Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Alumni Interview: Academic (and Medical!) Librarian Jackie

Jackie earned her MLIS from Drexel in 1994, while working full-time as a cataloging technician at the Scott Memorial Library of Thomas Jefferson University. Six months before she graduated, she got her first job as an entry level reference librarian at Scott Memorial Library. She stayed in the reference department for three years, and then moved over to access services for another three years. She left Jefferson in 2000 to work as the director of the library at Chestnut Hill Hospital, where she provided services to healthcare providers, staff, and patients. Currently, Jackie is the department head of Access Services at the Community College of Philadelphia. She has also taught a course on medical bibliography, and earned a Master's of Education degree from Drexel in Learning Technologies in 2009. 

Jackie has served as the president of the Philadelphia Chapter of SLA (1999-2000), the president of the Philadelphia Chapter of the MLA. She has enjoyed attending conferences for these associations, especially because she is able to visit places that she would not otherwise have traveled to.

What is your current job? My current job title is Department Head, Library/Access Services Librarian at the Community College of Philadelphia.

How did you find your current job? I found my job advertised on a listserv, HigherEdJobs- www.higheredjobs.com

What does your typical day look like? Is this what you expected when you took the job? My typical day will consist of a combination of activities such as staffing the reference desk, collection development, circulation responsibilities and administrative activities such as signing invoices, monitoring the library budget, and attending meetings. I did not expect to be as busy as I was afar taking the job at CCP. Life as a hospital librarian was tame compared to being in academia. I had forgotten the demands of academia after working 8 years at the hospital.

What do you enjoy most about your job? I like that my job is challenging, and every day is different. Having the chance to get to know our students and to watch them as they work towards their goals is nice. As faculty, librarians attend commencement each year. It is an inspiration to see students that we have helped in the Library march down the aisle to receive their diplomas. 

What are some of the common misconceptions about your job/area of librarianship? In general, I don't think people realize how intense a job being a librarian can be. I believe that people recognize librarians as information professionals who are experts in the field, particularly as the Internet has developed over the past decade or more. People look to libraries to satisfy their technological and information needs so if anything, the misconception would be that this is all we do. We still perform traditional tasks that are now technology driven. As far as access services goes, library users may not know what those words mean, however, everyone has a concept of the circulation desk. Being department head is something that must be experienced to be understood. The role of department head requires a major amount of multitasking to keep up with those demands, in addition to managing access services, and everything else that being a librarian requires. 

What is the most valuable thing you did or learned while in library school? Because I worked in libraries for many years as a cataloging technician before attending library school, learning the theory behind the practice of what I was doing was valuable to me. I also learned the power of networking. 

What inspired you to choose this career? I have always been a lover of libraries since I checked out my first book. My mom took me to our local branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia (Cobbs Creek Branch) to get my very first book and library card. I came to admire the work of the librarians at Jefferson. Some even served as mentors, unbeknownst to them. My focus then changed from wanting a career as a cataloger to public services. 

What do you wish you had learned more about? Well, I worked very hard to get a "B" in Resources in Business. I feel that I survived the experience more than retaining the content of the course. 

Any tips for current students? I think students should join professional organizations and attend conferences and local programming in order to meet people and of course, to learn. Professional organizations have reduced membership rates for students, take advantage! I also think students should be open to experiences that may not be in the area of librarianship they wish to pursue. You never know where you may get that first job. I would of course advise students to give back and support ISTA. Brenda Sheridan and Jennifer Lally are really great and totally invested in iSchool students and alumni. A relationship with the iSchool is one that will be of value long after graduation.

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