Alum David Cismowski Takes on New Leadership Role at the California State Library

SLIS alum David Cismowski was recently appointed Chief of the State Library Services Bureau of the California State Library, where he oversees the administration of the “public face” of the California State Library.

Cismowski’s position took effect in December 2009, and he now oversees the department that provides information services to California state government and the general public through six sections, including the California History Room, Sutro Library in San Francisco, and Bernard E. Witkin State Law Library. Cismowski has worked in State Library Services since he graduated from SLIS in 2000, and he’s eager to tackle the challenges of his first job in top management.

“I’m looking forward to working with State Librarian Stacey Aldrich. She’s very dynamic and forward thinking, and she and the rest of the top administrative team want to make the library more relevant to the people of California,” he said. “It’s their library, and right now I don’t think our visibility is as high as it could be. We could also improve our information services to the state government.”

Cismowski has worked in nearly every facet of a library during his nearly 30 year career. He started out driving a bookmobile for the Del Norte County Library, a rural California community located near the Oregon border. Cismowski taught himself cataloguing and helped implement the library’s first computer system. He became Library Director of the Del Norte County Library District, but he wanted to earn his MLIS degree. That decision prompted Cismowski to take a big risk in the late 1990s and quit his library director job in order to move to San Jose to earn his degree on campus.

“I remember so well my first class in library management when everyone went around and introduced themselves. I thought to myself that I was really there on a wing and a prayer, and I didn’t know if was going to get a job after graduation,” he said.

While at SLIS, Cismowski took advantage of every opportunity he could get to become involved. He co-chaired the American Library Association’s Student Chapter, which under his leadership started a student mentoring program and successfully applied for a grant to fly in library science luminaries to address students.

Cismowski also kept a constant eye on the job boards, and some eight months before graduating drove to Sacramento to take the required state exam for employment just in case a State Library job became available. Once he had his degree, he wrote the State Library to let them know he was now eligible to be hired. Soon afterward he was interviewed and hired for a position in the library’s Government Publications Section.

“It was a pure accident that I ended up working for the state,” said Cismowski, who oversees 25 librarians and 50 support staff in his new job. But it was a happy accident. He quickly discovered that he loved the work. “I learned how much research is based on government information, and I am so thankful for the opportunity.”

Cismowski also administered the Federal Depository Library Program at the State Library—California’s only regional depository, containing the most comprehensive document collection in the state. He continues to serve on the Depository Library Council to the U.S. Public Printer. The council is currently advising the Government Printing Office on the transition from print to electronic government information.

“The primary challenge is preserving the amount of information on federal and state websites; it’s so fragile,” he said. “It’s information that needs to be preserved for all time. It is our primary history. When historians write books, they look at the Congressional Record and at the hearings and reports.”