November 21, 2023

Bradley J. Wiles, Northern Illinois University Libraries


Bradley J. Wiles, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Head of Special Collections and Archives Dept. at Northern Illinois University Libraries.

This ninth installment of CCC's Member Spotlight series features an interview with Bradley J. Wiles, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Head of Special Collections and Archives Dept. at Northern Illinois University Libraries.

Tell us about yourself and your role.

I am Head of Special Collections and Archives at NIU Libraries and I oversee the department's day-to-day and strategic operations as part of the library's management team. I have worked in libraries and archives for over 15 years and I recently finished my PhD in Information Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee iSchool. My research agenda covers a wide range of topics, but I generally like to connect my scholarship with my work duties and personal interests to stay engaged and motivated. My current position was created to manage a new department that combines rare books, special collections, university archives, and regional history holdings, which offers a wonderful variation for the NIU community and other patrons in the area. Since I am the first person to hold this position at NIU, my main goal over the last few years has been to figure out how all of these pieces fit together in a way that advances the university's instructional, research, and service mission. Needless to say, it is a work in progress.

How did you become involved in the work of Chicago Collections?

Mostly through conversations with other personnel at NIU. As one of the main points of contact for the library's original holdings, it makes sense to seek out ways that we can contribute and also raise our own profile as a resource.

What are some of the interesting things your institution has on EXPLORE?

We do not currently have anything on EXPLORE, but we are working to identify and share collection content that has more of a Chicago focus. For example, we hope to contribute substantially to the upcoming projects related to the 1968 Democratic National Convention and Urban Planning.

What have you liked about EXPLORE?

I like seeing the variety of holdings and institutions represented, and it's a great referral resource for researchers looking for Chicago-related material since our Chicago-centric physical and digital holdings are limited. I like being able to point people directly to content that they can access from anywhere.

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is the variation in what I may experience on any given day. This sometimes makes the planning process (I'm an inveterate planner) frustrating and difficult, but it keeps me on my toes. One thing I've always liked about working with archives and original collections is that you get to become a micro-expert on so many different things, while also building a more comprehensive knowledge base around the collections and communities they document. In my current position, I have a great deal of independence and I feel very supported by my library and university colleagues.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I try to spend as much of my free time as possible with my family--traveling, exploring the outdoors, supporting my kids' school and extracurricular activities, and just generally having fun. My wife and I like to cook and garden, and soon we'll be making this year's flavored brandies to give out as holiday gifts. In addition, we all love music and although my passion far outstrips my talent, I play bass in a band and we are now recording and planning shows for the spring. Somewhere in all this I'm trying to move forward on about a half-dozen research projects.