Monday, May 21, 2012

Awesome Alumni Interview: Eric

This week's alumni interview is with Eric Dillalogue. Eric graduated from Drexel in 2009 and currently works as the Assistant Director of the Florida Keys Community College Library in Key West, Florida. While at Drexel, he interned at the Biddle Law Library at the University of Pennsylvania.

What is your current job? Assistant Director of the Learning Resource Center at Florida Keys Community College (FKCC- FKCC serves about 1600 students across the Florida Keys, with the main campus in Key West and two satellite campuses in Marathon and Coral Shores. The location lends itself to some unique offerings with opportunities for hands-on work, such as an AS in Diving Business and Technology or an AA in Marine and Aquatic Biology. 

How did you find your job? I found out we were relocating to Key West about a month beforehand, so I started researching the area at that time. I knew I wanted to work in higher education, so I made a point of exploring every aspect of FKCC (the only college in Key West). I also sent an email to the Director of the Learning Resource Center, introducing myself and asking to meet once I arrived. The library did not have a position at the time, but I was able to start working in the Financial Aid office where I learned a lot about how the College operates. I transferred to the library after about four months, starting as a Library Specialist and then was promoted to Assistant Director.

What does your typical day look like? FKCC is a small school, as is the library staff. With four full-time staff members, two 15-hour part-timers, and two work-studies, we are expected to wear many hats, often at the same time. We also have functions that may not be found in most academic libraries, like managing an art gallery with several different shows per year. Our patron base includes our students, faculty and staff, as well as members of the community who can use the facility and most of the resources freely. So most days are varied. In general, these are the types of tasks on a typical day:

  • Commenting on discussion board posts or grading work in the Introduction to Internet Research class I tech online.
  • Working with faculty members to arrange for a library instruction session with their classes or conducting such a session.
  • Presenting workshops of interest to a variety of patrons (e.g. downloading ebooks to an ereader)
  • Processing ILL requests
  • Staffing the circulation desk
  • Providing reference assistance to patrons in the library, including lots of computer/technology assistance
  • Providing reference assistance online via the statewide "Ask a Librarian" service
  • Attending different committee meetings

What do you enjoy most about your job? What I enjoy most about my job is the opportunity to try new things on a regular basis. With a small staff and a small budget, we actively look for free or low-cost options to create or manage content. For example, after attending a free webinar on creating video tutorial,s I learned about a low-cost tool for screen casting and was able to produce library orientation videos. Since there are fewer layers of administration, we can make decisions to try new technologies or processes quickly. 

What are some common misconceptions about your job/area of librarianship? The concept that our staff sits in a quiet space, reading books and shushing people. A library, academic or public, is a dynamic place and the staff are constantly busy.

What was the most valuable thing you did or learned while in library school? At work, it would be the Drexel class INFO 740: Digital Reference Services and work with the IPL. These prepared me for providing reference services remotely, a key skill at my library.

Personally, I echo the comments from Catherine Odson about INFO 608: Human- Computer Interaction. I learned so much about how design is a key element in our relationship with technology (and everything else). I also highly recommend INFO 633 Information Visualization for learning about a field that seems increasingly important. 

What inspired you to choose this career? I originally worked as a manager in hotels and food service, but became burned out on the hours. After visiting a career counselor, it became clear that I had two main interests: helping people and continuous learning. Of all the career options, the library field felt the most right. 

What do you wish you had learned more about? I wish I had invested more time in learning about providing instruction. Librarians possess unique and often specialized skills that other people want to learn about, so requests for workshops or instruction sessions happen frequently.

Any tips for current students? Don't overlook an opportunity that isn't exactly what you want, especially if its in the same organization. Not only is a different job a "foot in the door" it is also a great way to learn more about the organization's systems, processes, and people. 

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