The Library Club: Who are you and what do you do?
Chris Filstrup: Who am I? I sit with a Zen group every week trying not to think about this question. What do I do? I’m an administrator, and in that capacity, inter alia, I represent the library to the university administration; I allocate resources as wisely as I can; and I encourage staff to be high level service providers. Now and then I staff the reference desk and hope that no one asks about government documents.
The Library Club: We heard you were a Philosophy Major, can you tell us about it?
Chris Filstrup: I wish. Rather, as an undergraduate, I was a political science major. I have a Master’s in Middle East Studies, and I never finished a doctoral program in the history of religions. Instead, I went to library school and got a job. In my next life I will major in philosophy.
The Library Club: How did you become the SBU Library Director?
Chris Filstrup: I moved from one library to another four times. This is the usual path of out and up. Previous to coming to SBU, I was head of technical services and collection development at North Carolina State University.
The Library Club: Lots of people feel books are going the way of the dinosaur…do you think books = dinosaurs?
Chris Filstrup: This must be a question about ink-on-paper books, or are electronic books no longer books? I’m pretty sure the printed codex will survive in the foreseeable future. It’s a terrific, portable format. I do think that the distribution of long scholarly texts will follow scholarly articles into the electronic arena. Publishers will sell or lease the electronic file, and libraries and individual readers will either read it online or print a paper version. I think there will continue to be lots of printing on paper but I may be a captive of my bookish upbringing. Publishing books in electronic, networkable formats will improve distribution and eliminate the current in-print/out-of-print problem. Will electronic readers make inroads? This may be a cultural more than a technical question. I used an electronic book reader about 7-8 years ago, and it was all right. A little heavy but ok for reading in bed. We have on order a Kindle book reader to play around with — interestingly, Kindles are out of stock.
The Library Club: Rumor has it you went to Iraq, when, why and would you go again?
Chris Filstrup: Not a rumor. I went in November 2003 as part of a USAID grant that SBU received to rebuild archaeology programs and libraries in Iraq. Faculty on both sides of the campus participated in this effort, and three or four of us went to Baghdad to establish relationships and start up projects to train archaeologists and develop water monitoring labs as well as work on rebuilding libraries at the Universities of Baghdad and Mosul. I was deeply affected by the courage of the Iraqis who kept the libraries open in the midst of escalating violence. As we all know, much of Iraq declined into something like a civil war. The grant was not renewed, so I didn’t return. Yes, I would return if the violence subsides.
The Library Club: What new things can we expect from the library in the next few years?
Chris Filstrup: Better management of electronic resources; easier search tools which allow users to search all our resources; the creation of an institutional repository to capture SBU research productivity; digitization of our unique resources, mostly in Special Collections; increased cooperation with other SUNY libraries; moving reference services online.
The Library Club: To wrap things up, which bumper sticker are we likely to find on your car?
Chris Filstrup: “Librarians know the answers… Do you know the questions?” OR “Librarians have high shelf esteem!” (Feel free to make one up for your car!)
Interview by Anuj Malhotra