By: Diane Stirling
Having a degree in hand often means the end of student jobs and a concerted search for a new career. Those job search preparations, pitches to potential employers, and exciting new job opportunities are experiences five School of Information Studies (iSchool) Master’s degree graduates of the Library and Information Science program talked about recently.
Daina Bouquin’s dream job opened up during her first year of studies, and by chance, resurfaced as she neared graduation. She got the job, and now is shaping a role in a cutting-edge capacity as the first data and metadata services librarian at Weill Cornell Medical School in New York.
Early on in her studies, Daina researched the skill sets she’d need for a data-focused career. Given wide curriculum choices, she packed her schedule with courses she knew future data-focused employers would expect. Recognizing that her quantitative background was lacking, she added analytics-based electives; enrolled in the data science certificate program; took a research methods doctoral-level statistics course, and went outside of Syracuse University to take an extra calculus course. The analytical approach paid off in a job offer extended a semester before she completed her degree. “You really have to differentiate yourself,” Daina advised.
Her new job consists of data curation throughout the entire data lifecycle, working with researchers to determine what data needs there are, and being the liaison between researchers, library staff and IT people. The library is the hub of all those things,” she reflected.
Jaena Rae Cabrera completed her MLIS degree as a California distance student in May. Her career now blends a pleasing mix of her undergraduate journalism and her library master’s degrees. She has combined her love of both fields as a web producer for the Center of Investigative Reporting in Berkeley, where she also works on digital video archives. She works part-time as a library page for the San Francisco Public Library system, too.
“Journalists preserve stories, moments in history, and librarians do as well. Both professions are steeped in public service as well, with the aim of providing people with the information they need and seek. I hope to continue working in both fields, although I could easily see myself working in a public library, a goal which I'm continuing to work for,” Jaena projected.
As someone who worked full time and studied full time too, Jaena found the iSchool’s online master’s degree to be the perfect fit. “I selected SU over the other universities because [SU was] much more engaging, and to me, that came across as very caring. I knew that as a distance student, I might have problems really feeling like a part of the program, but as soon as I was accepted, I received emails from instructors and I was invited to connect with other potential students in a Facebook group,” she noted.
Serena Waldron completed studies last December and found a temporary position as a grade 7-12 librarian close to home. She’s grateful for six months of on-the-job library experience, and now is searching for a permanent position. Her new role has helped her discover some things about the on-the-job climate that she might not have perceived previously, she said.
“One thing that surprised me about my job is how much of my time is spent just managing students. The librarian I’m filling in for has done an outstanding job making the library the place to be in our school. I love that they love being here, but it does limit the time I’m able to spend fixing barcodes, planning my next newsletter submission, and so on. After school is even busier than during school, so I end up taking a lot of my work home with me. It’s not a bad thing, I just wasn’t prepared for it when I started here.”
Stephanie Helsher, who finishes her degree this August, is presently working three part-time student positions, but knows a new work adventure is ahead for her soon. She believes employers want tech skills in place when they hire, rather than having to job-train new graduates.
Stephanie feels that her experience at the iSchool with digitization, virtual reference, cataloging, and grant writing are her most marketable skills, and that working for a consortia (The Central New York Library Resources Council) for the past year, and resource sharing and collaboration are also important points on her resume. Her work experience also includes being a graduate assistant to iSchool faculty member Dr. Ruth Small, and a project assistant helping a current Ph.D. student conduct research. As she is from Manlius, Stephanie says she would stay local for the right job, but is also willing to go where the right job might take her.
George Jing Fu switched course along his degree path, but skills learned at the iSchool helped him land happily in a different field. The software developer found that his MLIS program permitted him to focus on a number of technology-focused electives. That versatility was extremely helpful, George said.
“From elective courses such as database administration, social web technologies, and graphic design for the web, I was able to build the technological foundation of skills necessary to begin a career in web application development while retaining a perspective of information organization,” he noted.
He knows he was “trying to shoehorn a computer science education into an MSLIS degree,” and “would never advise someone to repeat what I did, given its impracticality.” However, “it all worked out in the end,” he surmised, and since he views his undergraduate education as “mostly devoid of any technology use,” he notes, “I could not have done it without what I learned at the iSchool.”