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Jodi Coalter, Life Sciences and Outreach Librarian

SIS Alumna Jodi Coalter is pictured outdoors in front of a wooded area with a pond in the foreground. She is wearing a wide-brimmed hat.
Jodi Coalter received the University of Maryland's 2021 Gemstone Honors Program Librarian of the Year Award.

SIS alumna Jodi Coalter, MLIS ’18, a life sciences and outreach librarian at the University of Maryland, received the 2021 Gemstone Honors Program Librarian of the Year Award.

The Gemstone Program is a multidisciplinary four-year research program for selected undergraduate honors students at the University of Maryland. Under guidance of faculty mentors and Gemstone staff, teams of students design, direct and conduct significant research that is often related to exploring the interdependence of science and technology with society.

Coalter received the program’s Librarian of the Year Award in recognition of her outstanding commitment, support and guidance as the librarian of a Gemstone team. This honor is based on nominations from participating students.

As a student at the School of Information Sciences, Coalter was a SIS Tech Graduate Student Assistant and president of the Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T).

Q. Can you tell us about the degree and certificates you graduated with and why you selected those particular areas of focus?

A. 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!

Q. What advice do you have for an incoming student who may be unsure of which LIS field might be best for them?

A. 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.

Q. You were very active in student organizations and as a Graduate Student Assistant. How did your work with those organizations and your work as a GSA benefit you?

A. It’s hard to describe how helpful 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 State, which led 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 which helped me understand that this field was actually where I wanted to be.

Q. Tell us about your current job.

A. I am currently the Life Sciences and Outreach Librarian at the University of Maryland, College Park. It’s a massive, R1 institution, which makes liaising with the Biology, Entomology and Life Sciences Departments incredibly interesting. I’m also responsible for outreach to the Honors College, and I work closely with “non-traditional” student groups, such as veterans, transfer students, and undocumented students. I do a lot of instruction on a variety of topics, including citation management, database use, and equity in research. My research focuses on how to implement equity principles into research, and how to teach equity to new researchers. I really love my job. Every day brings a new challenge and I learn so much.

Q. Do you have other advice or information you’d like to share?

A. We all have very different lives, schedules, and backgrounds, but the more you can get out, volunteer at libraries or professional development organizations like the Michigan Library Association, American Library Association, etc., 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 librarian you will be, the more fun you will have, and the more impact you will have on your patrons.