Thursday, October 2, 2014

Looking to get involved with professional associations?

1. Make sure you're a member of TLA and ALA. Joint membership is available at a discounted price!
2. Present a project at All Schools Day and receive faculty feedback. These projects can then be submitted to professional conferences and to UNT's Graduate Exhibition in March (which awards cash prizes for top projects!)

3. Apply to be UNT's Student to Staff representative at ALA's annual conference. Details about the program here. Details about the application and selection process will be available on Blackboard.

4. Check out the ALA Student Member Blog here and the New Member's Round Table Student and Student Chapter Outreach committee's blog

5. Volunteer to serve on a committee for ALA (Deadline: Nov. 7th, 2014. Term begins July 1, 2015) or TLA

6. Attend a District, State or National conference. The district meetings for TLA are coming up soon this fall! Districts 5 & 7 are having a free, virtual meeting on Oct. 18th. See their website for more details.

There are many more associations aside from ALA. Contribute your own tip for getting involved in professional associations in the comments below!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Interview with Michael Sauers

This week’s interview is with Michael Sauers, the Technology Innovation Librarian for the Nebraska Library Commission in Lincoln, Nebraska. He trains librarians in technology throughout Nebraska and is an active presenter, blogger, and writer. He has published ten books, the most recent being Blogging & RSS: A Librarian’s Guide, Second Edition, and has three more that will be published next year. You can check out Michael’s blog at Let's get started with the interview!

What is your educational/professional background?

My undergraduate degree is a BS in American Studies with a minor in Criminal Justice from SUNY Brockport (1992). I earned my MLS from the University at Albany’s School of Information Science and Policy in 1995. Prior to earning my MLS I mostly worked in bookstores (from bookseller to management) and spent my final semester as an undergraduate as an intern in the New York State Assembly. While at Albany I worked at the New York State Library on a serials verification project and then moved at the University library where I was on the team that wrote the first Web site for the library. Post MLS, I’ve (luckily) held only a few positions. For the first two years I ran my own Internet consulting business in Las Vegas, NV. I then moved to Denver, CO and spent nearly ten years as the Internet Trainer for the now defunct, Bibliographical Center for Research (BCR). Since 2007, I’ve been the Technology Innovation Librarian at the Nebraska Library Commission (the state agency for libraries) in Lincoln, NE.

When you graduated college/graduate school what were your career goals/have they changed since?

When I entered the Albany MLS program I fully expected to become a reference librarian. At the time--this was 1994--the cataloging class still spent a half-semester talking about how to catalog on cards. When I entered the program I was allowed to have an e-mail address since I was a grad student. While I was there the Web came into existence and I latched onto the technological aspects of the library world instantly. At the time I took so many technology related classes that for the time, my own personal library school program was hardly considered standard. Compared to programs these days, the classes I took (think FTP and Gopher on dumb terminals connected to a VAX mini computer) seem almost quaint. By the time I’d finished the program, MLS students were required to have an e-mail address and so was pretty much every other student throughout the campus. So, I’d say that my goals have stayed pretty much consistent since library school but they changed radically while I was there.

When/how did you decide the LIS career path was for you?

It sounds cliche but I ended up becoming a librarian because I love books. Most of my jobs as during high school and college were at bookstores and I have an extensive book collection as a result. I love books but to be honest, very little of my library-related work has ever had much to do with books. That is, until the whole eBook revolution finally kicked into high gear.

What does a typical work day look like for you?

Whenever I’m asked this question I always have a hard time answering it because there isn’t really a “typical day” for me. However, I suppose I can describe two different types of days which don’t necessarily keep themselves separate from each other.

The first, are my training days. Part of my duties is to provide training to librarians across the state. Typically one of my workshops is either a half-day (3 hours) or a full day (6 hours). Typically, half-day workshops are paired up to fill out a whole day. Topics range from searching to Web design to eBooks. Just this week I gave a full-day workshop in Kearney, NE on WordPress for librarians joining out Nebraska Libraries on the Web project. ( Those days I’m teaching the topics at hand from 9am to 4pm with an hour lunch in the middle. Depending on the distance from Lincoln, these workshops also necessitate travel either on the same day or on the days before and after. However we’re moving to a lot more online training so scratch the travel in those instances.

If I’m not training anything else I might do that day can be broken into one of three categories: constant, regular, and as-needed.

The constant could be easily described as general research in order to see what’s going on in the library and technology worlds. Via Google Reader I follow over 500 blogs and other resources mostly in the library and tech realms and watch/listen to about a dozen podcasts weekly. I’m constantly on the lookout for what’s next and how that will or can affect libraries and librarians. To a certain extent you could also view this a constant preparation for training but at this stage it’s mostly just information gathering and trend watching.

The constant category includes meetings (there’s always a committee or two going on at the Commission), technical support for the libraries in the Nebraska Libraries on the Web project, updating the computers in our training lab at least monthly, hosting a Tech Talk show as part of the Commission’s weekly webinar “NCompass Live” and producing the Commission’s NCompass Podcast. There’s also our Nebraska Learns 2.0 program ( which I help to run. Since there’s several of us involved typically I only need to come up with new material for that every three or four months. I’m sure there’s more than that but that’s what I can come up with off the top of my head.

As needed includes short-term projects and working with other staff members on implementing their ideas. For example I’m on the committee that’s putting together our state library conference this year. Come late October, that project will be over. The other major example is training prep. Whenever a new class is being developed or I’m scheduled to teach an existing class, there’s always time spent for a week or two in advance of the classes preparing the materials and making sure everything is up-to-date.

Then there’s all the things that you could consider librarianship-related that I don’t get to do in the office. For example, I’m currently in the middle of three active book contracts with two different publishers. (Semi-professional drive on a closed course. Always wear your safety belt. Do not try this at home.) I’m also preparing for upcoming speaking gigs in Colorado and Wyoming. As a state employee I can’t work on any of this while on state time as it would be inappropriate for me to use state time, funds and equipment for paid, non-state work.

What is your favorite/least favorite thing about your job?

In my previous position at BCR I traveled more than 50% of the time. After nearly 10 years of doing that I was starting to wear on me and that was one of the main reasons I took the job in Nebraska was to cut down on the travel a bit. However, due to the economy and the current state budget that travel has now been reduced to minimal levels. (Hence the push for more online training.) So now my biggest complaint is that I don’t get to travel as much as I’d like to.

How do you think your education prepared you/didn't prepare you for your current career?

My gut response to this questions is “it didn’t” but that seems a bit harsh and most will not take that as I intend them to. The reason is that jobs like mine, mostly technology and Internet centered, just didn’t exist when I went to library school. As I mentioned earlier, the program changed while I was in it and some programs today look almost nothing like what they did back then. However, what I did get out of library school was the underlying understanding of what libraries are and how they work. Despite the changes the central mission of the library hasn’t changed. And, since now I work with librarians of all types and in all positions, because of that grounding I got from library school I can talk to any of them; cataloger, reference librarian, or systems administrator. Sometimes I get the impression that some programs have so focused on the future that they’re failing to teach some of the basics.

What is your salary range/what can students interested in working in your type of LIS profession look to make as far as salary (both starting out and over time)?

Well, after nearly ten years at BCR I was making a little more than $60,000 a year. I took a 20% pay cut to come to Nebraska but the cost of living was about 20% lower in Lincoln than in Denver so I pretty much broke even. As to what someone else can expect starting out in such a position as mine, that’s about as much detail as I can give you.

What advice do you have for current/graduating library and information science students?

Be flexible. You may intend to do a specific type of job when you get out of school but as I can attest, what you plan to do and what you end up doing can be two completely different things. Also be flexible in that the only constant is change. I’ve seen so many librarians that were well established and then everything began to change with the Internet and that sort of attitude only harms the patrons and their view of the profession. Expect and embrace change and you’ll be better off for it in the long run.

What changes do you foresee for the field of Library and Information Science in the next five to ten years?

I’ve never been able to answer this question with any accuracy and could speak in generalities like “mobile access going to be big” but that’s hardly a surprise to anyone paying attention. Considering almost nothing I deal with in my job on a day to day basis (RSS, Podcasts, eBooks, and tables just to name a few) existed when I graduated I know better than to try to guess what we’ll be dealing with just a few years from now.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Interview with Stephanie Kerns

Stephanie Kerns is the Outreach/Curriculum Librarian at Galter Health Sciences Library, of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Illinois, and the subject of this week's interview! She works with her department to plan educational activities for the library, such as orientations, integrated curriculum, and information management training.

What is your educational/professional background?

I went Indiana University, where my majors were English and Women’s Studies. My MLS is also from IU. I ended up getting a job at the Georgetown University Medical Library when I graduated because at the time I wanted a job anywhere but in the Midwest! I have mainly been a medical librarian since then, though I have had two jobs where I was a science librarian. I’ve been at Northwestern University for the past 10 years, in the health sciences library, but with evolving positions.

When you graduated college/graduate school what were your career goals/have they changed since?

I had planned on becoming an academic librarian, doing research and instruction and focusing on either humanities or social sciences of some sort. The last thing I ever imagined I’d be doing was anything in the sciences. When I graduated the job market was quite bad, so I looked at any reference positions, including the one in the medical library. While I was in grad school, I had a job in the Oral History Research Center where I worked on a project transcribing interviews about the history of Indiana medicine. Because of that I learned a lot of medical terminology--that helped me get the job at Georgetown. It was the best thing that ever happened to my career. I love working in medicine.

The first job I took was the reference position, but my career has shifted more into teaching and management. That wasn’t anything that was a goal change, though—more of a natural progression.

When/how did you decide the LIS career path was for you?

I decided when I was still in college. While I was in high school I had a part time job in the public library, working in the genealogy department. I was around a lot of researchers there. This was before anything was on the Internet, so people had to come into the library to research their family history. I really enjoyed helping people find the elusive relative from way back, and I loved seeing how excited they got when they found the records for that person. In college I worked in the libraries at IU, so by the time I was getting closer to graduation and really having to decide what I wanted to do, it wasn’t a stretch for me to realize I liked working in a library. Plus the librarians with whom I worked had mentored me, so I understood what a career in librarianship was all about.

What does a typical work day look like for you?

There isn’t really a typical day. Because I work in academia, my job is in large part dependent on the academic calendar. Because the workings of the med school happen year-round, we don’t have a summer like undergraduate campuses.

As part of my liaison responsibilities, I support medical education (the MD program), orthotics and prosthetics program, the physician assistant (PA) masters program, and the MPH and MSEB programs. The first year students in the MD program start up in August. I teach medical information literacy skills in a course for them called Medical Decision Making. I also teach more clinical information management topics in a course called Introduction to Clinical Clerkships in the third year. I teach similar skills in the PA program, though in different courses. The MD curriculum is undergoing a complete renewal, and I’m on the steering committee and other task forces for that. For the past year and for the upcoming few years this will take up a significant amount of my time. I also do a lot of faculty development for information management skills in these curricula.

Things like managing my department, providing support to my clinical liaison departments, teaching library classes, writing reports, answering emails, and covering the reference desk take up the rest of my time. I also have quite a few meetings—sometimes with library-related groups, sometimes with university-related groups.

What is your favorite/least favorite thing about your job?

My favorite part of my job is working with the faculty and students in the medical school, and my colleagues at the library. I’ve built some great relationships over the years, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I also love the teaching in the curriculum. When I started this career, that wasn’t even on the radar.

My least favorite part of the job is probably all the report-writing and meetings. They are very necessary parts of the job, but sometimes the “documenting” feels like it keeps me from “doing”.

What is your salary range/What can students interested in working in your type of LIS profession look to make as far as salary (both starting out and over time)?

There is such a large range for salaries, depending on what you are going into. The advice I can give for anyone applying for a job is to always negotiate professionally when you are offered a position. Do your research so you know what a reasonable salary is for the type of position, the area of the country, and the level of experience. Also, do your research about the institution—do they have a ranking system? If so, what is it, and how does it affect salaries? When the offer is made, you can always negotiate. The institution may not have much room to move, but you can always try to get a higher salary than the one initially offered or to get something like moving expenses or other benefits.

How do you think your education prepared you/didn't prepare you for your current career?

My education gave me a good foundation for being a librarian, but what I learned then bears little resemblance to what I do now. I think a lot of this is because libraries have changed and are changing so much. Library school was a good overview, but I since didn’t really know what I was going to eventually do, so I took a variety of classes. I’m glad I did that. Much of what I use in my job I learned after school, both on the job and in classes after I started working.

What advice do you have for current/graduating library and information science students?

Know that what you are learning right now is a good foundation, but always be ready and accepting of change.

Always be ready to learn. Continuing education and professional development are important for our field.

Actively seek a mentor. In any profession, you will want to grow. In many library organizations there are official ways to link up with mentors. In the Medical Library Association, there is a mentor network link on their homepage.

Start building networks with your fellow students now. You’ll always be in touch with them throughout your career, as friends and as colleagues.

Take advantage of student memberships for professional organizations now so you can see what they can offer you and how they are different.

If you are exploring different career options, I encourage you to go on informational interviews. I never hesitate to talk to a library student who is interested in medical libraries.

What changes do you foresee for the field of Library and Information Science in the next five to ten years?

In health care, teamwork is essential. Collaboration will continue to be an important part of education in general as more disciplines do their work in teams. Providing facilities and technology to support this environment will be crucial. In academic libraries, I think our collections and presence will continue to shift to an online environment, so our efforts have to shift there as well. They have been moving there, but they will continue in that direction.

For my specific field, liaison and education, we are already shifting support to our website for users who prefer to find and learn things through video and live chat. Also, more of our students are going to be distance learners, so we have to support them remotely. But I think the personal relationship is still important, so we have to maintain that--whether it’s face-to-face or facilitated by technology. Like the rest of academia, we will continue to face budget issues, so we will have to be strategic with our spending and our allocations, aligning what we do to the institution’s goals.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Interview with Lisa Huang

This week we’re talking with Lisa Huang, who is the Health Sciences Reference Librarian at Central Park Campus Library, of the Collin County Community College District in McKinney. Lisa is the liaison to all health science programs, Chemistry, Physics, Biology and Psychology. Her professional interests include health literacy, uses of technology in the classroom, distance learning, medical applications (apps), library outreach, and health promotion. Let’s get to the interview!

What is your educational/professional background?
BA in English and History from Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, AR
MLS and MS in Health Studies from TWU (Denton)
I've worked and/or interned at a children's library, academic health sciences center, dual academic/public library, and academic libraries.

When you graduated college/graduate school what were your career goals/have they changed since?
When I graduated from college, I was undecided and burned out so I took a year off and worked. I thought about everything -- law school, business school, Peace Corps, etc.. -- but my positive experience as a student assistant in an academic library turned me towards librarianship. I enjoyed the librarians that I worked with; the things or themes (i.e., digitalization, technological changes, access to information, providing information solutions to users) they were working on resonated with me.

Plus, I've always had a special fondness for libraries. As a first generation immigrant, the concept of going to a place and being able to check out all these books and videos for free was certainly a revelation for me. I think most people take libraries for granted.

What does a typical work day look like for you?
Our community college library serves our students and the county residents (i.e., the public) so a typical work day is hard to define. Just earlier today, I had questions about how to find peer reviewed research articles for a sociology paper to where's the closest Immigration Office and the processing fee for naturalization papers.

I can say that I do staff our Information Desk every day and providing information solutions to faculty (i.e., literature searches) every day as well as answering lots of emails. (Email will be the death of me!!!) Some days it's putting out the little fires, instruction sessions, department meetings, one-on-one meetings, staffing the desk, collection development, etc.. it varies based on the staffing and requests.

Any interesting anecdotes you care to tell?
Hmm... This gave us a chuckle. One of our staff members found a set of handcuffs left behind in the medical journals.

What is your favorite thing about your job?
The A to Z aspect of the questions. I like the fact that I am helping someone accomplish something, whether it’s helping a student find resources for their research paper or finding information for a dental hygiene student on how to communicate with her deaf patient.

How do you think your education prepared you/didn't prepare you for your current career?
My education provided me with a solid foundation for my career; however, I think all those library experiences were extremely beneficial in terms of networking and experience.

What advice do you have for current/graduating library and information science students?
Be flexible. Life's an adventure! Be open to different fields of librarianship and employers. In today's world, it's unlikely that you will be doing the same type/field of work or be at the same position for the rest of your life. In every library that I've worked, I've acquired new skills that I use today.

As a student, get some library experience so you can get your foot in the door and network. If you can't get a library job, consider volunteering to build your resume. You can volunteer for public libraries or digital libraries.

Be informed of library trends and technological changes.

Be sure to thoroughly research the employer before your interview. Find out the role of the library within the institution.

Be active in student and professional organizations. They're extremely resourceful and offer scholarships.

What changes do you foresee for the field of Library and Information Science in the next five to ten years?
1) Major technological changes. What are the roles/implications for apps in libraries? Will academic libraries move to only e-books? How will libraries harness all their electronic resources to their users in various formats?

2) Budget
For those in Texas, we're waiting for the Texas Legislature results so we'll more about our funding. I think most libraries will have to reallocate priorities with scarce resources.

And finally, what are you reading right now (what would an interview be without this question!)?
I'm reading "The Heretic's Daughter" by Kathleen Kent. It's the "Read Across McKinney" book selection. I think it's important to support library events and promote the value of libraries if at all possible. : )

I also enjoy reading the newspaper daily and Esquire. ; )

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Interview with Lauren Pressley

This week's post features Lauren Pressley, the Instructional Design Librarian at Wake Forest University, whose library
just won the ACRL Academic Library of Excellence award this year. Lauren is an active writer and presenter who was recognized in 2008 as an ALA Emerging Leader, and in 2009 as a Library Journal Mover & Shaker. Her publications include So You Want To Be a Librarian and Wikis for Libraries, in addition to her library blog, which can be found here. Photo credit: Ken Bennett, Wake Forest University.

What is your educational/professional background?

I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do when I was in college, so I got degrees that were interesting to me: philosophy and communication. Once I graduated, I knew I had good general skills and knowledge but nothing specific. I was looking for work that did more good than evil, and eventually fell into a paraprofessional position. Once I did, though, it was obvious I was in the right place: I had volunteered in libraries for much of my life. After a few months in the position I knew I'd need the MLS to do the type of work I wanted to do, so I went to library school while I continued my library job full time.

When you graduated college/graduate school what were your career goals/have they changed since?

My immediate goal was go get a job. I knew I'd find something I enjoyed, so the next variable I focused on was in a location I'd be happy in for a little while. I was fortunate that Wake Forest University, where I worked through library school, was able to offer me a job doing really interesting work. Since then my goals have evolved to be about more than just the job. I still want to do meaningful and interesting work at my library, but I also hope to make an impact at the institutional level and for the field of librarianship. I'm working on both those goals through various committee appointments, and I try to contribute to librarianship through writing and presenting as well.

When/how did you decide the LIS career path was for you?

I knew it once I was in a paraprofessional position. But if I had been honest with myself, I would have known it since I learned to read. (I outlined my path in detail for the Library Routes Project.) My school librarians played a big role in my childhood, and I loved working with the local public librarians, too. Ironically, when I became a Resident Advisor in college I was told that I had to quit any jobs I held that were not directly tied to my career aspirations. I ended up quitting the student position I held in the library and kept the journalism job with the student paper.

What does a typical work day look like for you?

There is no typical day. Whenever I participate in Library Day in the Life I typically chronicle an entire week to get to some of the diversity of my position. In general I do a lot of communicating, so I have a lot of email, meetings, and face-to-face conversations. I serve on a number of committees ranging from focusing on the library website to academic technology for the entire university to serving on the Teaching and Learning Center advisory board. Most of my tasks are related to the work we do in these groups. I also am the liaison for Philosophy, Women's and Gender Studies, and the Teaching and Learning Center. I teach one-shot classes for these disciplines and collect materials for them as well. I also do a number of technology workshops for our staff and the general campus community.

What is your favorite/least favorite thing about your job?

I am most passionate about helping our users think about the changing information environment and what it means for them as users and producers of information. I love any work that touches on that, whether it's teaching the one-credit information literacy course that I teach or helping faculty think about digital scholarship. Some of the mundane tasks are less fun, and at times it's hard to get everything done, but none of that is worth complaining about because the job is generally intellectually interesting, satisfying, and I work with fantastic colleagues (both in the library and in the academic faculty).

What is your salary range/What can students interested in working in your type of LIS profession look to make as far as salary (both starting out and over time)?

It's hard to nail down specific salaries. The ALA-APA puts out a survey of salaries every few years, which is a really useful resource if you're looking for a point to begin negotiating with. Many institutions have a career ladder in which you might earn more as you move up in rank. For example, at WFU librarians have faculty status without tenure, so there is a ranking from Assistant to Associate to Full to Senior. To move up a level an individual has to have served a specified number of years and to have performed at increasing levels.

How do you think your education prepared you/didn't prepare you for your current career?

My graduate program gave me a solid understanding of issues that are important to librarians and the values of the profession. I also felt I got a really good grounding in the broad spectrum of the field, which is nice as I'm in a more specialized area where I don't do cataloging, access, or special collections. As anyone will tell you, classroom knowledge is different from working knowledge, and I learn a lot every day on the job. That tends to be more about specific duties, institutional culture, and the politics of an organization. I also learn a lot about trends and technology from Twitter and blogs.

What advice do you have for current/graduating library and information science students?

I always advise current and graduating students to just go ahead and get involved! Most of the opportunities I've had have been indirectly and directly tied to my blogging through library school. Twitter can be a great gateway to professional networking. Some ALA and state association committees look for library school students to get a more diverse perspective. Just saying, "I'm a student," can get people to share with you about their professional path, which can help you think about what other experiences you might like to get. Go ahead and think of yourself as a member of the profession (you are!) and begin getting your feet wet and making connections!

What changes do you foresee for the field of Library and Information Science in the next five to ten years?

One of the most exciting things about our field is that we're changing a lot right now, and you can contribute to the discussion of what we should be doing and who we should be. I believe libraries are about information. Books were just the most convenient location for a long time. If we think of ourselves as information experts we can contribute to conversations in our community about new information formats and services, we can offer agile and adaptive services based on current user needs, and we can help our users think about how they want to be involved in their information environment.... in addition to getting materials (be they digital or physical). It's an exciting time to be in libraries, and I'm glad you're here with us!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Interview with Jon Haupt

This week's interview is with Jon Haupt, who is the interim director of the Hamon Arts Library at SMU in Dallas (which is a fantastic visual and performing arts library, by the way). In addition to this, he is currently serving as the music librarian, so as you can imagine, these two jobs keep him very busy! Without further ado, let's get started!

What is your educational/professional background?

In addition to the MLIS degree from the University of Washington, I also have bachelor's and master's degrees in music (piano performance and musicology, respectively) from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. After finishing the MLIS, I took a job as Fine & Performing Arts Librarian at Iowa State University, where I worked for about four years before coming to SMU as Music Librarian at the Hamon Arts Library. In October 2010, I was named interim Director of the Hamon.

When you graduated college/graduate school what were your career goals/have they changed since?

I was originally pretty focused on being a music librarian in an academic library. One of the reasons why I moved to SMU was to focus more heavily on music. I've always felt at home around other music librarians. I've always tried to combine various things that I enjoy, and music, technology, research, and helping other people are all intertwined. I don't know if I'll always be focused on academic libraries, but you can be sure that I am going to stick with some combination of those four things.

When/how did you decide the LIS career path was for you?

I thought I would major in computer science until my senior year in high school... when I suddenly decided I wanted to be a music major. After my undergrad, however, I decided I didn't want to have to pay the bills with the piano; my music history master's degree was excellent, but I knew I didn't want to pursue the Ph.D. and contend for faculty positions in that, either. I started thinking about it even before I started that musicology program, but it wasn't until after talking it over with other music librarians that I knew that is what I wanted to do.

What does a typical work day look like for you?

Haha. Well, the most typical thing is that my day is completely different from any other day... but basically you can mix and match and plug in things to do across my week until there is no time left. These days, since I am doing two jobs (my old job and the interim job) every day can be very hectic and busy. When I arrive at work, I have to deal with some bizarre thing, like, say, a mysteriously locked door, or a problem with a student worker, or keys dropped down an elevator shaft. I then spend the next 30 minutes trying to figure all that out. As soon as I can sort things out, unless I have to run across campus for a meeting or something, I sit down and sort through my day a little. I use Hiveminder ( to keep track of to-dos and a paper planner to keep track of phone calls and meeting notes. I try to organize myself on Sunday a little bit so that I know what the most important thing(s) I need to finish by the end of the week, and then I use Hiveminder to show me only the to-dos that I need to do on a particular day. At some point, I dive into voicemails and e-mail. Some days there are many, many meetings and I feel like I can't get anything done. Other days, the patrons all seem to need assistance or want to make a complaint or something. I'm usually able to find a day here or there where I can focus and finish a lot of to-dos all at once. So... my days are a mixture of administrative tasks, meetings, helping other people with problems, and typical public services librarian work--collection development, reference shifts, and instruction sessions.

What is your favorite/least favorite thing about your job?

My favorite thing is the sense that all of us in the library are helping to make the library a better place. I get a lot of satisfaction out of students leaving the library with new knowledge of useful research tools and/or how to use them, or getting excited about the new scanner or our new digital music library system and what these tools can do for them. I love working with the other librarians and the rest of the staff to figure out how to improve. We're very lucky that our staff gets along very well right now and is able to maintain a singular focus pretty easily.

My least favorite thing is what happens on the other end of the spectrum—not every interaction can be good. That said, I really don't mind dealing with direct complaints or difficult patrons; passive aggression, deceit, and unexplained opposition by others are more draining. It's hard to keep looking forward sometimes, but our approach is to continue treating others the way we would like to be treated—with respect, honesty, and authenticity.

What is your salary range/What can students interested in working in your type of LIS profession look to make as far as salary (both starting out and over time)?

Academic librarians seem to be typically starting around $35K and going up slowly, possibly to around $100K annually and occasionally beyond—all depending on experience and various aspects of the particular position they hold. I would expect library deans would be paid the highest. Pay differs a lot based on location and other factors.

How do you think your education prepared you/didn't prepare you for your current career?

When I was in library school, there was a lot of talk about practice vs. theory and a lot of people thought we spent too much time on theory. Really, though, I think the mixture was about right. I took two different terms of directed fieldwork and those were obviously pretty practical. I also worked as a student assistant and circ supervisor in the library while doing library school. Anyhow, the coursework that was highly theoretical in nature (information behavior, information in society, general classification, etc.) has also been really useful—just more over time and not so much at the very beginning. The more you get into library work, the more you realize that what you are doing is grounded in theory and that your understanding of the theory is important to understanding why it occurs to you to do something one way or another. That all sounds highly esoteric, I'm sure... but I think about it a lot when doing a card sort to figure out the best way to organize web pages or am trying to explain why browsing subject headings in our catalog is useful and actually matters.

What advice do you have for current/graduating library and information science students?

First off, when looking for a job, you really have to either choose a narrow field (based on subject knowledge or some sort of job niche) or narrow location (you want to live in X city) but generally not both. The more broad you are with where you're willing to live, the more likely you'll find a job in the particular area of expertise you want. Of course, some people just get lucky and the job is available when they want it.

I'd also suggest that you look beyond traditional jobs. Many people who graduated with me are working at pretty neat private companies, doing related work (using the same theory!) and probably getting paid pretty well. Many different career paths are rewarding and you can use what you have learned in this program on many, many things. What company doesn't need someone with a really good understanding of categorization or indexing?

What changes do you foresee for the field of Library and Information Science in the next five to ten years?

Not only did a lot of people graduate from my program and go work at all kinds of different types of places, they planned to all along—it seemed like about half of the students were not really comfortable with the whole "librarian" concept, but loved the program anyway and happily found work doing things they liked. I think the most successful schools right now are doing a brilliant job of balancing theory and practice as well as balancing librarianship with information science. All of the concepts mesh very well together—but it does take some work to organize everything so that it makes sense. Right now, people graduating from different types of schools sometimes don't feel they have a lot in common, but I think more and more you'll see that is not the case. We really all are studying the same thing—schools are just tipping one way or the other on those scales.

Special thanks to Jon for taking time out of his busy schedule to participate in the interview! If you have any questions for him, he can be reached at

Friday, March 11, 2011

Interview with Emily Dust Nimsakont

Today we're talking with Emily Dust Nimsakont, who is the Cataloging Librarian at the Nebraska Library Commission. She also provides cataloging training to librarians throughout Nebraska and recently spoke at the online conference, RDA @ Your Library, presented by Amigos Library Services. Let's get started with the interview!

What is your educational/professional background?

I have a bachelor’s degree in history and psychology from Knox College in Galesburg, IL, a master’s degree in museum studies from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and a master’s degree in library science from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Before working in the library world, I worked for museums and nonprofit organizations. My first library job was as a reference assistant at an academic library. I finished library school in May of 2008, and since October of that year, I have been working as the Cataloging Librarian at the Nebraska Library Commission in Lincoln, Nebraska.

When you graduated college/graduate school what were your career goals/have they changed since?

When I finished my undergraduate degree, I wanted to work in a history museum, preferably as a museum educator. When I finished my library science degree, my goal was to find a job as a cataloger, and I have succeeded at that goal. See my answer to the next question for more detail on how my goals changed.

When/how did you decide the LIS career path was for you?

For a long time, I’ve been interested in informal learning environments, places outside of the classroom where learning takes place. My first career path was in the museum field, and about a year and a half after I finished graduate school for the first time, I was feeling pretty frustrated with the job prospects in the field. At around the same time, I was discovering that while a lot of my colleagues were about preserving the stuff in our collections, I was interested in connecting people with the information about the items in our collections (writing up exhibit text, doing research in our collections for museum visitors, etc.). I started to think that maybe librarianship was the career for me. I started library school without any experience working in libraries, but luckily, I quickly discovered that working in libraries was indeed a good fit for me.

What does a typical work day look like for you?

There really is no typical day, since I have a variety of tasks that are part of my job. Here at the Nebraska Library Commission, we are a depository for state government documents, so most of my cataloging work is original cataloging of these items. We also have a collection of library-related materials that we lend to library workers and library students across the state, so I catalog these items, too (this is usually copy cataloging). I also am responsible for assigning metadata to the digitized historical photographs in our Nebraska Memories collection. In addition to functioning as the Commission’s cataloger, I am also responsible for providing training on cataloging-related topics to librarians in the state.

I do spend at least a little time cataloging just about every day. However, I usually try to balance the near-constant flow of items that need to be cataloged with the need to work on other, more short-term projects, such as preparing for an upcoming training session.

What is your favorite/least favorite thing about your job?

My favorite thing is probably the fact that my job duties include a variety of tasks, as I mentioned in the previous question. No two days are alike, and I very rarely get bored.

It’s harder to say what my least favorite thing is. I suppose it’s the fact that sometimes, working in a government agency can be a little restrictive. For example, sometimes there can be a decent amount of red tape involved with getting permission to start a new project. However, most of the time, my enjoyment of my job outweighs these frustrations.

How do you think your education prepared you/didn't prepare you for your current career?

I definitely don’t think that library school fully prepared me for my career, but I don’t think that it’s necessarily supposed to. I actually don’t think it’s possible for library school to perfectly prepare anyone for working in a real-world library job. The school that I went to didn’t really have tracks or specializations, so I definitely came out of library school a generalist, which I don’t think is necessarily a bad thing. Although figured out halfway through library school that I wanted to be a cataloger, and I tailored my practicum and volunteer work to get some experience in that area, I feel that my coursework gave me a base of knowledge that would have helped me in many areas of librarianship, if I had ended up getting a job as another type of librarian, rather than as a cataloger. I feel like I learned the very basics of the profession in library school and have supplemented those basics with a lot of on-the-job learning in my first professional position, and I don’t really see how it could happen any other way.

What advice do you have for current/graduating library and information science students?

If a class sounds interesting to you, take it, regardless of whether it relates to what you think your chosen path in librarianship is. Though I knew about halfway through library school that I wanted to be a cataloger, I took classes on a variety of subjects, including readers’ advisory, library materials for children, and library use instruction. That library use instruction course has ended up being very valuable to me, since my current job involves not only cataloging but also training people on how to catalog, and I’ve applied many of the instructional techniques I learned in that class. You never know what type of position you’ll end up in or which classes will end up being useful in ways that you didn’t expect, so I would recommend exploring a variety of areas, if your program allows it.

What changes do you foresee for the field of Library and Information Science in the next five to ten years?

I think that there will be a lot of changes in the coming years. To focus on my area of expertise, I think that cataloging has been changing a lot and will continue to do so. Resource Description and Access (RDA), the new cataloging rules that are currently being evaluated by the national libraries, will certainly change things if they are implemented. There will most definitely be short-term effects, as libraries adjust their workflows and budgets to the new rules. However, I also think there is the potential for great long-term effects on the cataloging world if the full potential of RDA is realized.

Even without the new rules, catalogers’ work is changing. We work with digital objects more than ever before. We work with batches of items, rather than creating a record for one book at a time. I really think the whole concept of what a cataloger does will change greatly in the next five to ten years.

Special thanks to Emily for participating in our blog. If you would like to know more about Emily, or have any questions, she can be reached at