"Talk to librarians! Some of the best advice I got, including which field I should pursue, came from other librarians."
Jodi Coalter is a former MLIS/MSIM candidate, SIS Tech Graduate Student Assistant, and past-president of ASIS&T@Wayne. Jodi graduated in December 2018, and is a STEM librarian at the University of Maryland.
Can you tell us about the degree and certificates you graduated with and why you selected those particular areas of focus?
I graduated with an MLIS and a graduate certificate in information management. I knew I wanted to be a librarian from the beginning, which is why I have the MLIS. I earned the certificate partly because I knew I wanted to be an academic librarian, so adding the certificate made career sense. I chose information management because I sort of fell in love with data. The more I studied, the more I read, the more amazed I was by data’s ability to tell a story, to find insight, and to convey a massive amount of information quickly. And there is so much research into data management, so many different ways to work with data, that I knew I would have a ton of work to keep me busy after graduation!
What advice do you have for an incoming student who may be unsure of which LIS field might be best for them?
Talk to librarians! Some of the best advice I got, including which field I should pursue, came from other librarians. Several of the classes you can take have “networking” assignments, where you have an opportunity to talk to other librarians, see what they do. These assignments really opened doors for me, helped me discover what I wanted to do with my life. I spoke with several STEM librarians at both Wayne State and the University of Michigan who opened my eyes to some of the amazing opportunities available in science.
You were very active in student organizations and as a GSA. How did your work with those organizations and your work as a GSA benefit you as you went through the program?
It’s hard to describe how helpful both my work in student organizations and my work as a GSA benefited me. I learned so, so much in both situations. Student groups gave me an opportunity to prove my commitment to the field, expanded my knowledge of specific topics, taught me how to organize events that benefit others, and helped me network. Some of my most fruitful connections grew from my student group work. As a GSA, I have had an opportunity to network with librarians at Wayne, which have lead to extensive and invaluable experience. I have an opportunity to grow relationships with faculty members, many of whom are now colleagues, references, and mentors.
I guess the main benefit to this work is that I had an opportunity to flex my librarian “muscles” or skills. I had the opportunity to test out ideas and theories I learned in the classroom in real world situations. I also gained a detailed understanding of what academic libraries look like, and helped me understand that this field was actually where I wanted to be.
Tell us about your current job.
I am a STEM librarian at the University of Maryland. UMD is a Big Ten school, so there are more than 40,000 students on campus. The university has an amazing and terribly exciting citizen science program, and part of my research will hopefully help explore the usefulness of this awesome science platform.
Any other advice or information you’d like to share with our readers?
We all have very different lives, schedules, and backgrounds, but the more you can get out, volunteer at libraries or professional development organizations like MLA, ALA, etc, talk to librarians, set up and run events, the better off you will be. There is so much work for librarians to do, so many ways that information is passed and ingested and preserved, and so many things we don’t know about the process. This is remarkably exciting! Don’t be afraid to share the excitement, explore, and test the stuff you are learning in class in the real world. The more you get out there, the better the librarian you will be, the more fun you will, and the more impact you will have on your patrons.