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Melanie Wilson Dominican University GSLIS Summer 2011 Reflective Essay

When I entered the program, my main career interests were reference and medical librarianship. It was my love of research that led me to choose librarianship as my career in the first place, and with a strong interest in the health sciences I was excited to discover the field of medical librarianship when examine the career pathways presented on the schools website. Though I was coming to library school a bit later in my life than most of my fellow students, it seemed as if my previous life and work experiences had all been leading up to this. The more I learned about the profession, the more suited it seemed for me, and the more it started to seem like a calling rather than just a career. One of the first surprising discoveries my first semester was of the debate between those who felt that information science was separate from librarianship, and those who felt the two were different points along the same spectrum. I learned that my own interests tended to fall into the information science category, but I also found that I agreed more with those who felt the two fields were ultimately related and not separate. As I got to know my future colleagues, I also discovered that most of them were interested in more traditional LIS settings: public libraries, school libraries, academic libraries, and archives. While it felt as if most of my classes were tailored towards these professional interests, I feel I was able to interpret most of my assignments in such a way that they could apply to my own interests and concerns. One major area of concern for me, a question that repeatedly troubled me throughout class readings and discussions: who is being left out? Who are we overlooking? Which users needs and desires are we not aware of, do we misunderstanding, are we not meeting? Often I felt we were

focusing on the needs of what I would consider more traditional patrons, particularly children, young adults, and college students, particularly in urban or suburban settings. What about users in more remote settings? What about users with special needs or disabilities? What about users who may live in a community where there are abundant library and information resources, but who for one reason or another are isolated or separated from these resources? This was an issue I attempted to address wherever possible in my coursework, and I feel that this is reflected in many of the artifacts I have selected for my e-portfolio, not only in the assignments that focus directly on those members of our communities who tend to be overlooked, but also in the assignments that address the information needs of specialized groups of users or users with unique interests and information concerns. These are the artifacts I am not only most proud of, but also those that I feel provided the greatest learning experiences for me in the program. As artifacts of my most significant learning experiences, I would point to my client research project, my library visit and phone interviews with special librarians in marine research facilities, and my research paper exploring the various ways librarians can meet the needs of users with mental health issues. The first of these, the client research project, allowed me to take my love of doing research beyond answering simple reference questions. It gave me an opportunity to carry out in-depth extended research on a multi-faceted question that did not have a straightforward answer. More importantly, it gave me a real opportunity to help an actual client with a real information need, and to not only provide them the resources that would help them discover the answer to their question, but also with guidance on how to perform further research on their own. My interactions with marine research librarians were not only interesting in their own right, but also allowed me to gain better understanding of the concepts and issues I had read about in my courses, by showing me different real life applications and experiences. By seeing how different professional librarians dealt with these topics and the different ways these concepts and issues could present

themselves, I was able to view them from different angles and get a more developed picture of them. My paper on mental health and libraries also provided a wealth of opportunities to learn from professionals in this very specialized and unique field, as well as giving me a better appreciation of the legacy of libraries and the ways they have been a source of comfort and aid for their users. Presenting the paper to the class also let me educate my fellow students and professor on a topic that they had not previously considered. I was able to again focus on the issues of mental health and the LIS field in my work on updating the entries related to schizophrenia in the Medical Library Associations encyclopedic guide to searching and finding health information on the Web, an opportunity I learned about through the MHLIB listserv for librarians work in the mental health field. While ultimately the MLA decided not to proceed with the revised edition, I would still count this artifact as one of the best in my e-portfolio, primarily because while it was one of the first real world applications of the skills and knowledge I gained from my studies, performed independently of my coursework. It also gave me an opportunity to combine my skills and interests in a way that I felt would be able to do some real good towards spreading important information that could aid understanding and addressing this major health care issue. Another artifact that I consider one of my greatest is the final project for LIS 774 Special Libraries, constructing my role as the manager of a hypothetical information clearinghouse for marine research on sea jellies. This project took the form of a multi-faceted package, covering all aspects of what this position would entail, based on real life examples, my learning in the course, as well as a bit of imagination. I especially appreciated the fact that we were instructed to not be constrained by reality, allowing us the freedom to envision and explore scenarios that may not come true, but would certainly expand our thinking to consider possibilities that could become realities in the future. It was also a fun application of my discovery in my reference courses that the jellyfish is my default search animal...

The above-mentioned artifacts, along with the rest of those found in my e-portfolio, demonstrate my personal and professional interest in users with unique needs and desires, particularly those that are often overlooked or misunderstood. I believe they also demonstrate a creative approach to information needs and available resources to meet these needs, as well as an ability to see connections and relationships that might not be obvious at first, and an intuitive understanding of the ways they can be developed and enhanced for the greater good of our patrons. Also evident is an ability to tailor resources and their presentation to the specific needs of different user groups. Before starting the program, I was only aware of the opportunities available as part of the LIS profession to serve our patrons. Once I started the program, and repeatedly throughout it, it was a real eye opener to discover the serious issues the field faces in trying to meet user needs and even in understanding who are users are and what their needs are. I experienced both emotional highs and lows, moments where LIS seemed to be full of possibilities and those where it felt full of limitations. I was particularly disturbed to learn how the need for reference has changed over time, but while there seem to be less of a demand for it in an academic or public library setting, I do believe that there is a continued and growing need for more specialized and in-depth reference services. As my own professional inclinations are towards special libraries, this seems to be a good fit for my skills and interests. At this point, I feel that my professional future does lie in these more specialized settings, and that by utilizing my skills and creativity, I will be able to discover non-traditional roles in library and information science. I am excited about what the new technologies have to offer, the ways libraries and information centers are currently using them to meet patron needs, and the innovative uses we will find for them in the future. With these tools, my learning experiences in the program, and my own skills and abilities, I will be able to address my concerns about the users and potential users whose needs are not currently being met.