Freshly Minted: Lauren Bull
February 8, 2016
MLIS Student, School of Information Management, Dalhousie University
Which information studies program are you attending?
I am just beginning my second semester of the Master of Library and Information Studies (MLIS) program at Dalhousie University in Halifax, NS.
What are your current classes like? Which is your favorite so far, and why?
With only having taken four classes so far, my impressions are still relatively fresh and slightly blurry from the general feeling of busyness that accompanies the commencement of a new program. All the same, I really enjoyed a course called Information Sources, Services, and Retrieval, taught by Lindsay McNiff, which introduced theories and practices of information seeking and related behaviors, as well as research skills and strategies. Since I have a position as an intern on the reference desk at the Sexton Design & Technology Library, I found I was often able to directly apply my in-class learning to my interactions with students and patrons at work, which made the entire experience more holistic and rewarding.
I also took a class called Organization of Information, taught by Jennifer Grek Martin, which served as my foray into the wide world of classification, metadata, organizational schemata, and thesauri. I discovered a love for the material discussed in the course, and am seriously considering taking Cataloging and Classification next year as a result. What I found pleasantly surprising was that, even in a stereotypically dryer and more traditional context, the importance of these elements was presented as helping users find and make the most of desired information, as this concept is a driving force behind my attraction to librarianship.
Is there one aspect of the profession that surprises you that you were not expecting when you started the program? What is it?
Before starting my MLIS, I was concerned that my prior studies would prove insufficient preparation for the varied demands of a program or career in this field. Much to my surprise, the overwhelming majority of professors and professionals I have met have widely divergent backgrounds, including everything from sciences to literature to economics. The fact that this profession attracts individuals with a broad range of specializations has both reassured and inspired me, and provided opportunities for interesting conversations on more topics than I can count. It has also taught me to value my undergraduate experiences for uniquely informing the ways I now approach librarianship and information management.
What was it that initially drove you to librarianship?
Libraries were my first love. As a child, I was on a first name basis with all of the children’s librarians at my local branch, which I frequented with my mother and younger brothers almost daily. I was an early reader and regular attendee to library programs. As I waited with the utmost impatience to come of age for participation in a “Library Helpers” class, I dreamt of becoming like the librarians who were so influential in my life, inspiring people to experience learning and reading as grand adventures and to view libraries as places of both sanctuary and discovery. I later double majored in Spanish and intercultural studies, with minors in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and education, and while I enjoyed these programs for their content, opportunities for professional skills training did not exist. After graduation, I began to explore librarianship, and the MLIS degree in particular, as a skills-based extension of my interests in instruction, literacy, and information access. So far, my program has not disappointed, even facilitating my involvement in a Career Discovery Tour in Toronto, organized by our Management Career Services this past December.
If you could work anywhere, and do anything with information, what would your dream job look like?
This sort of question is difficult for me to answer, because I feel torn between my beloved, long-standing dreams and the enticing appeal of new opportunities. My response also seems to be constantly evolving, as I learn about many hitherto unknown facets of information management. The job title always involves librarianship of some kind, though. Right now, I would love to become an academic librarian and work in reference, research assistance, and instruction. This is largely due to the positive experiences I have had working as an intern at the Sexton. I’m also passionate about youth and children’s literacy, however, thanks to three delightful summers spent working as a leader for the TD Canada Summer Reading Club at my local library. This interest continues to pull me towards children’s librarianship in the public and school sectors as well.
If someone were considering going to library school, what would you advise them about?
To someone considering an MLIS degree, I would encourage you to cultivate a spirit of open-mindedness. In my one semester of school, I have already learned that there is more to librarianship and information management than I had ever before thought possible. This can be intimidating, but it also means that there are jobs in this field for people with all kinds of skill sets and passions. Even if traditional librarianship doesn’t feel like your thing, a degree in information management could still be a good fit, and prove useful in your future employment. An MLIS is far from a one-size-fits-all program.
What do you think is the most important aspect of being an information professional today?
I think the capability to deal effectively with change, not just to accept it but to embrace it, is invaluable in this profession. In working with information, libraries and other memory institutions necessarily encounter change on a daily basis because information itself is fluid, especially in this digital age. Approaching these kinds of changes as integral aspects of our work and opportunities for innovation, rather than a blight or vengeful attack on our way of life, is one of the keys in demonstrating our relevance to users and their communities.
At the same time, my studies have made me increasingly aware of the gaps that exist in information access and use among different populations. Many of these digital divides are rooted in structural, systemic inequalities, and as such are complex and difficult to ameliorate. I think that information professionals on the whole need to become more cognizant of their own information privilege, and dedicate increased efforts to understanding and eradicating identified disparities, especially in “developing” regions throughout the world.