Meet Doug Baldwin ’99, MLIS ’07: he’s the associate director at the Piscataway Public Library where he also serves as the head of the technology department. He is also a co-founder of New Jersey Makers Day, an “all-ages event that connects individuals with libraries, schools, businesses, and independent makerspaces that support making, tinkering, crafting, manufacturing, and STEM-based learning.”
In addition to these achievements, he has just been named New Jersey Library Association’s 2021 Librarian of the Year. Baldwin was nominated for this prestigious award by his colleagues at Piscataway Public Library, LibraryLinkNJ, Maplewood Memorial Library, and the Gloucester County Library System.
“I am honored and humbled by this award,” Baldwin said. “I am very grateful to those who nominated me for their confidence in my work. I have been truly privileged to have the peer and mentoring network I do, which has led to wonderful collaborations and initiatives.
“I see this recognition more so as a testament to those I have worked with, and the outcomes we have achieved together."
"Libraries are in a uniquely placed position to play a role in supporting communities in a variety of different ways, and for all those they serve. This really opens opportunities for those working in libraries to explore their passions while also contributing to the public good.”
His role at the Piscataway Public Library, Baldwin said, “entails a range of functions and duties including IT functions for both library branches, serving as lead coordinator for our award-winning MIY Makerspace, as well as working with other departments on technology and STEM related programming.”
He also supports the User Services Department, the largest department in the library, which handles much of the day-to-day operations of circulation and technical services. He said he performs general administrative duties in coordination with the library director, including many human resource-related activities, facilitating select library projects, collaborating on programming initiatives, and managing library statistics.
One part of his role that he finds to be particularly exciting and rewarding is working on NJ Maker’s Day. According to Baldwin, between 2015 and 2016, NJ Maker’s Day grew from 100 participating libraries statewide to nearly 300. “These libraries would host events that were community embedded, bringing in local talents, educators, demonstrators, workshop facilitators, and community groups to provide these hands-on experiences for their residents - anything from STEM storytimes to technology demonstrations, to hands-on building and tinkering workshops and so much more.”
Baldwin said for the first time in its history NJ Maker’s Day was not held in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, it was back this year, offered in a virtual format for the first time. On March 19, 2021, NJMD held its inaugural virtual two-day event, NJMD Live. Baldwin said the event featured inspirational presentations by STEM innovators and DIY workshops for viewers to practice their STEM and making skills at home.
“We always love to hear from any library school students who may have a passion for STEM, making and/or community building who might be interested in sharing their talents with our organization on committees or other projects,” he added.
Explaining how he decided to pursue a career in librarianship and a master’s degree at SC&I, Baldwin calls himself an “accidental librarian.” He said he grew up visiting the Roselle Public Library every Saturday morning with his grandmother and loved reading books. However, he said that he didn’t then identify working in a library as a career path. After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in History from Rutgers, Baldwin earned a Master’s degree in History at Montclair State University. It was then, he said, when he began spending a lot of time at the library of the New Jersey Historical Society in Newark, and that’s what landed him on the path to a career as a librarian.
“I love it there! Just everything about it - the collections, the library itself, the library staff - two of whom I actually work with today at the Morristown Library,” Baldwin said. “Eventually, I started volunteering there, processing archival collections since I enjoyed being there so much as a researcher. This is when everything came together for me and the light bulb went on that perhaps I could work in libraries.”
Baldwin said that his original path in earning his MLIS degree, which is now the Master of Information degree, was to become a local history librarian and archivist to combine his love for history and working with historical collections.
“While ultimately, my path in librarianship has taken quite a different set of twists and turns leading to where I am today (which is NOT an original librarian story at all!) - this was sort of my original hook into the profession. What I did not necessarily anticipate, but what I have come to love about working in libraries, is the role they play as a community cornerstone.
“One of the coolest things I got to work on was working with two other students on processing the finding aid for the manuscript collection of the University Athletic Departments Records for the Centennial Football Game Committee between Rutgers and Princeton Universities.”
“Libraries are in a uniquely placed position to play a role in supporting communities in a variety of different ways, and for all those they serve. This really opens opportunities for those working in libraries to explore their passions while also contributing to the public good.”
Crediting SC&I with preparing him for his career, he said, “I had the unique opportunity to be able to do two independent studies as part of my coursework at Rutgers. My first independent study was processing a collection of videocassettes from an archival collection at the New Jersey Historical Society with the library director there, Chad Leinaweaver, now the Director at the Morristown-Morris Township Library where I moonlight,” Baldwin said. “It allowed me not only to work with a collection in a different format other than print, but to research and develop a guide for the library for the preservation of tape media.
“My other independent study was connected to the Archives and Special Collections class I had taken the previous semester with Tom Frusciano (a library legend!),” he said. “The following semester he offered an EAD (Encoded Archival Description) independent study to learn how to encode archival finding aids and again jumped at the chance (technology + archives = win!).
“It was such a fantastic opportunity to learn a new skill as a student that, at the time, I thought I would be able to market myself as an archivist when I graduated.”
It turns out that the independent study opportunities SC&I presented Baldwin with weren’t the only benefits of pursuing his MLIS at Rutgers. He said, “One of the coolest things I got to work on was working with two other students on processing the finding aid for the manuscript collection of the University Athletic Departments Records for the Centennial Football Game Committee between Rutgers and Princeton Universities,” he said. “The finding aid is still there and accessible from the Rutgers Libraries catalog. In fact, the following semester for my EAD independent study I got to take the collection I worked on processing and then encode it in EAD.”
While earning his MLIS degree, Baldwin was also working full-time as a librarian trainee at the New York Public Library. “I was both learning in the classroom and on-the-job simultaneously,” Baldwin said. "This provided me with a really great opportunity to, in a very immediate way, put into practice what I was learning in my courses while simultaneously bringing my growing real-world experiences into the classroom to inform my education. I do and will always highly recommend - even if it's volunteering - to combine MLIS education with library work experience if at all possible.”