Category: Library Careers

Alumni Librarians: Sarah Slaughter ’13

Editor’s note: We invited Lawrence alumni who have gone into library work to share with us what they do and how they got there.  Here’s another in a series. 

Like many people who’ve found their career in libraries, I didn’t start out thinking I was going to be a librarian. I was a typical Lawrentian in that I had many interests, but I wasn’t sure where they would take me after graduation. As my senior year loomed I was getting anxious about what to do next – I majored in philosophy and German, which while both fascinating, didn’t point me toward a definite career path. Then one day, I was working an afternoon shift at the circulation desk, and I distinctly remember looking around the first floor at all the books and the people studying and thinking, “Hmm, I really like it here.” I decided to follow up on that instinct and started researching librarianship. After reading about grad programs I was still intrigued, so I decided to talk to some real life librarians to find out more.

Hearing the stories of the librarians at the Mudd was what sealed the deal for me. As I listened, I noticed we had a lot in common. They were all multi-interested people with a love for learning and a passion for helping students. They sounded like my kind of people.

The next year, I submitted my application to the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS) and was ecstatic when I found out I’d been accepted. I graduated from Lawrence in 2013 and started at Madison in the fall. Madison’s program turned out to be a great fit for me, and I’m extremely grateful for the opportunities I had there to get some hands on experience both in my student jobs, and the credit-bearing practicums I completed.

I had the good fortune to work at the Wisconsin Historical Society, as well as at the SLIS Library (that’s right, they have an entire library about libraries). These two jobs were very different, but they taught me just as much about working in libraries as I learned in my classes. At the Historical Society I worked in the periodicals department, checking in magazines and newspapers, and helping with a long-term storage project for their extensive newspaper collection. At the SLIS Library, I worked at the circulation desk, checking out materials, putting things on reserve, and teaching occasional technology workshops for my fellow students as well as those in the distance cohort.

Before grad school I didn’t realize that librarians could also be teachers, but now it’s one of the primary aspects of my job. I learned about teaching in libraries by taking classes on information literacy pedagogy and through an instruction practicum in which I co-taught an online course. I would strongly recommend to any student interested in libraries take advantage of whatever opportunities you can to get some hands on experience. The skills I learned in my practicums and in my student jobs gave me the edge that helped me land my first real library job after graduation.

I now work as the Humanities and Education Librarian at the University of Dubuque, a small private school, only slightly larger than Lawrence. My time is usually spent teaching information literacy in the core curriculum as well as other courses in my liaison areas, helping students one-on-one at the reference desk, and buying materials for the library. I’ve also had the chance at UD to nurture the curiosity I cultivated at Lawrence by doing my own research. Last year I worked on a paper for UD’s character education journal, Character And… about online privacy and character formation. This was especially exciting for me, because it gave me a chance to use the ethics background I gained as a philosophy major.

I’ve been at the University of Dubuque for two years now and I feel extremely lucky to be here. The small college atmosphere is where I feel most at home and I work on a library staff of ten wonderful people who all share the same enthusiasm for their work as I saw in the librarians at the Mudd. My job is different every day, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I didn’t start out thinking I’d be a librarian, but now that I’m here I can’t believe the idea didn’t occur to me sooner. Librarians are curious about myriad subjects, adept at solving problems, and passionate about helping others. All of these characteristics can also describe Lawrence graduates. In conclusion, for any Lawrentians looking for an enriching career, give libraries a chance. I found my people here, and perhaps you will too.

By Sarah Slaughter, Class of 2013

Alumni Librarians: Natalie Hall ’05

Editor’s note: We invited Lawrence alumni who have gone into library work to share with us what they do and how they got there.  Here’s another in a series. 

From the time I was a little kid, I’ve always said I wanted to be a cellist and if I wasn’t a cellist, I would be a librarian, but it wasn’t until much later that I realized I could do both. Starting at Lawrence, I knew I wanted to do the dual degree program and I wanted to work in the library. On my second day on campus, I went to the library to ask about a job and inquired politely every day until they hired me. I worked at the circulation desk all five years and loved it, particularly the late night closing shifts. I graduated from Lawrence with a B.M. in cello performance and a B.A. in English.
After Lawrence, I went on to Roosevelt University to get a M.M. in cello performance and again found myself working in the library. I had a part-time job in the music library and also a graduate assistantship that turned out to be mostly an orchestra librarian position. I spent hundreds of hours making practice parts and copying bowings, but I found it was a lovely respite from the stress of preparing for my lessons and performances each week.
Over the next 5 years, I built a successful music career, primarily teaching at the Music Institute of Chicago and in the Naperville school districts. I worked my way up to a full teaching load of 40-50 students per week and had enough freelance performance opportunities to keep me satisfied. I was proud of what I’d accomplished, but I was also not entirely happy with where my life was headed. I was spending 15-20 hours a week in my car and the pressure to be “on” all the time was exhausting. It didn’t feel like a sustainable way to live, but I had spent 20 years working toward this goal, so it was hard to imagine a life that didn’t have cello at the center of it. As I considered my options, I kept coming back to how much I’d loved working in the library at Lawrence and then later at Roosevelt.
I reached out to Antoinette Powell and Cindy Patterson at Lawrence, since I’d been close with them while working at the library and we had stayed in touch. They were both very supportive and just the boost I needed to make the decision to go back to school for a second masters and become a librarian. I enrolled at UW-Milwaukee’s School of Information Studies in 2010 and finished my Master of Library and Information Science degree in 2012.
Even with all of my prior library experience, it took some time to get my first post-MLIS job. After years of hearing I needed a backup plan if I was going to be a musician, the irony of having cello as my contingency plan was pretty funny. Eventually, I got my first job as a music cataloger at Roosevelt University. It was just a three month temporary position, but it helped me decide that my interests as a librarian were not so much music librarianship as I’d assumed, but cataloging, metadata, and technical services. From there, I got a job as part-time cataloger at Moraine Valley Community College.
Initially, I hadn’t planned on staying at Moraine Valley for very long given that it was a part-time position, but I quickly realized that it was a wonderful place to work. When a full-time position managing Technical Services opened up, I was thrilled and fortunate to get the job. I’ve been the Technical Services Coordinator there for about 2 ½ years and it is such a good fit for my skills and interests. As a department manager, I get to do a little bit of everything and have a lot of autonomy. It’s never boring, there’s always database clean-up work to do, and new problems to solve.
I’ve also been putting my former teaching skills to work by teaching two college courses: a graduate cataloging course, Organization of Knowledge at Dominican University’s School of Information Studies and Introduction to Cataloging for LTA students at the College of DuPage. I also regularly teach some short term continuing education courses for librarians on cataloging topics through Library Juice Academy, a professional development site for library staff. And, of course, I still play the cello, but now it’s mostly for fun.
It may have taken me a while to figure out this is the career for me, but it’s really the process to get here that made it possible. I think many of the skills that have helped me to be a successful librarian, manager, and college instructor are directly attributable to skills I developed and honed as a musician. For any Lawrentian considering pursuing a career in librarianship, I would encourage them to try to get some library experience before completing their degree. I’d also recommend while in library school to take classes in both reference and cataloging, even if you’re sure you only want to work in one area or the other. Some schools no longer require students to take them, but even if you don’t end up in a position where you use either routinely, they will still help you be a better librarian. And finally, be flexible and open to the opportunities that come your way as you may be surprised at where your interests and experiences will lead.

By Natalie Hall, Class of 2005

Alumni Librarians: Evan Meszaros ’07

Editor’s note: We invited Lawrence alumni who have gone into library work to share with us what they do and how they got there.  Just in time for reunion, here’s another in a series. 

Libraries and librarian interests, responsibilities, and compulsions have been present throughout my life, from the weekends I’d volunteer for the Friends of the Library booksale in my hometown to the Borders Books job I held following my time at Lawrence. It was during that formative interim at LU, however, where I learned firsthand what an academic library is all about.

The first time I set foot in the Mudd was during freshman orientation. There was a tour being offered and, unbeknownst to me, the handful of first years who actually attended the tour were entered into a drawing for a prize. I remember how surprised I was to have won a gift certificate to Lombardi’s Steakhouse—the first (and one of the few) times I’ve won anything substantial in a drawing! The real prize, though, turned out to have been the work-study position at the Mudd I secured shortly thereafter and which would last four years, expose me to all manner of library operations responsibilities, and introduce me to a lot of great coworkers.

While my job at the Mudd was stable and abiding throughout my LU career, my academic pursuits were all over the map. I entered LU having done well in an AP Biology course, but decided to explore other disciplines (e.g. philosophy, history, anthropology, etc.) that I’d otherwise had little or no exposure to in high school. The mad dash in my junior and senior years to pull-off a biology major didn’t quite work out, so I switched to a “natural science interdisciplinary” major—a decision I’d happily make again. With the rich variety of science courses I ended up taking, I was able to sample from a fuller menu of academic disciplines while still ultimately getting accepted into a graduate program in biology.

Another work-study position I held—this one during grad school at Case Western Reserve University—was one that required me to organize and manage medical records, microscope slides, and patients’ tissue biopsies for a dermatopathology lab at a university-affiliated hospital. It was only when looking back on the commonalities of these library and librarian-like experiences I’d had, in addition to my penchant for “academic tourism,” that, after completing an MS and working for three years in a molecular biology lab, I decided to switch things up and enter the academic library world.

I couldn’t have done this alone, and I thankfully didn’t have to. Friends and fellow Lawrence alumni Steve and Emily Flynn stayed in contact with me throughout their time at the University of Michigan’s School of Information and beyond, providing me with much guidance during my transition. In the spring of 2014—and with the help and advice of the Flynns and other Lawrentian librarians—I was accepted into UW–Madison’s School of Library and Information Studies.

Fast-forward almost three years, and, while I’m still working on my library degree, I’ve had the tremendously good fortune to hold a full-time librarian position at my (other) alma mater, Case Western, where I’m a Research Services Librarian at the university’s Kelvin Smith Library (also since 2014). In this position, I support the Department of Biology, along with two other science departments and the Institute for the Science of Origins. My responsibilities range from academic subject liaising and collection management to reference and classroom instruction.

Learning the ropes of the academic library profession on the job while simultaneously taking courses in library science has been very illuminating. It also has its perks: when you’re a student, you get opportunities to apply for scholarships and student pricing on most professional development offerings, so conferences, workshops, and memberships are more affordable during this period than they’ll ever be. To any LU students who are planning on entering the library profession: take advantage of these! Even if you’re not working while you’re in school, you’ll still set the foundation of your library career through the networking and volunteering you’ll do. The people you meet meet may be your future bosses, coworkers, friends… or even significant others! (It’s true—I met my librarian-fiancée at the very first library conference I attended!)

As I write this, I’m a week out from attending my 10-year LU reunion. And after those ten years since leaving LU, I’d say I’ve finally found my calling—even if the message didn’t come across distinctly or coherently sooner. While I’d hesitate to discourage any Lawrentians from following their own path of self-discovery after graduating, I would urge them, if they’re even remotely inclined to the profession, to at least consider a future in librarianship. For those who have found themselves similarly drawn to libraries, learning, and helping others learn, the profession has a great deal to offer you.

By Evan Meszaros, Class of 2007

Alumni Librarians: Emily Alinder Flynn ’09

EmilyEditor’s note: We invited Lawrence alumni who have gone into library work to share with us what they do and how they got there. Here’s another in a series.

I got hooked on libraries while working in technical (tech) services at the Mudd Library freshman year at LU and haven’t looked back since. Besides labeling new print books and DVDs, I corrected errors in the online catalog to ensure people could find what they looked for and also shelved rare and special books in the Lincoln Reading Room and Milwaukee-Downer Room. I enjoyed organizing the library but truly loved making sure people could find what they needed with everything being where it should be. In my current job, part of it includes correcting errors and fixing links for eResources which are essential since eBooks and eJournals cannot be stumbled upon like a physical book that is misshelved.

As I neared graduation, I researched graduate programs in library science and ended up at the University of Michigan, a School of Information that offers lots of technology courses in the same degree. Learning coding, database management, heuristic evaluation, etc., in addition to library science has proven to be useful in my career. My first professional job was at ProQuest, cataloging eBooks for Safari Books Online which is mostly computer science and technology related. Cataloging describes the contents of an item and creates a record in an online catalog so that people can find the information and items. LU prepared me as an analytical thinker, furthered my intellectual curiosity, and inspired me to be my best self at all times. All of these traits serve me well as a technology-savvy, detail-oriented librarian.

For current students thinking about a career in libraries, my first piece of advice is to work in one. This sounds basic but it’s the best way to tell not only if you want to work in libraries but to determine what you want to do, and sometimes what you don’t want to do which is also important.  Experience working in libraries will make you a stronger candidate for library jobs. Also, the best part about libraries today is the variety of jobs and areas that are available. I currently work at OhioLINK, which is a consortium of 121 Ohio academic libraries and the State Library of Ohio that share materials and purchase eContent together which allows students and faculty to have access to many more resources. In addition to cataloging, I manage an electronic theses and dissertations submission website for 30 of our member libraries. One of my librarian friends works as a curator of children’s literature. Another is a studio librarian, helping students create research and projects with media and software. There are opportunities in government facilities, corporations, museums, and so much more. There truly is something for everyone, you just have to look.

By Emily Alinder Flynn, Class of 2009

Alumni Librarians: Beth Carpenter ’10

Editor’s note: We invited Lawrence alumni who have gone into library work to share with us what they do and how they got there. Here’s another in a series.

When I arrived at Lawrence in the fall of 2006, I knew that I wanted to work in the campus library – it was one of my first stops during Welcome Week. From that moment on, the Mudd became an integral part of my Lawrence experience.

Attending a small liberal arts college meant that I had the chance to get to know the faculty and staff of the college on a more personal level, outside of the classroom. The library was a place where I feel I took advantage of that most, and I found role models in the reference librarians and circulation staff that I interacted with every day.

I knew I wanted to work in libraries early on, but there was one particular reference librarian (who can remain nameless to avoid embarrassment) who truly cemented the desire to be a college librarian in my mind. She truly embodies what a librarian should be, in my mind – full of a willingness to help anyone, knowledgeable about a wide range of topics (and willing to research anything she didn’t know), and an advocate for the library and its services. Other librarians and staff of the library gave their time an energy to teach me things like basic cataloging, or reserve procedures, things that all helped me on my journey towards librarianship.

Working at the Mudd gave me the direction and focus I needed going into my graduate program at Indiana University Bloomington. It was valuable for me to go to such a large school (about twenty times the size of Lawrence) to be able to compare library environments. In graduate school, I worked at three different libraries across the campus, all giving me a variety of experience in circulation and reference work.

I currently am the Liberal Arts Librarian at Bethany College in West Virginia. As glamorous as it sounds, part of the reason for the title is so that I’m not tied to any particular job within the library, which I actually love. I was hired for my experience in cataloging and working with student employees, but my role has grown to encompass our website maintenance, serials management and event planning. Occasionally I also get the opportunity to do some library instruction. I think the advantage of working at a small liberal arts college (and Bethany is particularly small – we have three full-time librarians and a part-time archivist) is that I get to do different things every day – when I’m tired of one project, I can work on another one (luckily, I also learned time management and prioritizing assignments at Lawrence).

If I have any advice for students looking into going for an MLS/MLIS degree, it’s that they should make sure they find a program with opportunities to learn and practice instruction, because that’s becoming an increasingly important part of academic librarianship. Also while in graduate school, make sure to get as much work experience as possible, because it is those jobs that will help bolster your resume. More often than not, those libraries are used to hiring graduate students and will help you mold the job into what you want or need it to be – I went from a reserves assistant to a circulation supervisor and reserves co-coordinator in one position because that library allowed me to grow the role I was hired for.

The best thing to know about libraries is that working in them is never going to be what you expect, but it will always be rewarding, if you have an open mind about whatever is going to come your way. I never would’ve anticipated living in small-town West Virginia, but after a year and half, I’m not sure there’s another job out there that would suit me quite as well!

By Beth Carpenter, Class of 2010

Lawrence Students at the WLA Conference

Back in November, three library student workers, Allison Wray, Aubrey Klein, Andrea Parmentier, along with Angela Vanden Elzen, one of our reference librarians, attended the 2014 Wisconsin Library Association Conference.  The three students were invited to attend because they are interested in pursuing library sciences and librarianship after college.  In addition to helping organize the Conference’s Makerspace, everyone was able to attend some of the numerous presentations and talks, featuring a huge range of topics.  It was a fantastic experience, here is what Andrea, Allison, and Aubrey have to say about it!

(From Left) Andrea, Aubrey, Allison in front of the Makerspace
(From Left) Andrea, Aubrey, and Allison in front of the Makerspace

Andrea: I am very grateful for the opportunity I had to go to WLA.  The conference really solidified my resolve that librarian is the career path I want to follow.  I felt that I fit in with these people who want to help people learn and have fun.  It was interesting to see how and what kinds of ideas were exchanged through the conference.  There was a lot of programming interesting for me, even not being a librarian.  I went to panels about how to cater library programs and events to different groups and about keeping up with teens and teen literature, as library programming is one of the areas of librarianship I am most interested and those talks seemed most interesting to one not in the field.
The panels and speeches weren’t the only place to find out more information, however.  The exhibition hall, and especially the makerspace that Angela was in charge of, was a great way to meet people and exchange ideas.  Not only were the projects ideas in and of themselves, but librarians working on activities chatted with one another about how to adapt the ideas to fit their own library’s needs and goals.  Talking to a couple of librarians was cool too, especially talking to a librarian from our own Appleton Public Library about the types of activities she has for the teens.  All in all, I learned a lot about the ways librarians work to improve their services and what those services are.

Allison: My favorite part of the conference was probably exploring the exhibition hall. There were so many neat tables and people; it was really cool to see such a variety of stalls.  I also really enjoyed some of the presentations I went to, especially the ones on young adult literature and graphic design.  I’m very passionate about art and LGBTQ/feminist activism so I was pleased to be able to participate in a discussion space concerning topics I care about, especially ones relevant to teen readers. I was impressed by how many different topics the presentations covered, I definitely wasn’t expecting to directly share my interests in opinions with many people, but I was pleasantly surprised when there was a plethora of relevant and interesting presentations to attend!
I really appreciated that the conference gave me a good idea of the breadth of librarianship and all of the different paths that are available.  I was excited to discover that UW has a Gender and Women’s Studies librarian who was tabling there, and it was great to talk to her and learn about what she does. I was also reminded of just how much libraries do, in both the public and academic sphere. I haven’t had much public library experience, so it was exciting to see all of the programming and ideas that people had. I definitely feel like librarianship is a good path for me—there are just so many different options and opportunities that make it appealing and exciting!

Aubrey: In particular, I really liked the presentations  given by young-adult librarians and hearing what they had to say.  In their work, they use young-adult novels as a way to talk about and teach teens about topics like sexual assault, body-image, LGBTQ relationships and many other things.  I’ve always loved YA but it helped me realize just how important the genre is for teen readers, considering that it is often so easily written off by adults or people who don’t consider YA “serious” reading.
I was surprised at the huge amount of presentations and activites being presented at the conference.  There were a lot of different topics covered under categories like leadership, community and event planning.
The conference definitely reaffirmed that librarianship is the field for me.  I was fascinated and excited by everything that I learned and sensed a lot of community and solidarity among the library community.  It also presented some new paths to me that I may not have thought about before, like teen librarianship.
I was reminded that librarianship is far more than just picking books for a collection.  Libraries are community spaces that provide a variety of resources for every person in the community, from the poorest to the richest.  I love that libraries are a space for everyone to feel welcome and that even if a person comes to the library every day and never checks out a single book, the library is still providing them with something, whether it be internet access, an after-school program, or a warm shelter.  Librarians really play a huge role in community building, and can have a major impact on the lives of those who use the library.

Alumni Librarians: Wendy Pradt Lougee ’72

Editor’s note: We invited Lawrence alumni who have gone into library work to share with us what they do and how they got there. Here’s another in a series.
Lougee_photo

From liberal arts context to a research institution in 40 years… my career has been an interesting journey, reflecting some of the seismic changes in information, publishing, and technology.  I wish I could convey that I heard a clear call to librarianship when I graduated from Lawrence in 1972 with an English major (and good liberal arts education). Rather, an older sister (also English major) was a librarian with Time Warner in New York, and her experiences helping with research for reporters around the globe sounded appealing. Perhaps, too, the focus on sound skills in inquiry and writing that Lawrence embraced had an impact in selecting a career path. Diploma in hand, I headed to UW-Madison for its library science masters program.

A year later, post-UW grad school, found me working at the University of Minnesota in the South Asian Library, unprepared for the diverse languages and narrow focus.  Since academic librarianship seemed an interesting arena, I returned to graduate school in psychology at the University of Minnesota, considering a future as a psychology specialist within a university library. The next stages of my career took me first to another small liberal arts college (Wheaton College in Massachusetts) and then to Brown University Library, where I developed collections and supported faculty in social science disciplines.

A recruitment call from University of Michigan launched the research university chapter in my career and introduced me to university administration, first as an Assistant to the University Library Director (an intern type role) and later as Director of the Graduate (main) Library.  In the early 1990’s when campuses were wrestling with the early promise of distributed computing, I had the unique opportunity to launch a fledgling digital library program, an endeavor to seize the opportunities that technology afforded for information delivery and for developing digital content and programs.  It was a heady time, and Michigan took an early lead in the international arena of digital information initiatives.  Projects ensued to digitize books and journals, create retrieval systems, address diverse needs ranging from art images to biological specimen collections, and much more — often in partnership with other institutions and fueled by many grants.  Concurrently, the commercial publishing world began to dramatically step up its development of digital publication, and I oversaw the policy, infrastructure, and service dimensions of acquiring and delivering digital content at Michigan.  The experience was expansive and challenging and brought national recognition for our pioneering work.

In 2002, I headed to another U of M, back to University of Minnesota as University Librarian and McKnight Presidential Professor, overseeing a system of 14 libraries, historically rich collections, and a very large distributed staff.  Here, too, the burgeoning digital environment grew dramatically, and we’ve been recognized for innovative technology programs and service models that support digital data intensive research and learning/teaching that employs online digital content and tools.

An increasing imperative for academic libraries is to work collectively with other institutions to realize models to share resources and to gain efficiency in serving our individual campuses.  I’ve been deeply engaged in these trends within the Big 10 academic consortium known as the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) and more broadly.  I’ve been privileged, too, to serve on various national boards: the Council on Library and Information Resources, the Digital Library Federation, the HathiTrust, and Association of Research Libraries.   All of these organizations address the knowledge environment writ large – that is, far more than physical collections and place-based services that used to define bricks and mortar libraries.

Back in the 1970’s when I left Lawrence, could I imagine leading a large library organization and working within complex consortia to address mutual interests? The answer is quite simply, no.  Yet, I believe the investments made in those years at Lawrence to nurture a strong liberal arts background, to gain perspective on social issues, and to imagine roles of global citizenship provided an energizing start to a career in the “knowledge business.”   I consider libraries a critical player in the knowledge environment of higher education, and I’ve been fortunate to be engaged in leadership roles within that context.

Wendy Pradt Lougee
University Librarian
McKnight Presidential Professor
University of Minnesota

Alumni Librarians: Kirstin Jansen Dougan, ’95

Editor’s note: We invited Lawrence alumni who have gone into library work to share with us what they do and how they got there. Here’s another in a series.dougan_photo

Even as a small child, I loved the idea of investigating things—Harriet the Spy and the Hardy Boys were my heroes. By junior high, the idea of collecting information was extremely appealing. Crush on the new boy in school? Research! Where did he come from, what did his parents do, what kind of car did they drive? Silly, yes, but it carried over to school. I loved researching school projects (the writing, not so much). In high school, my youth orchestra director tasked me with being the group’s librarian, since he thought I was responsible and organized. I also started a love affair with technology—computers—especially.

By the time I got to Lawrence as a viola performance major, I was ready for the wonders that awaited me in the Seeley G. Mudd. When I wanted to learn the origins of a word, I went to one of the reference librarians (now director) Pete Gilbert. He showed me how to use the Oxford English Dictionary (just in print at that point). Shortly after that, my sophomore music history class had a session with the music librarian, the great Eunice Schroeder, and was assigned a follow-up scavenger hunt using the DOS based library catalog to find music materials. It was so much fun! The power to know how to search correctly and find what I needed—my investigative and information collecting tendencies were thrilled. If I remember correctly, one of the other students who did well on that assignment was Colleen Rortvedt, now director of the Appleton Public Library.

Sophomore year also saw me taking on the job as librarian for the LUSO. I loved the duties, ordering, marking, and organizing the music for each season. But I didn’t care for the deadlines and eraser bits that permeated my wardrobe. Since I knew I wasn’t likely to make a full-time living as a performer, and I wasn’t interested in teaching, I started wondering what else I could do with a music background and a love for information. I knew I didn’t want a job where I sat at a desk all day (no, librarians don’t do that!). I talked to Eunice, who suggested that working in an academic library would be a good fit. I was already taking German and French in addition to my music history and theory classes, lessons and such), so I kept at it until it was time to think about graduate school. I’m not sure I knew that I would need a second masters in music to be a good candidate for many academic library positions, but I knew I wasn’t ready to stop my viola education. So long story short, I went to grad school for viola performance and paid my way by being the orchestra librarian—still couldn’t get away from the eraser bits! After a year off to work in an office, in which I learned I really didn’t want to do that, I enrolled in UW Madison’s SLIS. Given the different paths my classmates had taken, I felt a bit conspicuous as one who had wanted to be a librarian early on. But I was fortunate to get various GA positions, first in the University Records Office (part of the Archives), then at College Library, and finally with the Digital Content Group, where my love of technology and data structures grew. Throughout I held an hourly position at the music library, working at the reference desk, processing archival collections, and other tasks.  I took several independent studies with the music librarians to supplement my classwork.

After graduating I stayed with the Digital Content group for a year and half, before taking a job as a music librarian at Duke University. I was responsible for reference, instruction, collection development, web site maintenance and staff supervision. After two years my boss retired, so I became the interim head for two years. I then left to take the job I have now as the Music and Performing Arts Librarian at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. We are one of the largest libraries in the country and I love my job. I (along with the head of our branch library) do many of the same things I did at Duke, but in addition, librarians here are on the tenure track. This means that I also research and write articles. I focus on information seeking behavior in music and the tools used in music research, as well as the collections and services that connect these. My love of research and information gathering has come full circle.

by Kirstin (Jansen) Dougan, Class of ’95

Meet the Staff: Andrew McSorley

Andrew-meet-the-staff-Medium

We are pleased to introduce a recent acquisition to the library–Andrew McSorley, Circulation and Interlibrary Loan Assistant. Andrew works tirelessly to fulfill  Interlibrary Loan (ILL) requests submitted by students and faculty, not only at Lawrence, but from libraries all over the country. He also heads the Circulation desk on Saturdays and helps to coordinate the library’s electronic reserve collection. In addition, he’s proven himself as a real contender for the most hilarious library staff member title, and if you know how funny our music librarian Antoinette Powell is, this is no small feat. Bravo, Andrew! Read on to learn more about Andrew, and be sure to give him a warm welcome if you run into him at the Mudd.

How long have you been working at the Mudd Library?

I have been here for about three months now, and I love it!

What’s your favorite part of your job?

I really enjoy knowing that I’m an integral connection between the faculty, students, staff, and their research. Being at the front lines (in a sense) of a lot of the scholarship for the university is incredibly rewarding.

Share something you’ve done at work that has made you especially proud.

I haven’t been here long enough to really shake things up yet, but I’m proud every time I can lend someone that article or book they’ve had a difficult time finding. I’ve also been really pleased with the rollout of our new software, ILLiad. I’m happy I could add my input into that transition. I’ve made some pretty sweet thank you slips for libraries that lend us materials, as well. So far they have featured Boba Fett, Underdog, Totoro, and The Big Lebowski. The Dude abides.

Where did you get your degree?

I have a Bachelor’s degree from Valparaiso University, and I finished my MFA in Creative Writing at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale in May. Go Salukis!

What are your hobbies?

I write poetry often and on occasion some of it gets accepted to a literary journal, and submitting for publication is a hobby unto itself. I’m finishing up my first manuscript for publication right now. I also enjoy sports of any kind, though I’m particularly an ice hockey fanatic (Go Wild!).

What’s the last book you read that you couldn’t put down?

I always have a few books going at once. The last few I’ve devoured have been The Midlife Crisis of Commander Invincible by Neil Connelly, The Big Smoke by Adrian Matejka, and Your Invitation to a Modest Breakfast by Hannah Gamble.

What are your favorite bands or performers?

I absolutely love Pearl Jam, but I can enjoy just about anything, as long as it’s not country (no offense to Osh Vegas and its epic country love).

List your favorite blogs and/or magazines.

I used to work for Crab Orchard Review, so they obviously have awesome taste and everyone should get a subscription. But, I also really dig Revolution House, Gingerbread House Literary Magazine, and the brand new Psychopomp Magazine. They’re all publishing emerging authors and pretty atypical, ferocious stuff. You can check out all of them online.

What groups and/or organizations are you active in (on or off campus)?

Does fantasy football count as an organization? I’m actively seeking any orgs related to creative writing, so any suggestions are welcome.

Tell us about your family.

My wife works here at Lawrence, as well. She is the director of International Student Services. We both feel really blessed to be working here because we grew up in Appleton, and our families are still in the area. I won’t tell you too much more about my family because I’d have to lie on a couch.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

I’m reminded of that scene in Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories where aliens visit the town where a film festival is being held. Woody’s character asks them, “Shouldn’t I stop making movies and do something that counts, like helping blind people or becoming a missionary or something?” And, one of the aliens says, “You want to do mankind a real service? Tell funnier jokes.”

That’s kind of what you meant, right?

 

Alumni Librarians: Jennifer Chamberlain, ’96

Editor’s note: We invited Lawrence alumni who have gone into library work to share with us what they do and how they got there. Here’s another in a series.

JC with students in reference section smallThe Roundabout Road from the Mudd or How I Accidentally Became a Librarian

by Jennifer Chamberlain, ’96 (center)

To me, the Seeley G. has always been more than a concrete fortress beckoning to procrastinating Lawrentians. From 1992-1996, it was my second home as an unexceptional English major with disparate interests and a remarkable capacity for getting side-tracked. Armed with a steaming cup of coffee from the Grill (this is commonly referred to as the pre-latte era) and a steeled resolve to hit the books, I spent many hours tackling my homework and papers with an inefficient, yet well-intentioned outlook. I adored the research process, but hated writing papers. I could spend countless hours refining a topic or following an obscure research lead only to find myself pulling out my hair in the final hours before a paper was due trying to synthesize a mountain of citations. Professor Spurgin could likely attest to the fact that my works cited pages always read a lot better than the paper itself.

The Mudd is also the place I spent a fair number of hours studying (ok, shamelessly flirting) with my then-friend and now-husband of 14 years. Who knew that sixteen years post-graduation, I’d sit on the other side of the reference desk helping college students tackle their research projects (while watching them shamelessly flirt with fellow students)? Never underestimate the power of romance in the library.

I graduated from Lawrence in 1996 with a B.A. in English and Certification in Secondary Education ready to tackle a low paying internship as a museum educator at the Illinois State Museum. After a series of jobs in museums morphed into a semi-career in nonprofit fundraising, I found myself unhappy with the direction my professional life was taking. I was an educator that didn’t want to teach in a K-12 school and an English major without the yearning to pursue an MA (all that paper writing). I distinctly remember the day a mentor asked me my career goals. Struggling to appear like a gal with a plan, I quickly revealed a subconscious desire to become a librarian. My mentor laughed, and there’s no motivator quite like laughter. Problem was I didn’t have the first clue how people became librarians. I didn’t know anyone who worked as a librarian. As a kid, the librarians at my public library seemed a mystifying other-worldly folk that rarely stepped foot outside of the library. Even in college, I’d never really gotten to know the librarians on a personal level, despite the fact they bailed me out countless times. It seemed as though librarians were a higher life form, on par with the Elves in Lord of the Rings, who existed beyond the normal realm. Plainly put, librarians knew a whole lot about a whole lot of things. I wasn’t sure I fit the bill.

Fast forward a few years when my husband took a job in the rural Northwoods running a YMCA camp. By some act of luck, I landed a job as the director of the local, rural library. Thanks to some antiquated state statute, librarians at the smallest of public libraries are not required to hold an advanced degree in library science. It only took one day as director of the Boulder Junction Public Library for me to realize I’d found my dream job. I quickly pursued a Master of Library Science from UW-Milwaukee, and for the next ten years I held a variety of reference and administrative positions in southeastern Wisconsin public libraries.
In 2009 I was tapped to serve as the Interim Library director and later appointed Director of Library Services for the University of Wisconsin-Washington County, a freshmen/ sophomore campus of the UW System. Working in the UW System offers me the power of a large academic institution in terms of colleague caliber and strength in resources, yet I get to interact with students in an intimate campus setting a bit smaller than Lawrence. I think about the skills I acquired at the Lawrence library on a daily basis working with students one-on-one. When I educate students on information literacy strategies and watch them wade through the vast information resources at their fingertips, I think about all those hours I culled through books and resources at the Mudd. During formal library instruction sessions, I tell students they arguably have it harder in today’s digital world than I did as an undergrad when it comes to seeking and evaluating information. I share with them my memories of researching in my college library (I can still here the “shunk” sound of the Mudd’s turn style) and how I took for granted the credibility of the information I found there in print. As a small college library director, I get to administer a dynamic student-centered library similar to what I experienced at LU – and I love it.

The switch from public libraries to academic libraries was a great opportunity for my career and personal growth. Not until writing this blog entry did I realize what a homecoming it was for me. As a guide for students in the research process, I relive a bit of those college years and I find myself remembering my days at the Mudd with tremendous fondness. I feel lucky to have a job that appreciates, even encourages me to embrace my generalist-self that still enjoys chasing divergent research leads wherever they take me. And the best part is I don’t have to stay up until 3 a.m. writing that final paper.
I treasure the years I bumbled my way through the Mudd library collection. I reflect on that time frequently as I work with undergraduates learning to navigate the physical and virtual collections in the UW System. From my perspective, a career as a librarian is a glove-like fit for the type of person Lawrence inspires you to be: curious, tenacious, widely-read — a first-class generalist.