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Freshly Minted: Sarah Milmine

Freshly Minted: Sarah Milmine

September 24, 2018

MLIS Candidate, School of Library and Information Studies, University of Alberta / President, Library and Information Studies Students’ Association (LISSA)

Which information studies program are you attending?

I am attending the University of Alberta’s School of Library and Information Studies, currently in my second year of the program.

What are your current classes like? Which is your favorite so far, and why?

I completed most of my core classes in my first year of the program, which means that while all my classes so far have been interesting and useful, not all of them have always exactly matched my interests.This year I’ve got space to choose more interest-specific options, but since it’s the beginning of the year I haven’t got a feel for my new classes yet.

Last year, my favourite courses were the research methods course and the course on metadata.

The research methods course gave me tools and the structure I lacked to give direction to investigating all the things I’m curious about, so I no longer feel stuck at the “I wonder..” or “What if…” part of research.

The metadata course felt like I was learning advanced-level Klingon, and I felt like I really struggled with it, but I loved the thinking process that’s involved in describing information. I’ll get better with using the different standards as I practice, but standards change over time as different needs arise. I found that learning how to think about describing information for making it findable is a skill I can use anywhere, no matter what standard is in use at the time.

This semester I’m looking forward to taking courses in instructional practices, publishing, and database design. I’m not sure which one will end up being my favourite, but they’re all topics I have a strong interest in, so I’m looking forward to this semester with great anticipation!

Is there one aspect of the profession that surprises you that you were not expecting when you started the program? What is it?

The camaraderie among professionals really surprised me. Ah, not that I expected outright antagonism or hardcore rivalry (though I’m sure both exist), but I was not expecting that in general many of the professionals I’ve observed or read about in trade journals have been flexible and accommodating with each other in testing new ideas for adjusting the library space and its services. It’s a pleasant surprise, and I’m optimistic I’ll end up in a work environment that matches my current observations.

What was it that initially drove you to librarianship?

Insatiable curiosity.

It was always difficult for me to focus on one topic or idea as a kid because I couldn’t help thinking about all the other topics or ideas that I thought might be related. Even while completing my undergrad, I did a double major not because I was smart or had any particular drive, but because I felt like I would be missing out on learning something interesting if I designated one of my focus areas as a minor.

To me, a career in librarianship is an opportunity to keep learning while also aiding other people in making their own connections between pieces of information. It’s like Lego – there’s so much information to choose from, but each individual selects and builds on pieces according to their unique understanding of themselves and the world. Maybe I’ll help someone sort colours or collect oddly-shaped pieces, but ultimately what they do with those pieces will result in a unique element that enriches the information they drew on to create their idea. It’s an exciting process to be part of, and helps keep me in touch with what people are looking for.

If you could work anywhere, and do anything with information, what would your dream job look like?

I like being able to help people learn, but an attempt at an education degree revealed to me that I am not well-suited to classroom teaching or providing extensive instruction on a regular basis. I think at this point I am more interested in working with how people access information from the backend of things, like constructing metadata or building indexes.

I think my dream job would include a blend of research and providing instruction in a library, with lots of time at my disposal to mull over new ideas and make connections with old ones. Ah, but time is a pretty expensive commodity…well, I am describing my dream job, after all!

I am also open to the idea that I might not end up in a library at all, and I’m curious about the kinds of opportunities that publishing and curriculum design might offer. And in the end, I might change my mind completely once I’m actually out there working and seeing what people really need as opposed to what I think they need.

If someone were considering going into information studies, what would you advise them about?

Don’t worry about what you like and don’t like, and don’t worry if you’ve never worked in a library before – all your preconceptions are probably going to change anyway.

Also, surround yourself with people who are just as curious about the world as you are – you’ll keep each other motivated and have lots of different views to test your ideas against.

What do you think is the most important aspect of being an information professional today?

Being flexible and adaptable. Information comes in all shapes, sizes, and formats, and I think it’s important to work with as many types as possible, since you never know where a library user’s “missing piece” will come from. Also, I think being able to hang on to enough of your own personal curiosity about the world is important, so that you are able to inspire others to keep learning and growing.

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