Georgia Westbrook spent last summer at J. Murrey Atkins Library at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. As Atkins Fellow for Scholarly Communications and Digital Publishing, she worked on projects for Niner Commons, a new institutional repository hosting and promoting scholarly works of faculty and researchers. Her tasks included creating marketing materials, testing the repository’s website, researching copyright claims, and working on user-created metadata.
The fellowship provided hands-on experience for Westbrook, a master’s student at the School of Information Studies’ Library and Information Science program who is graduating this month.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in art history from Binghamton University, she sought a graduate program that advanced her interest in concepts of urban and architectural history. “Librarianship’s role is to create interactions between people and their environments,” she says. “I chose the iSchool so I could explore the field for myself and do research.”
Westbrook has taken advantage of numerous opportunities to try out different aspects of library work during her masters’s program. In her first year at Syracuse, she worked at Bird Library’s Learning Commons, where she helped patrons locate materials, provided technology support, and assisted students with the research process.
The highlight was working on the reference desk. “I like to go down the rabbit hole with people,” she says. “They’re so interested it gets you on board about things you wouldn’t have looked up.”
She also worked with Professor of Practice Jill Hurst-Wahl’s iSchool Public Libraries Initiative, a research group focused on providing more information to public libraries about what they and their communities need. Westbrook researched public library history documentation practices and linguistic diversity in youth services collections. The latter project addressed libraries’ access to diverse materials, the makeup of non-English language collections and how libraries fund diverse collections.
In her first year, Westbrook contributed to the iSchool’s blog, InfoSpace, to connect her interest in writing with her studies. She sees a strong parallel between journalism – she wrote and edited for Binghamton University’s student newspaper, Pipe Dream – and librarianship. “There are ways to position information as a package and a story,” she says. “Librarians have to look at the big picture and the details of an issue and consider how the audience will receive the information. You can’t give all the information in the world. You’re curating it. Journalists have to do that too. You’re thinking about the audience and what they need to understand.”
In the busy final weeks of this semester, Westbrook has been completing projects and applying for jobs. She’s flexible about what kind of position she’ll take, but she wants to be in the New York City area. She’s still interested in art history, and she’s gained an appreciation for copyright and metadata.
Long-term, she envisions herself in a leadership position. “Traditionally women were librarians and middle management and men were library directors,” she says. “There has been a lot of research and push to change that. That has definitely been on my mind.”
She’s also increasingly aware that librarianship does not always mean a job title with the word “library.” Like the MSLIS students she’s gotten to know, librarians “are really smart and their backgrounds and interests are diverse. They’re software developers and teachers and people like me.”
By Renee Gadoua
Photo by Kevin Paredes.