) committees, and advocated for diversity in the library profession as a member of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (ALA) and on committees, such as the ALA Diversity Council. As the past chair of the Association of College and Research Libraries' Law and Political Science Section, LaFleur coordinated a program that focused on the emerging scholarly communications landscape and the role of subject librarians. Topics included how librarians can assist faculty in disseminating their research, encourage placement of scholarly work in a repository, and provide guidance on copyright and open access issues. This year, LaFleur is working on the ACRL President's Program for the upcoming annual conference. The program will explore the role of academic librarians in supporting student financial literacy on their campuses.

LaFleur is also an author of several book chapters and more than a dozen presentations. His recent publications include co-authoring the book chapter "Where Do We Go From Here," in Studying Students: A Second Look, which provides guidance about how the University of Rochester library supports undergraduates. For example, the library facilitates information-sharing by displaying student assignments in the library and inviting students to present and share their reflections on their work. He also discusses how librarians assist with the student research process so faculty can recognize the value the library brings to education.

In an upcoming presentation to be featured at the August 2014 Library Assessment Conference in Seattle, Washington, LaFleur will be discussing how libraries have used their ClimateQual survey assessment data to implement change. Library directors have been using the ClimateQual survey to understand staff perceptions about the workplace. After the data is analyzed, library directors are able to identify challenges and opportunities to advance the organization.

When he is not working, studying, researching, or entertaining his two young children, LaFleur continues to live his dream: leading an academic library, conducting research, supporting faculty productivity, and helping students reach their academic goals.

By Dean's Editorial Fellow Jennifer Moyer