Impact in Pursuit of Professional Development
Graduating from the University of Southern California (USC), in particular from the Marshall School of Business, is no small achievement. Undergraduates and graduate students alike must possess an awareness of what their new degree will enable them to do –where it will enable them to work, what work it will qualify them to do, and how they should go about doing that work. The Master of Management in Library and Information Science (MMLIS) program offered through USC’s Marshall School of Business is unique in its emphasis in management, and leadership in addition to the more traditional concepts relating to librarianship, such as content development and management; information location, access, and synthesis; and program development, implementation, and assessment.
Similar to other graduate degrees, the MMLIS degree places a high value on other goals, including professional values and ethics; understanding the role of current and emerging technologies; networking and relationship-building; and the importance of lifelong learning and professional development. Collectively, the program’s twelve program goals serve to prepare graduates not just for jobs in the information profession, but to lead others and influence the future of libraries and information organizations.
The MMLIS program and its overall goals have had a direct impact on my pursuit of professional development. Choosing to pursue a Library and Information Science (LIS) degree in general grants me more opportunities in the library profession than my undergraduate degree alone, as most library jobs require an LIS degree. Additionally, even if I were to supplement my existing bachelor’s degree with library-related professional development courses and similar activities (such as workshops or short-term projects), the intensity of the MMLIS program has meant that I spend more time engaged in professional development activities, therefore demonstrating the impact of my education before the program’s completion (hence this capstone course). My coursework serves as just one example of how I have pursued my professional goals and developed my understanding of the intricacies of the library field. The MMLIS program’s goals are not achieved in a single course; instead, multiple courses serve to reinforce a broad understanding of the information profession and how to serve as an effective library leader.
According to Stephens, Scagnoli and Anderson (2008, p. 69), those “who pursue professional development in the form of graduate studies online…have a relevant influence in their work environment during and after the learning process.” Though I didn’t work in a library environment prior to my involvement with USC’s MMLIS program, one of the program’s goals is for students to be able to “apply persuasion and influence through networking, collaboration, and relationship-building,” something that USC’s unique MMLIS program has empowered me to do, both in my freelance work and during my internship at University of California (UC) – Davis’ Peter J. Shields Library with the University Archivist. I’m able to actively demonstrate the value of libraries and librarians by performing capable research work, leading a team during a tech-focused archiving event, and networking with other university and library staff. I anticipate being able to continue networking, collaborating with others in the information profession, and build relationships in my future work environment thanks in no small part to the education USC’s MMLIS program afforded me.
Future Contributions to the Profession
“Where do you see yourself in the next five to ten years?” is a common question for people, whether they’re graduating students speaking to a teacher or career counselor or interviewees speaking to a human resources representative. It’s often difficult to articulate where someone sees themselves in a vague future when their day-to-day thoughts may be wrapped around paying bills. Another common refrain deals with choosing a career that you love, such that you’ll “never work a day in your life.” In choosing to pursue librarianship as intensely as I have through USC’s MMLIS program, I am able to confidently say that I can answer the question of where I see myself in the next five to ten years, and what sort of goals I would like to accomplish.
Outside of more amorphous goals, I have three main goals I would like to achieve as a means of contributing to both the library profession and my local community. First, I want to develop a set of best practices for the efficient digital preservation of archival materials. Second, I would like to pursue available leadership opportunities in cross-functional project teams, such as Common Knowledge Groups (CKGs), or professional association roundtables or committees. Finally, I hope to pair my love of technology with my library degree by playing a role in the evolution and use of patron-facing technology tools and access points, such as discovery systems and the online presence of libraries and related organizations.
Developing best practices for efficient digital preservation and archiving is only possible if I position myself in an environment where I can work with both collections that require digitization and other archival materials in need of a practical form of preservation. Such materials could range from delicate fabrics to born-digital websites containing valuable data. Additionally, I can only define what is “efficient” if I know what methods other librarians have tried and why they haven’t been enough. This could take the form of reading literature, conducting a survey, or joining a project team within an organization to see how we are engaged in digital preservation and archiving.
Rationale. How can I contribute to the development of best practices for efficient digital preservation and archiving? Why is this a laudable goal? Put simply, digital preservation and archiving constantly evolve based on the available technology. What made for an efficient method ten years ago is not a functional model for today’s librarians. The development of best practices for efficient digital preservation and archiving is not a short-term goal with a published article at the end; rather, it is a series of smaller goals that contribute to a greater whole, one that I can pursue throughout my library career.
Professional issues and opportunities. As previously mentioned, the development of best practices for efficient digital preservation and archiving is hindered by the constant evolution of available technology. It’s not possible to achieve this goal for very long, and the achievement itself must come with a footnote: best practices may work in a particular library environment, but not all library environments. It is for this reason that professional associations develop mission statements, codified values and ethics, and other regulations that are as broad as possible.
The same issues concerning efficient best practices for digital preservation and archiving present career development opportunities. The ever-changing technology that makes one form of digital preservation effective will be tomorrow’s old method, requiring me to be adaptable and learn a variety of different techniques. By having this goal in mind before I even begin to do work in that area, I am able to gain knowledge that is broadly applicable, rather than tailored to specific circumstances. Staying abreast of current digital preservation and archiving technologies potentially positions me as an expert in a cutting-edge, vital part of library science. Another issue arises from the simple fact that I have yet to actually perform any duties relating explicitly to digital preservation and archiving, outside perhaps the one finding aid I constructed during my internship. I am also unsure of what sort of library position I will have after graduating, and so how, when, and where I will start are all factors I have yet to determine.
In the meantime, it is possible for me to pursue areas of interest within librarianship and continue my library education by taking online courses, such as those offered by Amigos Library Services, ALA Online Learning, and San José State University’s iSchool. Recent or upcoming courses include “Preserving Digital Objects in an Uncertain Future,” “Personal Digital Archiving for Librarians,” and “Advanced Certificate in Digital Assets and Services.” Taking courses like this, along with on-the-job training and attention paid to established practices for digital archiving and preservation will help me develop a base from which I can contribute to a developing set of best practices in that arena.
Beyond contributing to a specific area of interest within library science, I will also pursue leadership opportunities in cross-functional project teams, whether they take the form of committees or round tables within the ALA, CLA, or SLA; Common Knowledge Groups (CKGs) that are part of library consortia; or teams within my own work environment, as I did working alongside UC Davis library staff, students, and community members for an event at the library. While the MMLIS program has set me up with the expectation of working in and with a variety of diverse teams to achieve mutual goals, I want to ensure I’m putting the Management part of the MMLIS degree to good use by seeking out leadership opportunities in these groups.
Rationale. I don’t want to join a group for the sole purpose of it serving as a “good line on my resume,” but rather so that I can actually contribute to the team in a beneficial way, and in turn, help that team influence a larger organization or industry. However, I define myself as an ambivert, someone who is “flexible socially” and is “happy being alone and in big groups” (MacNeil, 2015, p. 43). That means that while I won’t always be able to choose whether I work with others or not, I can opt-in to a leadership role. Balancing out opportunities to be a leader and be a team player are equally valuable, as I can gain unique experiences either way.
Professional issues and opportunities. Regardless of the profession, every job involves some measure of teamwork. As a practical example of how teams might function in a “real world” library environment, the MMLIS program chose my teams for me. While I could count on working with other educated individuals, the program selected who would serve as team leader; other roles were left up to the team. However, even with all of us sharing the mutual goal of completing assignments, passing our courses, and graduating, not every team member looked at group projects in this way. Similarly, I anticipate that regardless of the type of team that I work with, and whether or not I am able to serve in a leadership role, not everyone will always be on the same page regarding goals and priorities, let alone the methods used to achieve those goals. Furthermore, even teams that share a work environment can find it challenging to find time to meet and get tasks done. Meeting up and working alongside others, whether virtually or in-person, is even more challenging for those who are spread across a state or a country, is is the case with professional conference committees and roundtables, or library consortia working groups.
In a study by the American Association of Colleges and Universities (2010), 71 percent of employers surveyed stated that colleges should place a greater emphasis on “teamwork skills and the ability to collaborate with others in diverse group settings” (p. 9). The traditional internship model where a mentor shares their experience and wisdom with a mentee “provides little or no opportunity for LIS students to participate in a complex project as a team member” (Denda & Hunter, 2016; Lee, 2011). Teams can be as small as two people. There is no upper limit to team size, but the effectiveness of a group is likely to decrease in proportion to its size. By taking the opportunity to serve as a mentor –a kind of a leader– in a small team, I am able to directly and hopefully, have a positive influence on the work of others. Additionally, willingly taking on leadership roles in other groups, such as the CKGs of various library consortia like the UC system, relieves the pressure from other librarians who may feel obligated, but not comfortable in such a role.
My third and final goal for how I will contribute to the library and information profession involves playing a role in guiding the evolution and use of patron-facing technology tools and access points. Patrons learn from a library’s resources, such as their online LibGuides, or using the overall Library Management System (LMS) or a component discovery layer. Other patron-facing access points include a library’s social media channels, online reference services, blog, and finding aids. It is not enough to just process information in the form of cataloging or archival collections; it has to be made available to patrons for it to have any impact on their studies, their awareness, their beliefs, or their learning in general. Making information available involves meeting patrons where they are, pre-emptively if possible, and considering all the possibilities in which libraries function as gateways to worlds of knowledge and the people and sources populating them.
Rationale. I want to ensure that I continue my love of technology with as many opportunities as I can to use it to positively influence how patrons learn from and at a library. Not all library patrons are those that librarians see walking past the circulation or reference desks. Many patrons access library resources remotely, or think of the library more as a “space” and the technology resources offered by the library are either taken for granted or not considered at all. I am able to serve the library and its patrons in two ways: in one way, I bring attention to patron needs and desires that the library can fulfill to library leaders and staff. In another way, I can engage patrons with the library’s existing technology resources, and start to think of the library itself as more than just a “space,” but a resource unto itself.
Professional issues and opportunities. “Technology provides the chance for librarians to innovate, boost quality, measure success, and align services with the priorities of their organizations. With technology, librarians can reintroduce themselves as visible, valuable, and essential partners in achieving common goals” (Lessik, 2015). The issues that arise with technology resources at a library are twofold: one, if the technology is such that the library hasn’t already adopted it, work must be done to assess whether it is efficient, serves a need, and falls within budget. The process of doing this work can be time-consuming and expensive in its own right, especially if it takes librarians away from other tasks that leaders might deem more important in the short-term. Two, if the library already uses or has access to a given technology, there is still the question of whether it is an efficient use of a library staff member’s time. As institutions that serve the public in some form or another, libraries are generally expected to be transparent and accountable: with their processes, reasoning, collections, and more. The individuals responsible for writing and presenting this information to stakeholders are not necessarily the same people who are or would be performing tasks like keeping the library’s social media postings current. These other staff members may find it challenging to answer the question of “Why is the library doing this?” or justifying the time, money, and/or energy that goes into such endeavors.
By ensuring that I help to guide the evolution and use of patron-facing technology tools and access points in my library workplace, I can contribute to one important facet of how libraries are perceived as relevant and useful. Libraries that are not just aware of the latest technologies but find ways to utilize them (or help patrons utilize them) inherently increase the library’s relevance and utility to patrons. Technology is just one part of general outreach to library users; institutions that make use of new, popular systems are capable of drawing and keeping people coming in than those that use well-known, perhaps stagnant systems. In this way, I can leverage both my general love of technology and my specific web and graphic design skills to benefit not just a specific library, but potentially others, as well as the work of other librarians.
Regardless of where my first formal library job takes place or what my job title is, I will be able to start guiding the evolution and use of patron-facing technology tools and access points by volunteering for positions where such tools and access points are relevant. Furthermore, I can demonstrate my enthusiasm and passion for technology in general within the dictates of my job, showing how important technology is to today’s librarians. What I don’t already know and can’t necessarily learn on the job, I can learn via continuing library education, such as webinars offered by companies like Infopeople, WebJunction, Library Juice Academy, and others. Recent or upcoming topics of note offered by these organizations that pertain to technology in libraries include “Meeting Community Needs Through Technology Planning,” “Privacy Literacy at Your Library,” and “Introduction to Knowledge Management Systems for Libraries.”
Why is it important for me to have goals like this? Having a career plan gives me a path forward, much like having an action plan helps me complete a semester-long assignment. While it can’t anticipate every scenario, it can remind me of what I want to achieve as a librarian, what I hope to contribute to the field of librarianship, and what I ultimately hope to get out of these endeavors. Each goal is sufficiently long-term and broad such that I can apply them in a variety of different work environments and job situations. With these goals in mind, I am able to integrate my MMLIS degree with my interests, and work alongside like-minded people in pursuit of our mutual goals: supporting libraries, increasing information literacy, and bringing knowledge to people everywhere.
American Association of Colleges and Universities. (2010). Raising the bar: Employers’ views on college learning in the wake of the economic downturn. Washington, DC: Hart Research Associates. Retrieved from https://www.aacu.org/sites/default/files/files/LEAP/2009_EmployerSurvey.pdf
Denda, K., & Hunter, J. (2016). Building 21st-century skills and creating communities: A team-based engagement framework for student employment in academic libraries. Journal of Library Administration, 56(3), 251-265. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01930826.2015.1121662
Gutsche, B. & Hough, B. (Eds.) (2014). Competency index for the library field 2014 (2nd ed.). Dublin, OH: OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc. Retrieved from http://www.webjunction.org/documents/webjunction/Competency_Index_for_the_Library_Field.html
Lee, M. (2011). Mentoring in the library (1st ed.). Chicago: American Library Association.
Lessick, S. (2015). Enhancing library impact through technology. Journal of the Medical Library Association, 103(4), 222-223. doi:10.3163/1536-5050.103.4.015
MacNeil, C. (2015, October 22). Extrovert, introvert, or ambivert? Health & Fitness, 43. Retrieved from ProQuest Central database.
Stephens, M., Scagnoli, N., & Anderson, T. (2008). Impact of graduates from an online program in their work environment. E-Learning, 5(1), 64-74. http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/elea.2008.5.1.64