Hello to all my faithful readers out there. This week I have a very special treat for all of you. We have a UNT College of Information graduate and current PhD student!!! Hannah Guthrie is currently employed by the Children's Hospital in Dallas, Texas and she has a very interesting educational background to match. If you would like to know more after reading this interview I suggest you come to this year's All School Day on November 6th, @9am @Discovery Park, because we will have a whole panel of non-traditional librarians speaking about their current professions. Our theme for this semester's All School Day is: "What Else Can I Do With My Degree? Non Traditional Paths In Librarianship" This event is free and open to the public but you must register by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Once you send an email you will be automatically emailed the registration page where you can choose your lunch option. We look forward to a big turnout this year so register early and tell your friends! Anyway lets get to the interview!
What is your educational/professional background?
I received my BA in Forensic Anthropology from Millsaps College in 2005. I received my MLS from UNT in December 2008. I work at Children’s Medical Center at Dallas as a Medical Librarian and am a PhD student in the College of Information at UNT.
When you graduated college/graduate school what were your career goals/have they changed since?
When I received my Master’s degree, my first goal was to find a job in Dallas and apply to the PhD program. Ever since I met those two goals, my long term career goals are changing every day. I feel like a kid who wants to be a firefighter one day and a lawyer the next. I’m contemplating being a professor eventually. Or a director of an academic library. Or maybe even a researcher in a medical library. Perhaps the Smithsonian could use a librarian. I’m still young – 27 years old – and I have no clue what I want to be when I grow up. I’m keeping an open mind about career opportunities and just taking things one day at a time. I love my job at Children’s Medical Center and am enjoying the PhD program immensely. For now, I only have one concrete goal: to finish my PhD. Other than that, I’m just having fun thinking of the possibilities.
When/how did you decide the LIS career path was for you?
The summer after college graduation I had an internship at a human identification lab at the University of Florida. It was very interesting and I came away with great stories and experiences, but I didn’t feel a true passion for the work. So I moved to Denver and worked as a manager of a bookstore for a couple of years while trying to figure out my next step. I had worked in bookstores since I was 14 and I realized that I love books and I love helping people, but I didn’t like the retail environment. That left libraries. I applied to UNT and moved to Texas in the Fall of 2007 to start my Master’s degree.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
No two days are alike. We have 5 libraries at Children’s and 4 librarians; so we are each in charge of our own library. My library – the Krissi Holman Library – was the first of the libraries. It opened in January 2005 and is named after a cancer patient who wanted a place where patients could get books. Our libraries are a hybrid, per se. We have a leisure collection for children of all ages as well as adults, of which all the books are donated. We have a medical reference section and a consumer health section. We have computers with full internet access for patients and their families to use. We have magazines and a book mobile that goes to all the rooms. The libraries are built for the patients and patient families. I like to think of our libraries as a safe haven, a utopia away from white coats and needles, a quiet escape from the hospital room.
We librarians do a lot of research for patient families, such as information about their child’s diagnosis or a procedure, medication their doctor recommended. In a world where nearly everyone turns to Google, we are here to help them find information through reliable and unbiased health websites and other sources. A lot of the time parents just want to come in to pay their bills, update family and friends via Facebook or Caring Bridge, or just checkout a good book to read to their child.
We also do research for medical staff, everyone from nurses to the transport team, from surgeons to clinical dieticians. Such research is often for evidence-based practice, presentations or lectures, or research papers or publications.
A typical day can encompass: conducting story times, coloring or reading with a little patient while the parent is looking for information, troubleshooting computer problems, taking out the book mobile around the hospital, doing research for medical staff, organizing donations of hundreds of books, or just letting a parent vent about the stress and emotions of their child’s condition.
What is your favorite/least favorite thing about your job?
In regards to tasks, I love it that my day includes such a variety of responsibilities. It keeps me on my toes.
In regards to working in a hospital library, the setting itself has helped me stay grounded. I tend to worry and stress easily, but when I come to work I am constantly reminded about how miniscule my worries are compared to those of my library’s visitors. Such a reminder not only helps me stay sane, it also keeps my heart soft and empathetic. The libraries and librarians are here to make life as easy as possible for our patients and patient families. I truly enjoy striving towards that every day.
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)?
The salary range for this position is $37k-$55k, depending on experience and education. This is my first library job, not counting the experience as a library assistant at my middle school during my 6th – 8th grade years. Although the job description required 2 years of experience, my boss took a chance and hired me with only 3 months experience I gained from my practicum while in the Master’s program. And so, as my entry level job, this salary is completely in line with the other entry level jobs across the state of Texas.
How do you think your education prepared you/didn't prepare you for your current career?
My education gave me enough knowledge to feel comfortable taking a job where I was in charge of my own library. I felt I had enough of cataloging, library management, and collection development to get started. Of course, I still had lots to learn, but I had enough under my belt to give it a good start.
There are things you just don’t learn in the classroom. I quickly discovered the chain of command and the hierarchical structure of the organization – who I can and who I cannot contact directly. I learned to look as myself as a professional, working on the same level as others who have much more experience. Although some people didn’t take me seriously because they thought I was too young, I learned to develop the confidence and professionalism needed to do my job and do it well.
What advice do you have for current/graduating library and information science students?
Keep an open mind to the type of library or information setting you want to work in. I was set on working in an academic library, even after my practicum in a medical library. But I turned down such a job offer to take this job at Children’s. I love the job and can honestly say I love going to work every day. Go ahead and apply for jobs even if you don’t have all the required experience. In my interview, I pointed out to the director that I did not have the required experience but I was completely confident that I can accomplish all responsibilities and duties outlined in the job description.
My advice really boils down to three things: be confident of yourself, follow your passion, and stay open minded.
What changes do you foresee for the field of Library and Information Science in the next five to ten years?
I believe the stereotypical expectation of librarians as stuffy old women with long skinny fingers telling you to “shhhhh!” is going to go away (think of the librarian in the movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s) – but not easily. The technological advances are forcing librarians to not only redefine their job descriptions but also to convince the greater society that librarians are not a thing of a past as many perceive print books to be. Librarians and the MLS degree is needed more than ever. We are becoming more of a bridge to information than ever before and we are going to have to continuously convince people of that. The title of “librarian” is not the only title that defines what we do. People with MLS degrees are also called Knowledge Managers, Research Analysts, Systems Analysts, Information Architects, Digital Knowledge Managers, Public Health Informationist, among many others. The resources and mediums used by our society are constantly changing and advancing and thus so are our responsibilities and skills. We can’t let our field be left behind, we have to keep on the edge of technology and keep proving that we are relevant and necessary in our society.