screenshot of Rhea Ballard-Thrower presenting

November Business Meeting – Rhea Ballard-Throwe

CALL convened on November 18, 2021 at noon via Zoom for our November Business Meeting. There were 54 registrants for this meeting. President Jamie Sommer opened the meeting and thanked Lexis for sponsoring the door prizes before handing it over to Vice President Scott Vanderlin, who introduced our speaker, Dean Rhea Ballard-Thrower.


Dean Ballard-Thrower was recently named the University Librarian at the University of Illinois Chicago. She was previously the Executive Director of the Howard University Libraries and a tenured professor at the Howard University School of Law. She has also served as Director of the Howard University Law Library, Associate Director of the Georgia State University Law Library, and as a reference librarian for the Tarlton Law Library at the University of Texas-Austin.

Dean Ballard-Thrower’s discussion focused on leadership and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). She noted that DEI efforts are very significant to her and that we all tend to struggle with them. Dean Ballard-Thrower’s discussion of leadership focused on three things she’s learned: you can only determine how to respond to things you can’t control, it’s important to recognize what you can control, and “nice is better.”

What You Can’t Control

Regarding things one can’t control, Dean Ballard-Thrower discussed privilege and one’s relationships. “Privilege” is one of those words that is a trigger word for many people, but it’s important to recognize how it can shape your perspective. For example, Dean Ballard-Thrower knows that she is privileged for growing up in middle-class Ohio at a time when her family could keep the windows and doors open at night. As for relationships, Dean Ballard-Thrower noted that he role models happened to be three accomplished moms. They set a high standard for her. She also mentioned her son, who has ADHD. He’s helped her learn how people process things differently.

Consider the pandemic as something you can’t control. We must ask, “What do we do about it?” “What can we control?” You can’t control who’s in your life, but “you can control what window you throw them out of.” Dean Ballard-Thrower brought up the Great Migration. Six million African Americans left the south in the 1900s to get away from what they were dealing with. Twelve people in her family left everything they had in Texas to start over in Ohio. The way they were treated in Texas was legal, so what could they do? They could leave.

What You Can Control

When thinking about what you can control, think about “home training”: saying “please” and “thank you” and smiling when you meet people. As a leader, it’s important to learn those things if they don’t come naturally to you. Think of Invisible Man and consider how one might completely ignore a person. You can change that and acknowledge people—it can be as simple as saying “good morning.” It’s especially important for leaders to do that. People need to know they’re seen.

Honesty matters as well. If you’re a leader, the people you lead expect you to be truthful. Dean Ballard-Thrower will “rip the Band-Aid off” and give staff the reality of what they’re dealing with. People need to know that you’re giving a truthful and honest assessment. You can’t lead a team without trust. It’s also important to look behind you and lift people up. You can help improve diversity and get really good people more involved in the profession.

Consider three words from Dean Ballard-Thrower’s mom: Nice is better. Treating people with respect, concern, and compassion will lead to a better work environment. She wants people to be happy to come to work and to leave a happy staff for the person how succeeds her.

Dean Ballard-Thrower wrapped with a quick summary of the three things she’s learned as a leader: With things you can’t control, consider how you respond; consider how you choose to act with what you can control; and nice is better.

Question & Answer

Q: You mentioned honesty and building trust. What if you’re dealing with conflicting interests, like upper management wanting to do something different than your team?

A: There have been times, especially with re-opening, that the only place open on UIC’s east campus was the library because the chancellor said it needed to be open. That went over very poorly with the library staff and faculty. I gave the administration’s reasons to staff but went back to the administration with the library’s concerns. The library must be heard. It’s important to have a discussion, but ultimately I have to make the call for the library.

Q: You mentioned the importance of DEI. How do you handle invisible diversity like religion, political views, LGBTQIA+ identity, and neurodiversity?

A: Many times people will talk about it with you—it’s not a big secret. I always ask, “where are you from and how did you get here?” Asking about people makes them comfortable, and many people like to talk. You have to do the work, though, on DEI. It won’t fall into your lap. Geographical diversity is also important.

Committee Announcements

Nominations and Elections:

Jamie Sommer on behalf of Jessie LeMar: The slate of candidates is ready for 2022-23. Running for Vice President/President Elect are Mandy Lee and Jesse Bowman; director, Jill Meyer and Emily Barney, and treasurer, Todd Hillmer & Pat Sayre-McCoy. Congratulation and thank you to everyone running!

Continuing Education:

Joe Mitzenmacher: There are two events coming up. On December 8, we will have a demonstration from Petition AI, and on January 12 we will have a session on the media and information literacy presented by Kate Stockert of K&L Gates.


Jill Meyer: Clare Willis will run next session of our Media Club, which will be in January. We will watch Legally Blonde its 20th anniversary.

Placement and Recruitment:

Todd Ito: In an outreach effort for library schools, we are gathering info on communication methods. Look for an email asking you to share your iSchools communication methods

Community Service:

Lisa Winkler: We are holding a virtual food drive for the Greater Chicago Food Depository. You can make a monetary donation as well. We will have an in-person day of service on December 4 from 1:00 to 3:45 at the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

Robin Bienemann and Todd Ito won the door prizes from Lexis.