Karen J. Switt Leadership Award
About the Award
Do You Know a Leader? How about a Dynamic Information Entrepreneur? Or Maybe You are One Yourself! We need your help.
Who are the visionary leaders and dynamic innovators in our profession?
Help the LMD Awards Committee identify candidates for LMD’s prestigious Karen J. Switt Leadership Award.
Each year since 1988, at the Annual SLA Conference in June, LMD has honored one of our division’s members in recognition of significant leadership in the information management profession during the previous five years.
Accomplishments may be in any aspect of library and information management, for example:
- Visionary leadership
- Planning and strategy
- Information policy
- Marketing and public relations
- Human resources
The accomplishment(s) must be documented by professional talks, forums, articles and/or other written communications.
The award consists of a $750 check, sponsored by C. Berger Group, Inc., and a commemorative plaque, as well as significant peer recognition.
Commemoration remarks presented by Katherine Bertolucci at the LMD Business Meeting and Luncheon, 2000 SLA Annual Conference, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Mary Lee asked me talk to you today about Karen Switt, a long time SLA member who died last November, at age 47 and why I proposed that the LMD Leadership Award be renamed after her. C. Berger Group has been a sponsor of the LMD Leadership Award for many years and welcomes the opportunity to support the Division in its goals by providing the cash award to the recipient. I think the best way to profile Karen is to read you excerpts of an article written about her which appeared in the SLA Illinois chapter’s newsletter, The Informant. It was written by Janice Keeler, who couldn’t be here today.
The information profession was a major focus of Karen’s life. Karen met her husband, David Grossman, who was also a librarian at the time, at a 1979 meeting of the Chicago Online User Group (COLUG). During their extensive worldwide travels together, Karen always took time to visit libraries wherever they went.
During her travels she sent her friends interesting accounts of their trips that equaled those from published travel writers. Karen always knew the best restaurants in any city you care to name. For several years, she organized information dinners during the SLA Annual Conference for SLA friends from around the country who had birthdays in June, even though her own birthday was in September. She had a wide circle of family, friends, and professional acquaintances, and was able to converse with people from all walks of life in English, Hebrew, Yiddish, German or Spanish.
Karen worked as a beautician to earn money for college, and retained the ability to cut hair, as she occasionally demonstrated for friends. Her undergraduate degree was from Florida International University in Miami. She earned a master’s degree in library and information science from Rosary College (now Dominican University) in River Forest, Illinois. She also studied for a year in Israel.
She made major contributions both to librarianship and to the real estate industry worldwide. From October, 1983 until 1997, Karen managed the library for the National Association of Realtors in Chicago. She was instrumental in making the NAR library the world’s largest library of real estate information. Among her achievements at NAR, Karen automated library operations, expanded the staff and collection, created an electronic catalog of holdings, managed libraries in Chicago and Washington, D.C., and created index to real estate literature.
While Karen was at NAR, she was deeply involved in a project in Europe, sponsored by the Eastern European Real Property Foundation, in conjunction with the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID). She helped set up libraries and train staff to support the fledgling Real Estate Associations NAR and AID were helping these countries to establish. Karen made many trips to Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and East Germany, and was key to the success of this endeavor.
Prior to joining the National Association of Realtors she was a reference librarian at First National Bank of Chicago (now Bank One), Manager of Information Services at Technomic Consultants, and Business Reference Librarian at Florida International University in Miami. While in Florida, she taught classes in the library school at FIU and was voted a favorite teacher. In 1997, Karen moved to Washington, D.C. as manager of library and information services at the National Academy of Sciences.
She fostered interest in the profession in her travels abroad, in the many speeches and presentations she gave to Realtors all over the country, and within her own staff. Both as a role model and by specific encouragement, she inspired several of her staff to go to library school. I can name five former or current NAR employees including my son, Joel, who pursued an MLS because Karen coached them.
In SLA, Karen was a member of the Illinois and Washington, D.C. chapters and three divisions (B&F, ITE & LMD), and a member of ITE Virtual Section. As a member of the Illinois Chapter of SLA, Karen was chair of the Membership Directory Committee, and involved in the initial planning of the Great Lakes Regional Conference III, hosted by the Illinois Information Technology Division of SLA and was responsible for organizing ITE – sponsored workshops to teach online searching.
I personally knew Karen for 20 years. She was a friend, colleague, client. She was admired for her management abilities by her peers. She was recognized by them for her dedication to her profession as a mentor.
She was dedicated to our association, devoting many hours to LMD and ITE. Karen was undaunted by challenges in all areas except her last one, succombing to cancer. She was a leader in every sense of the word, and truly deserving of this honor. It is a fitting tribune to her memory to rename the LMD Leadership Award as the Karen J. Switt Leadership Award.