iSchool-Trained Librarian Still On The Move with State Department in Africa
By: Diane Stirling
Moving around a lot and trying different things on in life just seems to be Rose Jackson’s style.
Growing up in a military family, she was born in Illinois and spent her youth in Virginia. When it came time for college, Rose earned four degrees (in business administration, economics, English, and international relations), attending schools in California, Texas, and Alabama. When she joined the military, her first duty station was in Spain, an experience “that kind of unleashed wanderlust in me,” she said in understatement.
These proved to be life patterns that Rose would continue. Still, there was always one constant: Rose liked to be in libraries. Wherever she was, she would volunteer to work in them.
Eventually, as she recognized the significance of that recurring interest, Rose set out for another state, another college, and another degree. That’s how she connected with Syracuse University, the School of Information Studies (iSchool), and her Master’s degree (2003) in Library and Information Science, she recounted.
Today, Rose is still traveling place to place, is still involved in education, and is still maintaining her interest in libraries. She is an Information Resource Officer for the U.S. State Department, stationed in Rwanda. Her district encompasses nine Central African countries.
Rose’s interest in a State Department career began right after graduation from SU, when she met an Information Resource Officer while at an American Library Association conference. At the time, she was a newly hired social sciences librarian at a state university and serving in the U.S. Navy, completing eight years of active duty and 13 years in the Navy Reserves. In 2006, she retired from the Navy as a Commander (0-5). When a Information Resource Officer position opened in 2009, Rose successfully pursued it. Her next stop was Washington, D.C., for diplomatic training, including schooling in French. She assumed her post at the U.S. Embassy in Kigali, Rwanda at the start of this year.
Before long, Rose met someone who rekindled her iSchool memories. Sarah Webb, an iSchool post-doctoral researcher who initiated a library project in Kigali during her Ph.D. studies, was visiting Rwanda. Sarah asked the U.S. Embassy for assistance with her project. It was Rose’s role to bring together pertinent stakeholders to open those discussions. Rose also offered to help personally with the fundraising for a library, and perhaps eventually, an iSchool in Rwanda, spurred by her own positive experiences and by what she hopes to achieve now. “I had a great time at Syracuse, and I hope that some of the Rwandan students get an opportunity to have that same experience,” she offered.
Though Rose had spent many years in libraries, the iSchool changed her perception of what a library truly is, she described. “For the first time, I had to consider that a library is not just physical space. I really thought about questions of access and atmosphere; more about virtual space.” That was good training for her current profession, she acknowledged, “because, I was already thinking outside of the physical limits of the space.”
Now, Rose enjoys “the chance to really impact lives. Central Africa is probably the most modest part of Africa. The people are young on average, and they’re really interested in education. It’s been a great joy to introduce resources to them, whether print or electronic and even multi-media,” she said. “It’s been nice to be so well received. You get jaded when you work in an academic library in the United States, where you have access to resources. You kind of forget what it is like [not] to have access,” she described.
As she introduces America culture through programs and informational resources, Rose finds these are not unknown concepts, as might be perceived. “American media seeps into Africa,” she noted, and consequently, many Africans have a good idea about current affairs here. Others have visited the U.S. or may have an American relative. Few have had the opportunity to meet Americans face-to-face, though, she said. “I might be their first opportunity to talk to an American, and it usually is a positive experience.”
True to form, another post and another move may be in Rose’s future soon. Her assignment lasts through 2014, and then, she could be reassigned within Africa or sent to Latin America or Asia. For now, Rose and her daughter, Quincy Leigh, 10, are satisfied with the work and the lifestyle Rwanda offers them, and Rose is content to stay put. “I’m having a great time in Africa,” she said. “I’d have no problem staying here for another tour, but I must also consider the needs of the State Department, she concluded.