Freshly Minted: Julie Blatt
January 10, 2016
With the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Conference taking place this week in Boston, Librarianship.ca is profiling members of the library and IM community from the United States.
LIS Student, School of Information Science & Learning Technologies, University of Missouri
Which information studies program are you attending?
I am attending the University of Missouri in Columbia, MO, earning my Master of Arts degree in Information Science and Learning Technologies with an emphasis in Library and Information Science.
What are your current classes like? Which is your favorite so far, and why?
My current classes focus on public libraries. As one of eight Public Library Leadership (PuLL) Fellows selected for this term, I have been participating in course work that has included project management, practical budget decisions, diversity in the workplace, and cultural competence. Collection development, programming and community outreach have also been recent topics of course work, but if I had to choose a favorite course it was Children’s Materials in Libraries. I enjoyed the class meetings, discovering new and old children’s items and being able to trade reader’s advisory examples through all types and styles of books and readers.
Is there one aspect of the profession that surprises you that you were not expecting when you started the program? What is it?
Absolutely. Actually – there are two aspects. The first is that there is so much information and innovation occurring within our field; I pity those I first meet who engage in small talk and ask about my studies. Immediately, I get a presumptuous and simplistic question and observation from them along the lines of: “So, you need to go to school to be a librarian? I thought you just had to read?” and thus begins my endless response of how useful information and technology is in everyday life and how being trained on these valuable resources is not as easy as typing a few keywords into a computer screen! Surprisingly comfortable on my own at cocktail parties and able to rouse up confidence I never knew I had, I actually do not mind when after a few moments the unfortunate soul either wanders away awkwardly, while muttering “Well, I like books…” or they continue the conversation with a newfound respect for libraries and a promise to visit their own very soon!
The second aspect is how amazing and bountiful our small world of connections is! I have attended a handful of conferences and no matter where I am, I always see a familiar face, and no matter where on the career spectrum they are, they treat me as an intelligent, relevant professional and on equal ground, even after I identify myself as a student without an attachment to a library as a full-time workplace yet.
What was it that initially drove you to librarianship?
I was in a leadership role in a retail establishment – I am still involved on a part-time basis and as an avid customer. I fell in love with the product and each day was a celebration of receiving new items and meeting new customers. My favorite moments were matching just the right item with just the right customer. My other favorite moments occurred when, after a few seconds of speaking with a customer, I realized they literally had no practical way to purchase and take home all of the items they not only wanted, but truly needed for their children, family or students to thrive in the world of literacy. The first time I said the word “Library” aloud it came out as a whisper. The next thing that happened was unbelievable: the customer’s eyes widened, giving me an incredulous look, followed by a whispered echo of what felt like I had just confessed to them: “Library? I never thought of the Library? I can afford to buy one book now, but then…I can go to- the Library?” With matching conspiratorial smiles, the determined customer would choose one item to splurge on and purchase as I frantically wrote a list of other suggested reads to seek out at…the Library. I noticed – although meeting and exceeding my work goals and successfully keeping up with retail responsibilities – I was tossing around the old-fashioned Library option more and more. It was then I realized my journey has been more purpose-filled than I thought and how much I enjoyed reaching out to customers, community and educators and sharing my love of literacy, my enthusiasm for a good read and my support of local resources, especially libraries, available to all.
If you could work anywhere, and do anything with information, what would your dream job look like?
A special or public library, located anywhere with lots of sunshine and no snow, with a grand collection of sea shells, jigsaw puzzles and picture books. And the need to travel at least twice a year for professional development and to keep up with trends in the field. I like the idea of being a big fish in a small pond, as I enjoy the welcome and determination of small communities.
A more practical job would be a public library with a role in Children’s Services or Business/Non-Profit Services. Starting out as a little fish in a big pond isn’t so bad, as it gives me a chance to observe and absorb more.
In my dream or practical job, I would love for reader’s advisory to be a key responsibility (especially Children’s Materials for readers young and old), possibly collection development (in Children’s or Non-Fiction areas such as business or self-improvement) and with the right mentor, I am not opposed to dabbling in cataloging (but cataloging is less dabbling and more diving right in). Ideally I would like to be a library leader (branch manager at a medium sized district or director at a small sized district). There are entirely too many options, but I am most certain that communities and the communication of library services to those communities will always remain my priority.
If someone were considering going to library school, what would you advise them about?
Like most things in life, there will never be enough time or money to accomplish everything you might want to or need to accomplish in library school. So, basically- you have to throw out a bit of the logistical and practical planning part of your personality (you know, that traditional librarian sort of thinking) and just jump in – enroll, attend, network, participate and learn! The pace is quick but the knowledge will simmer into success.
What do you think is the most important aspect of being an information professional today?
Sharing, being open-minded and adaptable. And allowing yourself time to read.