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Elizabeth Lovsin

Reflective Essay

I struggled for a long time to find my vocation. As a child, my answer


for what I wanted to be when I grew up changed each week. That pattern
continued in college: while I kept English as my major, I added and dropped
second majors and minors so often that it became a joke among my friends.
I have always had a passion for literature and new ideas, I love working with
people, and I wanted to find a job I felt was worthwhile to my community. I
decided to attend law school after graduating college, with the goal of
becoming a public interest lawyer. It only took a couple of months to realize
that my idealized view of the profession did not match the reality. I dropped
out of law school midway through my first semester, and then earned my
Master of Education degree. After teaching sixth grade Reading for two
years I was, like many new teachers, disillusioned with the profession. While
planning a relocation for my husbands job, I decided it was time to go in a
different direction in my own career, and I applied to Dominicans Graduate
School of Library and Information Science.
When I look back on the many decisions that finally brought me to
GSLIS, I am amazed that it took me so long to consider librarianship as a
career. This broad field is perfect for a person like me who is interested in
many things and finds it difficult to commit to one subject. A librarian gets to
explore new ideas and works of literature, work with people, and find

fulfillment by serving the community. I believe the reason I never thought to


try librarianship earlier is because I do not have many positive recollections
of the library from my early years. I enjoyed visiting the school library, but I
remember being intimidated by the public libraries in my town. I did not
start using libraries for my personal reading until I was in graduate school to
become a teacher. By the time I was growing frustrated with the realities of
being a classroom teacher, I had finally realized the wonderful things that
were happening in public libraries. When I hesitantly shared my idea to
attend yet another graduate school to become a librarian, I was surprised to
hear many friends and family members tell me they had long thought this
was the right career for me. I wish they had told me sooner.
I began my GSLIS education in Spring 2013 at an intensive pace,
taking four classes my first semester while also working part time at a public
library. I remember that first semester as the most significant educational
experience in my GSLIS career. While I quickly realized that four classes was
a bit too heavy of a workload, I felt that various intersections between the
classes made all of them more meaningful for me. That semester I took LIS
701: Introduction to Library and Information Science, LIS 703: Organization of
Knowledge, LIS 704: Reference and Online Services, and LIS 770:
Management of Libraries and Information Centers.
I was excited not only to enjoy the content I was learning in all of these
classes, but also to discover how different the material covered in each class
was from the others. LIS 701 felt like a philosophy course while LIS 770 felt

like a cross between philosophy and business management. LIS 704 felt like
a practical crash course in everyday patron services. LIS 703 felt, somehow,
like a math course; yet it was a form of equations that made more intuitive
sense to me than any previous mathematics concepts had done. I knew at
this point that I wanted to focus on Youth Services, which felt like a
continuation of my education career in a more autonomous direction. I knew
that I would not likely be taking classes on advanced reference methods or
learn more advanced cataloging techniques. Yet I was very excited to get an
introduction to those fields of librarianship, and receiving those introductions
simultaneously helped increase my understanding of each separate area.
These four classes acquainted me with the five GSLIS learning goals
immediately. LIS 701 was particularly influential in developing my
professional identity, and in thinking more broadly about the concept of
information and how it relates to society. LIS 703 helped to expand my ideas
of information in society, while also introducing me to whole new ways to
organize and navigate that information. LIS 704 taught me how to more
effectively locate and retrieve information, concepts which made more sense
due to my experiences in LIS 703, and helped me begin to apply the theories
of patron services to my practice working in a public library. LIS 770
provided theories of management to compare to my practical working
experiences, and also taught me the importance of marketing library
services. By the end of the semester I had received a powerful introduction

to all five learning goals, and I have included artifacts from all of these
classes in my portfolio.
One of the artifacts of which I am very proud and which was a
memorable project for me is a Power Point presentation a partner and I
presented to our LIS 701 class, summarizing The Intellectual Freedom
Manual. There was so much valuable content in this book that my partner
and I were afraid of leaving out something important, so our tactic was to
vastly over-prepare. We had identified parts we could likely cut from the
presentation, but decided to take the opportunity to check with our
professor, Janice Del Negro, to be sure we included everything she wanted.
As we were presenting, every time we asked if we should skip a certain part,
Janice told us to go ahead and cover it. She built class discussion into our
presentation. We were in front of the class for almost the entire evening, but
instead of simply talking at the class, this over-prepared presentation
became a springboard for class discussion and debate, and a very rewarding
experience for me.
Reading The Intellectual Freedom Manual so closely in order to prepare
this project had a profound effect on my professional philosophy. I
experienced an abrupt shift in my thinking, coming from education to the
public library world. As a teacher I had been in loco parentis, responsible for
acting in childrens best interests in their parents absence. I was used to
thinking in terms of what is appropriate or best for children. My
coursework in LIS 701, and this project in particular, realigned my attitude

for my new profession. I began to strongly believe that, while teachers and
therefore school librarians must act in loco parentis, that is not an
appropriate role or attitude for public librarians.
The role of public librarians is to provide access to patrons, regardless
of age. I believe the public librarys role as a safe space of exploration and
inquiry must be safeguarded from all challenges. While I firmly support and
encourage a parents right to guide and limit their own childs reading, no
parent or concerned individual or group should be able to limit the access of
any other child to the full range of materials the library has to offer. I began
this first semester with a general discomfort with the idea of censorship, and
ended with a fiercely protective philosophy of the freedom to read and to
enjoy unrestricted access regardless of age. While LIS 701 was the primary
catalyst of this development in my professional philosophy, I learned in my
other classes this first semester that access can be influenced by
management policies or by the manner in which items are catalogued, and
that a reference interview can have an enlightening or stifling effect on a
curious patron. Lessons from all of these initial classes coalesced to make
me aware of the issue of access and my own role in protecting it.
After my first semester, I slowed down the pace of my coursework,
largely because I had become pregnant. I took two classes in Summer 2013,
one class in Fall 2013, and then took a full year off after the birth of my
daughter before returning in Spring 2015 to slowly finish my degree. A
majority of my elective coursework has been related to Youth Services. Two

very memorable Youth Services class experiences I had were LIS 721: Library
Materials for Children, with Thom Barthelmess, and LIS 722: Library Materials
for Young Adults, with Janice Del Negro. These courses further expanded my
understanding of the nature of information and its relevance to specific
populations. To a preschool patron and his or her family, a picture book is as
vital a piece of information as a scholarly article is to a Ph.D. student. These
classes taught me that the definition of information runs the gamut from a
board book to a Young Adult novel to a peer-reviewed scholarly journal, and
that all of these publications should be treated with the same respect.
One artifact of which I am particularly proud is my Author Presentation
on David Macaulay in LIS 721. I had no idea who David Macaulay was prior
to this assignment, and the only reason I presented on him is that the signup sheet got to me last. When I realized he wrote primarily nonfiction about
buildings and machines, I was pretty pessimistic about the work ahead of
me. Once I began to explore his books, however, I was shocked by how
much I enjoyed them and how much I learned. This experience taught me to
be more open-minded about my own reading, and to explore areas of the
collection I had previously neglected. I worked hard to develop a class
presentation that would enable my peers to interact with Macaulays works
and come to their own conclusions, and I was very happy with the
experience once I had shared my information with the class. The artifact
within the portfolio is simply the outline of my presentation, but it represents
an interaction with my peers that I felt was remarkably successful.

Two other classes I particularly enjoyed were 1.5 credit courses: LIS
806: Grantwriting Project and LIS 804: Graphic Format Books and Comics.
The narrow focus of both of these classes enabled me to learn much about
areas of interest that I had not previously explored. One of the artifacts
included in my portfolio which I feel is an example of my best work is the
Graphic Novels and Literacy Pamphlet from LIS 806. I took this course
because I had never personally enjoyed reading graphic novels, but I knew I
needed more experience with the format to better serve my patrons. Over
the course of this summer class I discovered that I actually greatly enjoy
reading certain types of graphic novels, particularly those in the Juvenile
collection.
While I had not previously enjoyed them, I had known from my time as
a reading teacher that graphic novels were incredibly valuable for literacy
development, particularly for struggling and reluctant readers. I decided, for
my final project, to combine my knowledge as a former reading teacher with
my newfound love of graphic novels to create a resource to convince
concerned parents of the literacy value of graphic novels. I packed the
pamphlet with research and decorated it with images from three of my
favorite graphic novels I had read during the course. I designed the
pamphlet with clear marketing and access goals in mind: my goal was to
convince patrons of the value of a specific service offered by the library, one
that is very popular with children and often the source of parent-child conflict
within the library. I was very proud of my finished project, especially since

visual design is not a strong suit of mine, and was excited when it was
published in the first edition of LISSAs INKunabula online journal.
My penultimate course at GSLIS is another of my most significant
learning experiences. LIS 777: Issues of Access, Advocacy, and Policy in
Youth Services, taught by Jenna Nemec-Loise, bolstered my stance on
protecting access and convinced me of the importance of advocacy at every
level of the profession. One meaningful artifact from this class included in
this portfolio is my Access Assignment, which includes both a Quantitative
Inventory and a Qualitative Analysis of a collection. I used the Youth Services
collection at my community library to complete this assignment, and it was
while conspicuously working on it that I was encouraged by the head of Youth
Services to apply for a job opening. It is fair to say that this assignment got
me the job I currently have: Youth Services Librarian at the Deerfield Public
Library. Regardless of that happy circumstance, this project was valuable
because it taught me that room design and appropriate signage are
incredibly important to providing unrestricted access. Every time I enter a
new library, I look at the space differently than I did before, analyzing the
choices made and their impact on access.
The process of preparing this e-Portfolio has helped me to reflect on
the entirety of my GSLIS education. I feel that the courses I have taken and
the experiences I have had in the classroom and the workplace have given
me a comprehensive understanding of the five learning goals. My time at
Dominican has shaped my professional identity, so that I can be an everyday

advocate for intellectual freedom and access for youth in my work at a public
library. I believe that my e-Portfolio reflects my professional identity, and
also my willingness to recognize and learn from my mistakes. I believe that
in any career, but particularly librarianship, we must constantly learn and
change to be effective. I hope that my e-Portfolio shows that I am always
willing to learn and change, but that the philosophy I have developed will
keep me grounded in the established values of professional librarians.
Over the course of my GSLIS career, I have discovered that libraries
and information centers can be a source of constant surprise. If innovation
and experimentation are allowed to flourish, libraries can respond to
community needs and transform into entirely new public spaces. At the
same time, libraries remain bastions of independent searching, free thought,
and refuge for those who need it. I believe that the traditional and the
innovative roles must always be balanced to serve the needs of each
librarys community. I have greatly enjoyed serving my own community as a
Youth Services Librarian for the past five months, and I hope to continue to
do so for the foreseeable future. I also hope to become more actively
involved in professional organizations in the coming years, so that I can stay
connected to other librarians and find new ways to better serve my patrons.