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Meet the Dean: Theresa Maylone - Informal Conversations with the Deans of St. John's University

Monday, November 12, 2012

Theresa Maylone, Dean of University Libraries, was raised in a suburb of Chicago, IL. She came to St. John’s University in 1999 as the Libraries’ Coordinator of Planning, Budgeting and Development. Maylone also served as Executive Director of Libraries, University Librarian and Interim Dean before her appointment as Dean in 2011.

What was your first career aspiration? 
I am a product of the same sort of household that many of our students come from: with a parent who is a first-generation American. I was the first person in the family to go to college, and the importance of education was stressed. I’ve always been interested in academics, and even at a very young age I thought, “What a marvelous environment this [school] is. I don’t want to leave this.”

Describe a typical workday for you as the Dean of University Libraries.
There really is no typical day. There are a lot of meetings. I’m addicted to e-mail, so there’s a lot of time dedicated to that, and I want to always be available to people with questions or in need of assistance. There are times when I show up late to a staff meeting and everyone asks me, “So how many people did you stop and talk with on the way here?” It speaks to the overall culture of the University community.

If you could be or do anything else, what might that be?
From a very early age, I’ve been in love with ballet. I certainly would have loved to be a ballerina. I love the movement, grace and expression of using the whole body to tell a story without words.

If you could change something about your job, what would you change and why?
This is a particularly compatible group of deans. There’s a lot of mutual respect and we all get along extremely well. There’s a great openness in this organization. I feel comfortable calling anybody here for help. It’s great to be able to move with that kind of fluidity. There really isn’t anything I would want to change.

What's the one thing about you that few people know (hidden talent, guilty pleasure, etc.)?
I’m a huge baseball fan. When I was a kid, baseball games were always on the radio in the background. I grew up in suburban Chicago, so I was a Cubs fan. Now, I root for the Yankees. My husband grew up in the Bronx, so when I moved to New York, there was really no conversation about which team I’d root for.

As Dean, how would you like to be remembered?
I’d like to be remembered as someone who managed through a time of real transition, for not only this library, but libraries in general. The role of libraries is very much in a state of transition. To be in a place that is open to that kind of change is wonderful.

What five words would you use to describe the library?
We’re an informational crossroads. We’re facilitators — we don’t tell you the answer; we help you to find it. I would hope that we are academic and a place of discovery. We’re also welcoming and supportive. That’s more than five.

What’s your proudest achievement at St. John’s?
I’m proudest of the work and progress that we’ve accomplished with the library staff. We have such talent among our staff. Everything that happens in the background, everything that makes what you see work, is done by our staff.

What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the University Libraries during your time here?
The obvious answer is the transition to digital. Technologically, libraries have always been ahead of the curve. Online catalogs first happened in libraries a long, long, long time ago. The databases that now are ubiquitous really came out of government initiatives that then entered the private sector. They all involved categorizing and archiving information, so the logical place for them to end up was the library.

What’s the best piece of advice you could give to students?
Be yourself. Define yourself. Don’t allow others to define you. Use this time to explore and to experience your surroundings. See what’s available to you and what’s possible in this world, because it’s an opportunity as a student that you will never have again.

What’s an important lesson you’ve learned from the students?
I learn from students every day. I learn how smart they are. Smartness isn’t just measured in terms of grades or even success; it’s that inner part of you that in moments of conversation makes itself known. We also need to respect them, to understand what they can give to us and realize that this is not a one-way street.