“I would encourage anyone to not be afraid to speak up. It is a small profession, so I know that some people feel very self-conscious about speaking up at times, but this is what makes it great. You want to hear everyone’s perspective, you want to make sure your perspective is also represented...
Meet Alumni, Sheila Garcia!
Sheila graduated from Wayne State’s Master’s in Library and Information Science program in 2017. Sheila was an American Library Association 2016 Spectrum Scholar and a 2019 Emerging Leader in American Libraries. She is the current Liaison Librarian for Professional Programs in Criminal Justice, Legal Studies, and Hospitality in Tourism at Grand Valley State University. In her current work, Sheila is working with faculty and students in these departments by shooting videos, assisting with eBooks and online access, and teaching information literacy classes as well as the primary writing course required for freshman students. Because of the need to move everything online due to Covid-19, Sheila is finding groundbreaking ways to connect with the students and faculty she works with. For the course modules she is setting up, she is creating podcasts and short videos to make classes and online learning more interactive, digestible, and interesting. Sheila credits her creativity in designing courses for this semester to her online experience at Wayne State. She said, “Well, I took my entire master’s degree online so I can give insight on what it’s like to be on the student end of that… In my creating information literacy modules, I didn’t want it to be too text heavy or too video heavy, so I created podcasts.”
Prior to her current work at GVSU, Sheila was a Diversity Alliance Resident Librarian at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Sheila explained that the U-M residency was unique because it was theme-based. Her work was blanketed under the theme: Community Outreach and Engagement. During the first year of her residency, Sheila worked on 3 short-term projects and one long-term project that had to deal with community outreach and engagement from different perspectives, which she said, “gave me a different perspective on different ways I could take this one aspect of library work and work across different departments.” Sheila worked with public libraries, the U-M law school, and the Arts and Humanities Departments for her projects. One of her favorite projects was event planning within Arts and Humanities in order to bolster their collections by working with student groups and hearing what each one specifically wanted to learn more about. Sheila mentioned that one of the most successful events she led was “My Latinx is…,” which was an open mic night where students came to define what it means to them to be Latinx. They paired the open mic night with a display of pieces in the collection that centered around what it meant to be Latinx to showcase what resources Latinx students had on campus to connect with their culture.
Sheila’s long-term project dealt with interviewing and surveying students to better understand their user experience with the university library systems in order to see how they could become more accessible to them. This project, she explained, gave her more experience with the traditional research aspect of librarianship.
During the second year of her residency, Sheila chose to stay within one department and gained experience teaching students how to build research skills. Sheila chose this path because, she said, “… I knew that teaching is central to a lot of what you do in academic libraries.” Sheila said this teaching experience has helped her be successful in her current position at GVSU.
As a WSU student who completed everything online, Sheila mentioned it’s important to set a schedule for yourself that you commit to, so you can limit falling behind. Sheila also recollects that like others, she wanted to get her MLIS to stay in her public library job but suggests broadening your horizons: “Try to engage in the professional organizations, try to apply for national scholarships. Then you meet a lot of people and learn about so many different things you can do with your degree… I applied for an ACRL mentorship from the Association of College and Research Libraries, and that mentor is the one who told me about residencies because I told her I was interested in doing more research, more of the research side of librarianship, and she told me that academic would probably be what I wanted to do, and told me about residencies. So, I honestly think if she hadn’t told me I wouldn’t have known. So, do try and make those connections even as a student. I feel like most library and information science professionals love to connect with students.”
Some advice Sheila would like to leave new students with are: “I would encourage anyone to not be afraid to speak up. It is a small profession, so I know that some people feel very self-conscious about speaking up at times, but this is what makes it great. You want to hear everyone’s perspective, you want to make sure your perspective is also represented, so I think I always urge for people to speak up and also, always be open to being wrong.”