“[This work] gave me a reason to pursue all the avenues that this program and the LIS field are about while also connecting with professionals in the field and professors, students and alumni at SJSU. It completely opened up the program to me.”
MLIS Student Graduating May 2017
Sonoma County, California
As a practicing artist and online journalist, iSchool student and writer of the iStudent Blog Allison Randall-Gatt has a long history of serving the community. When she was looking to go back to work after having her first child, though, she had to think a bit more pragmatically about the future. “I figured it would be a good idea to spend some time going to school to increase my future earnings,” Randall-Gatt says. “And I chose librarianship because I truly enjoy working with and for people.” Like many future LIS professionals, Randall-Gatt has worked retail in a book store, but the all-important push to sell never quite gelled with her. Says Randall-Gatt, “I’d rather be able to hand someone something that they would enjoy with no strings attached.” These decisions and experiences, both pragmatic and philosophical, led her toward the MLIS at SJSU and her position as writer of the iStudent Blog.
Making Her Mark, One Blog at A Time
“I have a small background in journalism,” Randall-Gatt says, “and I always found it rewarding picking through information that was available and finding where it came from.” In addition, Randall-Gatt enjoyed the challenge of matching information to demographics and tailoring her content to the readers that would see and need it. “And that ties into librarianship nicely, says Randall-Gatt. “It’s amazing how much librarianship and journalism can have in common.” When she obtained the blogger position at the iSchool, she applied these skills and experiences toward content that would be most helpful for the iSchool’s varied and diverse student body.
In its current form, the iStudent Blog is very much the brainchild of Randall-Gatt. She has spent almost three years working to make the platform more helpful and engaging via its function, its appearance and its content. In addition, running the blog has helped Randall-Gatt gain a deeper understanding of the LIS field. Says Randall-Gatt, “It really gave me a reason to pursue all these avenues that this program and the LIS field are about while also connecting with professionals in the field and professors, students and alumni at SJSU. It completely opened up the program to me.” Randall-Gatt goes on to say that the position improved her writing skills, research skills and even her cold-calling abilities. “I don’t have nearly as much anxiety about pursuing internships or jobs as I used to.” The iSchool provides numerous opportunities beyond course work like student assistantships which enrich the program. Per Randall-Gatt, “I know it might sound crazy, but this job changed my life.”
Now in her final semester at SJSU, Randall-Gatt is reflective of her time here. “I didn’t actually look or apply anywhere else,” she says. “I had a friend who went through the program and highly recommended it.” She did some research on the MLIS program, found its flexibility to be in line with what she needed, and applied. Randall-Gatt urges students at every stage of the program to utilize the resources provided by the school to track their course work as it relates to their impending e-portfolio. As someone in the midst of building hers, she can attest to just how helpful those resources are.
Volunteering: A Path Forward
In addition to her work with the School of Information, Randall-Gatt spends time volunteering at River to Coast Social Services, a local social services agency that provides social and developmental resources for parents and young children. She reads and sings with the young children, using the limited learning supplies that the agency can afford to help foster their creativity and stimulate their education. “It’s great experience for me, too,” Randall-Gatt says. “I developed a catalog of books for them to order with a grant they’re receiving.” Randall-Gatt suggests that looking outside paid positions in libraries for experience is a great way to build up one’s skill base and resume for those future paid positions in the LIS field.
As for her future after graduation, Randall-Gatt wants to parlay her volunteer work into a children’s services librarian position at the Sonoma County Public Library. Not only does the county have gorgeous vineyards and pastoral views, it also has a large immigrant worker population from Mexico and Central America. Says Randall-Gatt, “I have a keen interest in trying to give their children a program equivalent to pre-school and provide both the children and their families the tools to have a home literacy environment.” Randall-Gatt would like to give them books in both English and Spanish and get the idea of encouraging the children to write their names and see how words are spelled. “This way,” Randall-Gatt says, “these children can start at a similar level that the majority of the kids in their kindergarten classroom will be at, who all attended formal private pre-school programs.” Above all, Allison Randall-Gatt is dedicated to bridging these gaps between the privileged and the less privileged children of her community. With all she’s learned from both her course work and her position here at the iSchool, she is confident in her abilities to do so.
For more, here are a few of Randall-Gatt’s favorite posts from her three-year tenure as the writer of the iSchool’s Student Blog: Life + Work + School, Get the Most Out of Your Professional Conference Experience, Continue to Learn Beyond the iSchool by Creating a Personal Learning Network. To read and follow all of Randall-Gatt’s work on the iStudent Blog, click here.