Monday, August 26, 2013

An Interview with iSchool Alum Erin Dorney on Librarianship.

This post originally appeared on Information Space, the blog of the iSchool at Syracuse University, on 23 February 2012.

Erin Dorney is the Outreach Librarian for the Millersville University Library, and a 2008 graduate of the MS-LIS program here at the School of Information Studies. She has also recently joined the crew at In the Library with the Lead Pipe, and maintains a blog at Library Scenester as well as tweeting @libscenester. She was kind enough to answer some questions for me on life, careers, and SU’s iSchool.
1) What is your career, and what aspect of it most surprises you?
I am the outreach librarian at Millersville University, a regional comprehensive Pennsylvania state school with a 2010 FTE of approximately 6,970 undergrads and 583 graduate students. I’ve been at Millersville since the summer of 2008, just after my graduation from the iSchool. As outreach librarian, I provide leadership in marketing and promotion of library initiatives, programs, activities, resources, and services; design and coordinate library communications in conjunction with University Communications and Marketing; maintain social networks and create library identity guidelines; develop library outreach program and campus collaborations including library involvement in freshman orientation, new faculty orientation, information technology fair, Student Senate, and orientation team leaders. I also provide research help and library instruction for undergraduate and graduate courses; serve as subject librarian to the departments of Communication & Theatre and Art & Design.
The most surprising aspect of my career at Millersville has been the wide variety of job responsibilities. In a given week, I can be found experimenting with non-library specific technologies to investigate how they can make the academic library experience better, applying nonprofit and commercial marketing principles to library resources, events and services, and last but not least, doing traditional library work (providing research help, teaching classes, collection development). The most rewarding aspect of any of these tasks is working directly with the student body. I continually seek out opportunities to bring students into our workflows and decision making, including supervising undergraduate and graduate interns, employing student assistants, gathering feedback and brainstorming with our Library Student Advisory Board (LSAB).
2) How were you prepared for your professional life by your iSchool experience?
The iSchool prepared me by pushing initiative and self-direction. It began with time management and discipline in my online courses and grew into intrinsic motivation that has time and time again pushed me to become engaged in the broader conversation of librarianship and information. On both global and local levels, I have become an active member in professional organizations and am driven to succeed because I truly believe there is a place for librarians in our new technological age of information. No one is going to simply invite us to the table; it’s up to us to courageously step up and show the world what we have to offer. The iSchool prepared me with the skills and background to make that step.
3) As students, we’re given lots of advice. What was the best piece of advice you received? Is there anything you wish someone had told you?
The best piece of advice I was given as a student was this: If you see a problem, provide a solution. This mantra has served me time and again as a librarian. There are far too many people out there complaining about the state of information. It’s not enough to just point out the issues – we need to bring creative solutions to the table or we are just part of the problem.
4) What was the most valuable experience you had in the iSchool or at SU? A class, a project, an extracurricular?
The most valuable experience I had in the iSchool program was the ability to take classes asynchronously online while I worked in an academic library. I took 2-3 online classes a semester and worked part time at the Rochester Institute of Technology as a staff member. It was incredible to see the intersection of classroom theory and the everyday workings of a library. I was able to test ideas out, get feedback from librarians, and build my personal network. I also did an internship at the close of my MLIS program which provided an additional opportunity for hands-on working. I would encourage any student entering the information field to get as much on-the-job experience as possible, ideally simultaneously with their coursework. You can try out different areas of specialization, meet friends and mentors, and most importantly, witness how environmental context can impact the theoretical framework the iSchool equips students with.
5) Why did you choose library school?
As an undergraduate student at St. John Fisher College, I worked in a few different areas of the campus library, including periodicals, circulation, and shelving. I began to realize how much I enjoyed helping people and connecting them to the information they needed. I also identified a variety of unique skills that I could bring to the table as a new librarian, including graphic design, writing, marketing, and technology. Many of these were skills I was learning in my undergraduate program of study (Communication/Journalism & English) and I realized that I could combine all of my interests as a librarian. After graduating, I investigated local LIS programs and decided to attend Syracuse based on the availability of online classes and its reputation as a technologically-forward thinking institution.
6) How do you keep up with the field? Who/what do you read? Professional organizations?
I keep up through my membership with ALA (particularly with ACRL and NMRT) as well as the Pennsylvania State Library Association. I try to attend conferences and do committee work to learn, meet new people, and improve libraries. I also participate in the conversation surrounding issues and innovations in our field by blogging about my experience as a librarian, in the hopes that other students or new librarians may be able to learn from both my successes and my failures. Some blogs I would recommend to iSchool students include:
7) As a new LIS student, what questions should I be asking? Where’s information going?
Information is going everywhere! Whether we like it or not, the future won’t be neatly organized into schemes or fit into our traditional silos and constructs. At some stage, we’ll need to embrace the mess and investigate points at which libraries can insert themselves into the chaos to make access to and evaluation of information more seamless and effective. As an academic librarian, changes to the infoscape signal to me that we need to open our doors even wider in terms of partnerships on campus and much needed changes in scholarly communication. It’s an amazing field to be a part of – never a dull moment!

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