Spotlight On: James Wiser, SLIS Alumni Board Vice-President

Photo of James Wiser

The Fall 2009 issue of the SLIS alumni magazine [SLIS Network, Vol. 47, No.2] included a spotlight on James Wiser (MLS'02). The article is included here:

What is your job title and where do you work?

I’m the assistant director of SCELC, the Statewide California Electronic Library Consortium <>, based in Los Angeles. We’re a consortium of over 100 private academic and non-profit research libraries in California. Our membership is quite diverse; for example, it includes USC, Cal Tech, the Claremont Colleges, Getty Research Institute, Occidental College, the Huntington Library, the RAND Corporation, Scripps Research Institute, and more than 90 other institutions of all sizes and stripes.

Tell us about your job: What do you do? What are your favorite aspects?

While we offer many benefits to our members, the bulk of what we do is electronic resource licensing and negotiation. We use an economies of scale approach to represent our members to publishers and database vendors. Public institutions have state-funded mechanisms that do this; we handle these challenges for private institutions in the state. I’m heavily involved in the negotiation and administration of these licenses. Because we are an “opt-in, opt-out” consortium that does not have central funding, it takes a lot of political skill to arrange license agreements that mutually benefit our members and our vendor partners. I love that challenge, and I love getting to know so many interesting people in both the libraries and in the publishing world.

Lately we’ve been reaching out more and more to hospital libraries - California is a big enough state that if its hospital libraries could license content consortially it could improve access to better quality medical information at lower costs. As we do a little more each day to help out with that, to address in some sense the health care crisis in our own little corner of the world, I get more and more satisfaction. I also like the ability to travel around the state - there are worse things than to be called to meetings in Santa Barbara, or San Francisco, or Monterey.

Do you have any advice for students?

Treat your time at SLIS as a time to sample the wonderful buffet of classes it offers. More than most library schools I know, SLIS offers classes in almost every aspect of our field. You don’t know today where your career will lead, so it’s far better to focus on the fundamentals of our profession. Think of it like learning how to play music classically - you learn to play classically so when the time comes for you to be a jazz musician, so to speak (as we all are in our profession), you’ll be ready.

How has your education at SLIS benefited your career?

When I think of SLIS, I think of its people. Everywhere I went at SLIS, it seemed someone took me under her or his wing to help me professionally socialize. What I didn’t realize when I was a student was how much of library school is professional socialization and how important that outside-the-classroom instruction really is. It’s been over 7 years since I graduated from SLIS, but it still seems I pull from what I learned there on a weekly if not daily basis.

Any tips or comments on changing jobs within the library science field?

I suspect even someone who joins an organization right out of library school and stays there their entire career will change jobs several times over the course of their career. I would say that change is nothing to fear. My first job was doing information research for General Motors; I then worked in a traditional, academic environment for four years; now I work in a fairly non-traditional setting. That’s the beauty of our profession - one can do so much more with an MLS degree than you’d initially think. For example, I love my job, but I’ve always been a little jealous of my SLIS friend and colleague who now works for the CIA. But don’t ask him what he does. He can’t tell you.

SLIS alumni have recently been mailed the Fall 2009 issue of the alumni magazine (SLIS Network, Vol.47, No.2). The theme of this issue was "SLIS Ph.D. Program Celebrates 45 Years." If you did not receive a copy, you can update your alumni address by emailing us at (

Posted December 02, 2009