Reflective Essay

I applied to the Masters of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program at Dominican University because I strived to accomplish a life goal, that is, to combine my interests in intellectual inquiry, information systems, and technology with my professional growth. My time at Dominican University has provided me with the knowledge and tools to lead in the librarianship profession and take on challenges appropriately.

Before being accepted in the School of Information Science (SOIS), I worked in various fields that failed to stimulate me personally and professionally. I began my professional journey six years ago with the Chicago Public Library Foundation as a Cyber-navigator. During that time, I developed an understanding for the importance a library has in low-income communities. Because of my role in the library, patrons were able to view the library as an environment that caters to their learning needs at any level and for any individual. As a current Library Associate for the Chicago Public Libraries, my love for digital technology and literacy innovation has lead me to a path of continual public service, particularly with youth. I have chosen to work in this field because I believe youth play an important role in the evolution of libraries and communities.

I have noticed a personal and professional growth during my time at Dominican University. This positive change is thanks to the wealth of in-depth knowledge of professors and learning goals mapped out by the MLIS program. My experience working in public libraries has helped me witness the positive impact libraries have in the world. As a Spectrum scholar, I value the importance of providing a platform for marginalized communities and people of color to share their stories. I make use of every resource that is offered to continue my professional development as well as share that knowledge with others in my field and the community I serve.

During my first semester, I took LIS 701 Introduction to Library and Information Science and LIS 703 Organization of Knowledge. These courses helped me understand different fields in librarianship and how to create and use cataloging records. I was already working in a library but was finally able to see outside the margins of my current role in youth services. I was introduced to rural and academic libraries as well as collection management and archivist work in museums. I became a member to my first professional association, REFORMA which provides the much-needed platform for Latinos and multicultural library personnel. LIS 703 Organization of Knowledge helped me better understand the cataloging systems libraries use. After the class I found myself looking at marc records for specific information and subject headings and became interested in the historical foundation of classification and organization of knowledge. The other core courses I took were LIS 770 Management of Libraries and Information Centers and LIS 704 Reference and Online Services. These two courses helped me understand challenges that arise when managing a library as well as providing the best service and experience for patrons so they become lifelong users of libraries.

Reflecting back at my learning experience in the MLIS program, I can say that I have acquired the confidence and resourcefulness to find my place in the field of library science. My current work as a teen library associate has helped me understand the role librarians play in advocating for youth and the services they need. Further, I consider myself a goal oriented and passionate individual when it comes to librarianship. It is my mission to share my experiences and learn from other professionals in various fields of library science. While choosing the artifacts for each outcome, I realize how many of the papers, presentations and discussions aligned perfectly to real world experience and interest in public librarianship. I also discovered an interest in libraries as anchors for community empowerment and advocacy. As I revisit all of my previous projects created during my two years in the MLIS program, it was clear to me that my strengths were in thinking creatively, advocating for marginalized communities, library instruction, technology skill building, critically thinking, problem solving and most importantly keeping an open mind by being open to feedback.

Goal 1 is “Develop a professional identity and philosophy within the library and information professions.” The shadow interview created in LIS 770 was one of the most meaningful experiences of my educational career.  I interviewed my manager (now the central district chief for Chicago Public Libraries) about her outlook in managing a library in one of the largest library systems in the country. Her career trajectory inspired me and her library philosophy spoke to me because it talked about community empowerment through library services. I was able to connect her behavior of managing and supporting staff to the lectures explored in class about leadership. The shadow interview sparked a light in me that has led me to focus on public libraries and community empowerment. The second artifact, used for Outcome 1b, was a presentation for LIS 704, which articulated models and philosophies needed for reference librarians in the digital age. I had the opportunity to also instruct the class on practicing virtual reference interviewing using a free web application. I was provided with outstanding positive feedback by Dr. Fallon, MA, MLIS, Ed.D. which validated my interest for library instruction. I also included a paper written for LIS 701 “Librarians as Agents of Change for Incarcerated Youth” which addressed the view of librarians as providing literacy and educational development to disenfranchised populations. I was very interested in researching this topic because of my work with youth in low income communities. It helped me view librarians in the social justice sphere and how librarian ethics and core values set a framework for literary and educational development for all people through access to information. The paper I wrote was also one of my first works, and it was recommended by my professor for journal publishing.

I believe goal 2 “Understand the essential nature of information and its relevance to society” places information as a right for everyone and the importance for patrons to evaluate information effectively as a valuable skill. For outcome 2b I wrote a research paper in LIS 753 that reflects the impact librarians have in the information world today and as advocates for privacy rights. It is critical for librarians to preserve the American Library Association’s professional core values in today’s society, and I was able to connect various issues of privacy, intellectual freedom and democracy with current library trends. In LIS 753 we learned to create websites using HTML, foundations of web design, and conduct usability studies. Most importantly the course created a new context for libraries as platforms for patrons to create and share information.

I included a grant proposal for a summer program that I submitted at work for outcome 2c. The program was a collaboration with Chicago Artist Jose Luis Benavides where teens explored and critically analyzed art, media and issues affecting youth though different technological mediums. This proposal was accepted by Chicago Public Libraries, Teen Services Department and is a highlight of my programing and assessment skills. A project that came about last summer after my programing proposal was a game design proposal for EDU 786 which I included for outcome 2d. For this course, we learned game design theories that helped us design an educational game that focused on social issues facing youth today. The game I developed addressed basic social media literacy including do’s and don’ts of engaging in Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat in a gaming platform.

For Goal 3 “Navigate, curate and create information across the spectrum of human records” under outcome 3c, I provided a social media report for Chicago Public Library YOUmedia that I created in LIS 768. This assignment was culmination of discussions and lectures about analytics and interpreting data for engagement and efficiency in social media. Many libraries have adopted social media to market, inform and connect with its users. While this new platform is providing a different avenue for libraries to reach out to patrons, social media accounts have to be managed effectively and appropriately. This course was very effective in teaching me the necessary tools to navigate through large amounts of data and create concise and clear reports for communication. This was a much-needed class because at the time I was granted access to all social media platforms for CPL Teen services, and it helped me to feel confident in creating posts that inform patrons of our programs. I was also able to interpret the data collected by our analytics to better assess post-delivery time. One of my favorite assignments was a usability study and report for LIS 753 because I believe is part of an emerging technology that needs to be explored by librarians. This assignment helped me assess design, user friendliness and learnability of a library website. A library website is sometimes the first point of contact for many patrons, and it is important to provide a user-friendly and positive experience.

In Goal 4 “Synthesize theory and practice within a dynamic and evolving information environment” I included an assessment plan for library field trips created in LIS 793. This assessment plan provided me a better understanding of the impact library field trips have on youth social and emotional development. Part of the assignment was to research existing articles of previous assessments in the field of library science. This proved to be difficult since there is a lack of articles addressing library field trips. I was able to connect 3 strong examples of school fieldtrips that resembled field trips I offered teens at my branch as my programing. After my presentation, many of my classmates were surprised that field trips were offered as programing and expressed my findings as innovative and exemplary.

Outcome 4b is a paper written for LIS 770 addressing the evolving flexibility and civic engagement adopted by many libraries to better inform patrons. Urbanization and environmental sustainability are issues affecting patrons and libraries are addressing these issues by providing programing, engaging the local community and adopting sustainability into their mission statements. I see this as an example of information and emerging technology synthesizing innovatively into the work of librarianship. My artifact for outcome 4c is a presentation and panel discussion that took place at the Illinois Library Association Conference 2016. The presentation, “Discovery, Advocacy and Leadership in Every Day STEAM-powered Teen Programs,” provided me with real world experience of library conferences and a chance to share my experience with other professionals in my field. I was able to share the work teens had created and answer questions other librarians had about programing and partnerships. I really enjoyed my experience on this panel as it was an opportunity very early in my professional and academic career journey that gave me the validation I needed as a future librarian.

The outcomes for Goal 5 “Effectively communicate and collaborate to deliver, market, and advocate for library and information services” were some of the most practiced skills thought the MLIS journey and professional experience. For outcome 5a, I included a presentation I created for the summer grant I received last summer. I was asked by the Chicago Public Library teen services director to present my program highlights and findings to the CPL library board. It was very important for me to apply all the skills I had learned about effective communication and marketing thought my MLIS journey. One of the topics most talked about in courses was showing the library’s worth for stakeholders. I believe my presentation conveyed the best possible message of grant funds being used to provide positive impacts on underrepresented youth. It was hard for me to choose an artifact for outcome 5e, but came across a video that was created thought a partnership. Last summer was very challenging because of the responsibilities and expectations that were set for me through my job. I was able to witness my hard work come to fruition by the growth one of my interns demonstrated. The video showcases the work me and one of my interns achieved last summer. As his direct supervisor, I had to provide meaningful mentorship and a positive educational experience for his paid internship. I believe my leadership skills and approachability were projected through his feedback and outlook on libraries.

It is difficult to imagine a world without public libraries. Public libraries continue to demonstrate their worth and impact on communities. Their relevance has given them a spotlight during the digital age. Technology and the internet have become increasingly difficult to navigate for many patrons. The digital divide does not only affect adults but children and teenagers who grow up in a fast-paced internet era. Public libraries as physical spaces are seen as centers for learning and community building. One aspect of public libraries that I highly value is their innovation and encouragement for learning. This is an important factor for public libraries to have as education becomes privatized and expensive. Public libraries have remained resilient and flexible with the many changes technology and society have undergone. They will remain integrated in the lives of many patrons for their ability to create a platform for everyone to create, build community, and learn and discover new ideas.

As a current Library Associate for the Chicago Public Libraries, my love for digital technology and literacy innovation has lead me to a path of continual public service, particularly with youth. I have chosen to work in this field because I believe the youth play an important role in the evolution of libraries and communities. My programs focus on technology and diverse skill building that interests the youth in the community. My goal is to stimulate creative thinking in young people by implementing the knowledge I gained in library and information science.

I continue to seek information to better facilitate workshops and programs with youth at the library. Technology has always been an important part of learning and is a pillar in this digital age. Since the programs I develop at the library incorporate technology, teens can acquire skills imperative to their educational and professional journey. I will always lead by great example that was instilled in me growing up of hard work and determination. This will aid me in developing important skills provided through the MLIS program and will enable me to foster the creative knowledge of today’s youth. I am grateful to my family, my partner, and every one who has kept me motivated to finish such an important milestone in my life. This belief in me is a quality that I will keep present in my work and is why my future is in public libraries management and library instruction.