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A Career Epiphany Led Sarah Watson’21 to Earn Her Master of Information
“The program gave me the knowledge and skills I needed to be professionally versatile.”

Sarah Watson MI’21 has had an unusual career journey. She holds a bachelor of arts in Asian Studies and wanted a career that combined “intercultural engagement with something instructional and nurturing.” She tried out various positions before becoming a member of the boarding faculty at an international school in South Korea. While she enjoyed it, she knew it would be difficult to make it a long-term career option on its own. She began volunteering in the library there and had what she refers to as a career epiphany.

“I knew I loved working with students, but classroom teaching never seemed to be quite the right fit for me. I like jobs that have variety and librarianship is a Swiss Army knife kind of profession. I had always loved reading and spending time in the library growing up (books were my main way of learning about the world outside of school), but for some reason, I had never considered it as a career. I started volunteering in the library, and suddenly it all clicked. And the more I learned about librarianship during the course of my degree, the more I fell in love with it.”

Having successfully earned her Master of Information (MI), Sarah shared her reflections on the program.

SC&I: Why did you choose SC&I?

SW: There are many reasons why the MI program was right for me: · It’s an American Library Association-accredited program (since 1956) that is highly regarded. · The program offers the New Jersey School Library Media Specialist (SLMS) certification.

· Education requirements are part of the program. This was important because I don’t have a teaching qualification.

· The content was completely asynchronous, so I didn’t have to worry about the time difference or my weird work schedule.

· I could do the entire program while living abroad and complete the field experience at the international school where I worked.

Positive word of mouth—an alumnus friend of a friend highly recommended the program.

SC&I: What did you like about the MI program?

SW: Although my program was completely online, the professors were very engaged, accessible, enthusiastic, and supportive. I didn’t feel any disadvantage living overseas. In fact, I think it helped make my interactions with my US-based classmates more meaningful. There were aspects of every class that I could apply to my current work in the boarding program and assistance in the library. Not only did this enhance my performance, but it showed me the value of what I was learning and made me excited to be a full-time librarian.

SC&I: What classes were most meaningful to you?

SW: These classes gave me career and life skills. · Search and the Information Landscape with Associate Teaching Professor of Library and Information Science Joyce Kasman Valenza helped me provide research assistance and workshops to my students and taught me how to create resource guides for them.

· Leadership, Management, and Evaluation of School Libraries, also with Professor Valenza, gave me the skills to take charge of more specialized collection-management tasks in the library and create a lot of MARC records for new Chinese books.

· Learning Theory, Inquiry, and Instructional Design with Associate Professor of Library and Information Science Ross J. Todd gave me a better understanding of what goes on in the classroom in terms of lesson planning and gave me the vocabulary to talk about educational phenomena.

· Young Adults, Reading, and Literacy with Jennifer LeGarde made me better at talking to students (and people in general) about books and got me out of a reading slump. Her class, Emerging Literacies: Learning and Creating with Digital Youth, introduced me to so many excellent tools and resources.

· Makerspace with Laura Fleming: I used what I learned from this special topics elective to create a makerspace in one of the dormitories while our school was fully online during the beginning of the pandemic.

SC&I: As a recent graduate who returned to the United States and is currently working as an interim teen librarian, what would you consider your post-graduation benefits?

SW: The program gave me the knowledge and skills I needed to be professionally versatile. Unexpected life events, including losing a job opportunity due to the pandemic and having to suddenly repatriate, made me thankful for this ability. Because my degree had also prepared me to work with youth in public libraries, I had a lot more options when searching for employment partway into the school year. Additionally, many of the classes emphasized connecting with the larger librarian world and resources, so I feel more prepared to deal with changes and navigate the job market.

SC&I: What tips do you have for current and prospective students?

SW: You will be introduced to so many tremendous resources. Be sure to find a way to keep track of and organize them for future use.

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