Freshly Minted: Emily Carlisle
December 4, 2017
MLIS Candidate, Faculty of Information and Media Studies, Western University
Which information studies program are you attending?
I’m a student in the Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program at Western University. I’ve completed two semesters of classes and am currently in the middle of a co-op term.
What are your current classes like? Which is your favorite so far, and why?
I’ve so far completed eight courses. I’m now on a four-month co-op at Western Libraries, where I’m involved in a number of scholarly communications-related projects. While it’s not over yet, this co-op placement has easily been the most rewarding part of the program. Every day I’m developing new relationships and becoming familiar with new concepts—both technical and theoretical. I find myself growing in ways that you can’t while sitting in a classroom, and I’m pleasantly surprised to have developed passion for an area of librarianship that I was ambivalent about prior to this experience.
For similar reasons my favourite class thus far has been Information Retrieval, where we carried out in depth analyses of search engines and Web search services. Of all classes, I’ve seen the most personal growth from this class. Understanding how Web search services function and are organized has improved my ability to find resources and to assess their quality and relevance. I’m looking forward to taking similar technical classes in the future.
Is there one aspect of the profession that surprises you that you were not expecting when you started the program? What is it?
Honestly, how much of it is shaped by white Western privilege. I’m thinking specifically of the Dewey Decimal Classification system and the Library of Congress Classification system, both of which continue to privilege the visibility and findability of topics and resources valued by white, Western males. That same privilege lingers elsewhere though, with lack of diversity in library spaces, programming, and staff now being recognized as a problem and priority.
What was it that initially drove you to librarianship?
It happened as a complete fluke during my second year as an undergraduate student at the University of Guelph. I was job-hunting and interviewed for a position at the main campus library simply because it was convenient. Wanting to still be a journalist at that point, though, my hopes were set on an editor position at the school’s student-run newspaper. Turns out, I was offered the position at the library an hour before I was to interview for the editor job. Not wanting to risk being out of work, I accepted the job at the library. I ended up loving it and went on to work at the library for the rest of my degree. The rest is history!
If you could work anywhere, and do anything with information, what would your dream job look like?
That’s a huge question! In an ideal world I’d be able to combine my love of librarianship with my passion for mental health advocacy. I’m not yet sure what that might look like, but I do see an opportunity for academic libraries and their professional staff to be more supportive of students’ mental health. I’ve actually begun some research on the matter, exploring the efficacy of libraries’ end-of-term “stressbuster” programs and alterative ways that libraries can be part of campus community-based mental health initiatives.
If someone were considering going to library school, what would you advise them about?
You are very quickly going to be confronted with how much you don’t know about the field. Coming into the program I had my own ideas about what librarianship entailed, but I was almost immediately proven wrong. Ten months and a lot of learning later and I’m still just beginning to understand the field. I think that’s the beauty of it, though: you’re in for a lifetime of learning.
What do you think is the most important aspect of being an information professional today?
Activism and advocacy. As in, not maintaining a position of neutrality. As facilitators of knowledge, we are well positioned to advocate for diversity, equality, and inclusivity, and we ought to model it in our collections, spaces, programming, communications, and beyond.