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University of Michigan School of Information


Alumni Snapshot: Loretta Parham

Loretta wearing a yellow shirt and smiling. "Loretta Parham, Master of Arts in Library Science, 1977. CEO and library director, Robert W. Woodruff Library."

Loretta Parham
AMLS '77 (Public library with a focus on administration) 

CEO and library director at the Atlanta University Center/Woodruff Library

My first job after graduating from the School of Library and Information Science, now School of Information, was as a librarian at a public library in a position and program that was a collaboration with the local city college in Chicago. This was the beginning of video distance education. Videotapes containing lessons for those studying for the GED or TOEFL exam were available at nine branch libraries. This prepared me for programs that go outside of the building and showed me how to find ways to serve the community. Then, I worked in school libraries for three years, with K-8 students before transitioning back to the Chicago Public Library as a branch manager. After that, I applied for the deputy director position in Pittsburgh for the Carnegie Library. Even though I enjoyed my time there, life intervened once again and brought me into the academic library environment at Hampton University. I worked as the Director of the Hampton University Libraries for eight to nine years. I was then pursued to become the CEO & Library Director of the Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library, the position I’ve been sitting in for the past 15 years.

UMSI skills in work

The administration classes were impactful for my time in the program. The faculty person who taught at the time was a legend during those years. She was a small woman, but she was so wise about administration, and I was taken with her presentation. The administrative skills and understanding of organizational theory and basics of supervision that I developed are still in use to this day in my position. 

Motivation for pursuing information

I was extremely interested in electronic bibliographic services. This was a new way of delivering information in the ’70s. There was a small company in downtown Chicago, and I responded to a job opportunity where they were researching information and printing out informational packets for small business operations. This idea was so fascinating to me that it set in motion my interest to be a librarian. I had already been introduced to the administrative field for libraries due to my mother being a librarian herself. Once my mother found out I was interested in becoming a librarian, she and the commissioner of the Chicago Public Library told me about the fellowship program at the University of Michigan, and that is how I ended up at the school.

Favorite UMSI memory

I had a unique opportunity to participate in a Ph.D. seminar as an MLS candidate as a result of the dean’s personal invitation. It was six individuals or so, sitting around a table and just talking about issues, trends, challenges, opportunities and more within the field. I was the only master’s student in the group. It was particularly enjoyable for me since I enjoy engaging in conversation with others rather than getting lectured to in an educational setting. It was definitely one of my most memorable experiences in the UMSI program. 

Advice for students

To be open and not be “trapped in a lane.” Even when you graduate, you are still looking to determine what your professional passion is, and that is where you will find success. Don’t be afraid of opportunities to relocate because you never know where it will lead you in your career. Flexibility is a big deal. Another piece of advice I want to give to young professionals when it comes to pursuing new opportunities and leaving a job position is to make a four-week notice your norm. We are professionals and there is a message and a consideration to be made. For the employer you are leaving and the employer to whom you are going, how and when you depart is telling.

— May 5, 2022

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