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Seidman heads Special Libraries Association

By Neil J. Ross

Ruth Seidman, head librarian of the MIT Engineering and Science Libraries, has been appointed president-elect of the Special Libraries Association, a national organization of libraries with more than 12,500 individual members divided into 55 regional chapters.

This position will hopefully enable her to work more closely with leaders in information technology and allow MIT to be seen as part of that leadership, Seidman said. SLA, whose motto is "putting knowledge to work," gives librarians in specialized settings in the sciences and arts an opportunity to share new ideas about the handling of information.

Involved in the SLA since 1971, Seidman has had many opportunities to explore the organization and its potentials. From 1980 to 1981 she was president of the Boston regional chapter, and in 1986 she was program chair for the organization's national annual conference.

As part of her duties as president-elect, Seidman last week presented talks at several regional chapters of the SLA in North Carolina. Once a student member of SLA herself, Seidman also visited two student chapters of the association.

A librarian for over 20 years, Seidman did not start out in library work but majored in political science. As a graduate student she examined the Soviet Union in depth and it was only some years after obtaining her first master's degree that she took a master's in library science.

While she has interests in the computerization of libraries and the impact of technology on the libraries of the future, Seidman said that the most rewarding part of the job was developing staff -- finding out what their skills are and developing those skills. "The most enjoyable part is when I meet people who worked for me and find they are running a library, or I see they have published an article," she added.

The science and engineering libraries account for over half of the one million printed volumes in MIT libraries to which 32,911 registered library users have borrowing rights. A ranking of 100 university libraries conducted earlier this year by the Association of Research Libraries placed MIT in a tie for 47th place.