Get to Know Dr. Chris Shaffer – Troy University, Dean of University Libraries

SLIS alumnus, Dr. Christopher Shaffer, may be a Troy Trojan today, but his career in Library and Information began in Tuscaloosa at UA SLIS. Drawing upon his diverse educational experiences as an international teacher, college professor, and academic librarian, Dr. Shaffer currently serves as Dean of University Libraries at Troy University. He received his BA in History from Auburn University in 1991, and earned a certificate to teach in Georgia. Before starting his career in the U.S., he chose to teach in Slovakia for a half year as an English teacher. Over the next several years stateside, Shaffer taught at the middle and high school level, with a return trip for 6 months to Slovakia, where he again taught English. During his time as a teacher, Dr. Shaffer also went back to graduate school for degrees in Social Studies Education and Administration. His wife, Amber, is also an educator, teaching high school English and the Shaffers have two dogs, Max and Dolly.

By 2004, Shaffer decided that he was ready to leave the classroom and enrolled in SLIS. Shaffer was hired immediately upon graduation by Troy University and after a year at Troy, he was named interim director of the Dothan Campus library, which became a permanent appointment the following year. Under Shaffer’s leadership, library systems on the Dothan Campus were made consistent with other University libraries. Shaffer also spearheaded a highly successful grant writing campaign that expanded the scope and programs offered at the Dothan Campus Library, culminating with the Troy University Dothan Library receiving the 2014 Alabama Library Association’s Humanitarian Award.
Also in 2014, Dr. Shaffer completed his doctorate and became dean of University Libraries at Troy, where he continues to serve students and the broader public Troy community today. Dr. Shaffer believes that libraries have an educational role in the community, stating, “From an academic library standpoint, I believe that role extends beyond the University community to the public at large. I always make an effort to let the community around our campus know when we are having lectures, exhibits, or other events.”

With his diverse research agenda, Dr. Shaffer has published on a variety of topics in both scholarly journals and edited books. His topics of interest include library programming and grants, collection development, and library administration. When asked about his favorite aspect of his work, Dr. Shaffer shared, “In Dothan, where I was director for 8 years, my favorite part of the job was grant writing and outreach programming. As dean, my priorities have changed, and I have become more interested in revitalizing and modernizing an older facility.”
Dr. Shaffer says, “For the past few years, one of my primary areas of emphasis has been to educate university administrators on the importance of libraries and librarians. As technology continues to advance, there are many people who fail to understand that the need for librarians is only increasing, because they are needed to teach students how to find the information they need. Libraries as places are equally important. Although, so much of the information we have is now available online, our library is used by students more today than in the last 20 years.”

Christopher Shaffer has transformed the Troy University libraries by bringing in programs that have opened a window to a much larger world to the students living in this segment of rural southeastern Alabama. His efforts were recognized in 2015 when he was awarded the I Love My Librarian Award, given by the Carnegie Corporation, New York Times, ALA, and NYPL.

Dr. Shaffer states, “My experience at UA SLIS was great. It was a supportive environment, and I made a network of not only connections I would use in my future career, but also genuine friends.” Dr. Shaffer offers the following advice to new LIS students:

“Seize on international opportunities when they exist. Every job I have gotten has been largely because of my international experience.”

“Listen to advice of people who are experienced in the field.”

“The wider your job search is geographically the better.”

“Reflect on your career and experiences to this point. Because of the nature of librarianship, there may be many aspects of your life that will help you market yourself to employers. As a teacher, I never felt respected, but my education and experience was embraced in the library field.”

“Be willing to consider jobs in rural areas. You will be in higher demand, and appreciated more.”

“Save any research papers that you write for classes. You may be able to submit them for publication later. My first article appeared in an Emerald journal. It was a paper I wrote in Dr. Weddle’s class. The editor accepted it with no alterations. Don’t get excited. That has never happened again in my experience!”

“Take advantage of opportunities; they may not occur again.”