The iSchool is excited to name Patrick Losinski (MA’83) as the 2021 Distinguished Alumnus. Patrick is currently the CEO of the Columbus Metropolitan Library in Ohio.
Tell us a little about your background.
I grew up in Stevens Point, WI and attended UW-Stevens Point. My degree included an internship for the local cable access television station located in the Portage County Public Library. One day, I had an in-depth discussion with the library director about how he became a librarian. Years later, I applied to the then named School of Library and Information Studies and went on to work in Wisconsin, Illinois, Colorado and, finally, Columbus, Ohio. It’s been a very rewarding experience. My work with the Urban Libraries Council and the International Federation of Library Associations led to global travel with my family, enriching our lives with greater cultural appreciation. We have deep roots in Wisconsin and anyone who knows our family knows that we are all Badgers, all of the time!
How did your time in Madison influence your career?
My professors were amazing. They created thought-provoking classes, often utilizing librarians as guest speakers, and challenged us to do our best work. Faculty members were very networked and demonstrated their commitment to the profession at conferences and symposiums. Students were encouraged to co-design practicum experiences that led to practical skills and a robust professional network. Finally, professors were authentic and accessible mentors for all students. Receiving the Distinguished Alumnus Award is a reminder to be intentional and purposeful about how to pay it forward.
Do you think the Covid-19 pandemic will permanently change how libraries operate? How can libraries leverage this time to serve their communities better?
The Columbus Metropolitan Library was founded in 1873. Our Main Library opened in 1907 and it has served continuously as a library since that date. We have stories about our library during the 1918-1919 pandemic! We need to take the long view on current events and understand that libraries will continue to thrive because people will need help and have the desire to participate in civic endeavors. Libraries are always evolving so the pandemic may not be the only catalyst for changes on the horizon.
However, the pandemic is the greatest career challenge most of us have ever faced. Libraries have demonstrated our remarkable ability to innovate and serve customers in new ways. We also benefit from our professional culture of sharing. It’s hard to name another profession that freely gives away its best ideas to “competitors.” That’s why it works – because libraries are not in competition – we are collaborators who serve and help. Recently, we’ve talked about evolving from the “business of libraries” to the “business of community recovery.” We have the ability partner with nonprofits, government agencies, and private industry to do whatever it takes to help our communities recover.
What do you enjoy most in your role as CEO of the Columbus Metro Library?
It is impossible to single out what I enjoy “most.” One of aspects of being the CEO of an urban public library is the variety of work including: strategy, finance, personnel, public relations, information technology, fundraising, new building design, community relations, government relations, collections, history, children’s programming, security, and on, and on, and on! No two days that are the same and it is a perfect career for someone with interests in many aspects of life. I didn’t understand how satisfying librarianship would be when I started, but I’m very grateful for all of the experiences afforded to me during my career. This honor has provided me with the opportunity for deep reflection on my time in libraries that all began thanks to UW-Madison.