Enjoy this special interview with Preston Library's new Director, COL Pongracz Sennyey!
What brought you to VMI?
I was the associate director at Furman University and then I moved to Texas, where I became the director of the library at St. Edwards University for the better part of a decade. I moved to Virginia two years ago. I was briefly at JMU and then I came to VMI in September of 2021. I was attracted to this position at VMI because of the reputation of the Institute, the size of the library, and its potential.
What has your experience of VMI been like so far?
It has been a very positive experience, especially while learning about its unique academic culture. I have been impressed by the cadets and their commitment to VMI and I have also encountered a supportive, friendly faculty. And, of course, I was delighted to meet a new team of colleagues at Preston Library.
Have you worked at other libraries outside of the United States?
I spent about 2 years doing research at the University of Szeged, in Hungary, prior to me becoming a librarian. In 2010, I worked closely with that library while working on a Fulbright project.
What did you do/want to do before becoming a librarian?
I had wanted to become a medieval historian and I studied at the University of Illinois, but I left the field before completing my dissertation.
Why did you become a librarian?
I got a job as a graduate assistant cataloguing Hungarian books at University of Illinois. They had a huge backlog of Hungarian books but no one to catalog them. That got me a foot in the door and made the transition to librarianship easier once I got my Masters in Library Science.
What’s your aspiration for Preston Library?
Libraries all over the world are navigating the transition from a predominantly print world to a digital environment. Preston Library is no exception to this transition, and I look forward to exploring the opportunities that come open in the process.
How do you see Preston Library evolving to meet the needs of 21st century students and faculty?
This transition will require that we adopt new tools, new processes, new resources, and that we learn new skills. We must meet the evolving needs of our users.
How are libraries still relevant today?
There are several factors that make libraries critical to a community of scholars. First, scholarly information remains very expensive, and libraries are a means to share that cost. Another factor is that even though there is an abundance of information today, scholarly information remains complex and requires a considerable amount of discernment to be used well. Libraries play a critical role in these functions, and I don’t see these factors changing significantly in the future.
Last but not least, the library building remains a center for learning and exploration. The value of Preston library to the VMI community is to be the marketplace for ideas informed through scholarly resources and conversations.
What are your top 3 book recommendations?
Our Inner Apes by Franz de Vaal
In an Antique Land by Amitav Ghosh
Citizens: a Chronicle of the French Revolution by Simon Schama
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I have several hobbies, but I like to do some woodworking making furniture. I also like to bake bread!
If someone funded your travel to anywhere, where would it be?
I would travel down the Adriatic coast, from Venice to Athens.