Arizona Daily Wildcat
Despite controversy, library school is only one of its kind in Southwest
After 40 years in the library industry, Carla Stoffle was named librarian of the year.
The award was given by the Arizona Library Association and honored Stoffle's lifetime of achievement within libraries around the world.
Stoffle was initially inspired to pursue a career in the library sciences after a two year stint with the Peace Corps in Barbados, West Indies.
There she started a school library for underprivileged students whose parents worried about the fines associated with overdue library books.
When Stoffle returned to the states with her husband, she accepted various jobs at state schools, including Eastern Kentucky University, the University of Wisconsin and the University of Michigan.
Stoffle continued her administrative lead when she became UA dean of the libraries in 1991.
Throughout the last decade, Stoffle has been instrumental in changes concerning the UA library school as well as the main libraries around campus.
"I became aware of libraries and their importance in curriculum, learning and development of students," Stoffle said. "It is imperative that students have access to read and learn about themselves and others."
This influenced her decision to promote adding electronic reserves to the library as well as online library checkout and fee information.
She also mentioned the importance of the library school to both UA undergraduate and graduate students.
"The school benefits students by recruiting people from around the world to come to our school and intern here," Stoffle added. "I didn't help the school to get an award, I did it because it was important."
Agnes Griffen, director of the Tucson-Pima Public Library, nominated Stoffle for the award.
The two have worked together in the library industry for 15 years and initially met while holding positions on the executive board of the American Library Association.
A recent controversy over the goals of the UA School of Information Resources and Library Sciences threatened the future of the only academic library school in the Southwest.
"She put her shoulder to the wheel and took on the role of the acting director of the library school," Stoffle said. "She helped us overcome the complications of possibly losing accreditation."
With the loss of support from the American Library Association and UA admissions, the library school's admission numbers were dropping.
That is when Stoffle stepped in, Griffen said, and strengthened the library and its program for UA students.
"Stoffle was motivated by her desire to have librarians accessible to students everywhere," she added.
Barbara Allen, special assistant to the dean, agreed that Stoffle's primary focus was on the students and the success of the school.
Allen, whose professional relationship with Stoffle has developed over the last six years, described Stoffle as a visionary and a mentor.
Citing her interpersonal skills as well as her knowledge of the Internet, Allen said Stoffle has made monumental changes to the UA library.
"She combines her love for books and understanding of technology to prepare the library for the future," Allen added.
Stoffle was instrumental in extending the library's hours in 1998 and preparing the library staff for the increase in computer reliance over the last five years.
Although some of her leadership skills have been questioned in the past few weeks, Allen suggested that anyone in a position of power is subject to criticism.
"I think because of the very nature that she is strong, intelligent and a woman, she is controversial," she said. "Some of her leadership decisions, had they been made by a man, would not have been as controversial."
Mindy Jones can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.