Statement of Professional Philosophy:
The Pathway to my MLIS:
Becoming a librarian was not a dream of mine; it was not even a conceived possibility because I was going to play soccer professionally and that was it. Growing up I loved the library but only in the summer. My local library offered a fantastic reading program that rewarded you, multiple times, throughout the program with tangible objects like tickets to professional sporting events. Essentially, I loved the library because of what it did for me. As I started my undergrad program, again I loved the library, usually only when I had major papers to do research on. Again, I loved the library because of what it did for me.
You see, when I started my undergrad and quite near the end I was set on going to law school and then all of the sudden I wasn’t. Well I can’t say ‘all of the sudden’ because it was a process of about 2 months. The last semester of my undergraduate career was a game changer for me, why? Well that semester I became a student assistant in the library. The library became my focus place, my hangout, my professional training, my niche and the staff became my family. Again, I loved the library for what it did for me but began to also love the library because what I could do with it for others. I didn’t go to law school when I graduated, I wasn’t preparing for the LSAT, instead I completed a digital archives internship and I researched library schools.
When I first decided to go to library school I was set on going into archives management. I enjoyed digitizing and preserving materials however after my internship I realized that I did not enjoy it as much as I first thought I would and did not want to pursue a career in it. What I did know was that I actually enjoyed the digitizing process of using technology and creating digital content for the library website and I missed creating research guides and working on cataloging projects in the ILS. I then decided to pursue the MLIS degree instead and focus on using technology to develop digital content for the web.
Passions and Focus:
What ultimately clenched my interest in working with libraries was the organization of information, the embracing of using technology to enhance the user experience and being “what can you do for me” for patrons. Those who study library and information science are given an opportunity to design, create, and serve for the benefit of many; I love being the person that solves the problem that seemed to them unsolvable. As I have worked in the library field and journeyed through my MLIS career these passions have not changed but have evolved towards a greater focus on digital content and web design & we development. I took courses that encouraged these passions including: Best Practices in Module Web Design using HTML and CSS, Web 2.0 and social networking tools in libraries, Special Studies: Virtual Worlds, Understanding Content Management Systems and using Drupal and my Virtual Internship centered on Social Media use in Public Libraries.
When I started library school I was six months into a professional library position where I was head of the learning resource center (LRC) at a very new academic trade school; this meant I had complete control to shape the library from the archaic state it was in to what it now has become. I had two years of paraprofessional library training and experience under my belt so I was both enthralled with the responsibility and utterly terrified. When I started working at this school the materials of the LRC were locked behind glass cabinets and students were terrified to ask me questions and often commented on how nice I was compared to the previous library worker. This made me sad for multiple reasons but primarily because it tainted their view of the library. My goal was to brand the library in a way that students saw it as a benefit for them to use it, that it was giving them something they did not have before. I wanted to teach the students that I was here for help, I wanted them to know that the LRC had something they wanted that they did not have before.
I spent a significant portion of these first six months organizing the collection and advertising to faculty, staff and students the materials that were available for them to use. When I started working the collection was organized by in-home developed call numbers, essentially the program they were used in and then an accession number, example: Anatomy-001. The complete listing of library materials was housed in an excel spreadsheet that was printed out and put into a binder for browsing, in house only. This is when I learned most about copy cataloging and became very grateful for World Cat and budget and user friendly OPAC resources such as LibraryThing. I spent many hours searching catalogs and completing the records for our material, after about three consistent months of this I finally had some sort of OPAC for students to view our material outside of the library.
I had accomplished this significant task prior to library school however, when I started the MLIS program an entire new world of opportunity opened up. In the first year, I learned about database building, controlled vocabulary, library management, and web design and development. The first semester gave me the confidence I needed to feel like I could make an educated difference in the LRC, where I learned about library science, the basis of the profession and gained many resources for reference when needed.
Libr200 introduced me to the various roles and responsibilities of a library; this helped me see my role as the head of the LRC in a greater light and paved a way to improve the library. My main focus was to get the LRC recognition to students, faculty and staff. I created an information literacy course that I took to the classrooms of the school I was working at. This course taught students about the resources we had, how they could access them and how they would benefit them during their time at the school. This course increased library usage ten-fold, it was amazing and affirming that what I was doing was on the right path, the students saw what the library could do for them.
With the increase of material circulation and the students’ desire to see the collection and search it and use it I knew my next step had to be upgrading the current format of circulating materials, filling out a form. I worked on automating the library; this allowed students to circulate material for longer periods of time and also use it off campus where prior to that they could only use material in the LRC. Another step towards the LRC being something the students saw benefit in.
My passion with technology, my experience in creating digital resources and my love for organization led to becoming the campus digital resources designer and I created over 300 graphic resources for advertisement for school programs, community events, career resources and health clinics. Taking Libr240: Information Technology Tools and Applications with a focus on designing for the web helped me hone the skills I had to really serve the community by giving my guidance to create a library website. The website opened a whole new world of access to students from contact information to catalog searching and project help and upcoming campus events. The creation of the website sparked my interest to study web programming further and to learn to work on multiple platforms.
The implementation of technology use in the LRC continued to grow as I took courses on social media use in libraries, web 2.0 tools and reference services. We implemented the use of Weebo chat (which has since been discontinued), Text-a-Librarian through Google Voice, a library blog through WordPress, and continued development of enhanced resource guides. All of this content was integrated into the library website so that students could access it conveniently and the page hits exploded from student use. The LRC was becoming the resource I aimed for it to be, it was serving students in a manner that it never had before.
I worked in the LRC for four semesters of my MLIS career, including a summer term, and was able to accomplish significant projects because of it. I knew I was in my dream career because not only was I successful in these implementations but I loved everything about it, I truly loved seeing the students actually using the LRC (physically and virtually). When I left this school to pursue a career as an integrated library system administrator I was truly sad as this place was my MLIS project, something I had built from scratch, I was proud of it.
When I ventured into library system administration, as the integrated library system (ILS) administrator, I learned an aspect of the library that I knew very little about, the back end of every ILS module pertinent to a library. This included learning how each department ran. I spent months going through training and learning the procedures in acquisitions, serials, access services, preservation, cataloging and reserves. I really learned what it took to run a library and the man power it required. It was here where I also moved from creating digital content to managing digital content and resources. When we automated the library at the previous school the collection and patron size were much smaller; at this library the collection was millions of items, with hundreds of staff members and thousands of students to serve. Handling a library of this caliber required significant attention to detail and the ability to see the bigger picture simultaneously.
My course work in online searching (Libr244) taught me how to build complex Boolean search strategies to find specific information. I was not aware of how I would apply this to my professional goals until working with ILS where I had the responsibility of creating reports that pulled various types of information for multiple departments. This course taught me how to break down complex topics to the basics and build up; this is a skill that expands beyond Boolean searches and into to general reference questions all together in all fields of study. I used this skill significantly and intuitively as the ILS administrator when troubleshooting issues with the system.
While I worked as the ILS administrator the immediate result of seeing the students benefit from the library wasn’t as apparent as it was in the LRC, sometimes it was not apparent except to myself and only because I knew what the system was providing the students. Although I missed this immediate reward and the interaction with the students I learned that my passion for working with technology and web programming overshadowed that.
As information professionals we are lifelong learners involved in a profession that moves rapidly. I have dedicated myself to this profession; “In a political system grounded in an informed citizenry, we are members of a profession explicitly committed to intellectual freedom and the freedom of access to information” (ALA, 2008). As digital resources continue to impact how we organize and deliver information to our patrons it is imperative that we continue to understand, learn and participate in this evolution of information dissemination.
I intend to keep up with the profession through my continued attendance and participation in professional conferences. I have been fortunate enough to attend ALA annual and midwinter as well as participate in CLA and local conferences such as the LA Archives Bazaar. I have continued to build my technology skills by learning multiple library systems including: content management systems (CMS), learning management systems (LMS), web 2.0 tools such as Google Analytics, Facebook Insights and multiple communication platforms. I have been expanding my programming skills by attending webinars, workshops (physical and virtual) and participating in programming projects through Treehouse and GitHub. There is so much to learn and so much potential for technology in libraries that it often becomes overwhelming on what to learn next. The ability to see where we stand in society, as professionals, and understand our impact on the greater society allows us to take important steps to shaping the libraries potential.
American Library Association, (2008). Code of Ethics of the American Library Association. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/proethics/codeofethics/codeethics.cfm