Student Deborah Cooper Describes How Volunteering Gives Students a Marketable Edge

Student Deborah Cooper, of Ithaca, New York, is using volunteer work and the skills she developed over her 14 year career in publishing to position herself for a job working with children in a public library setting.

Following the Youth Librarianship Career Pathway , Cooper is taking classes that are particularly relevant to public libraries, which is where she hopes to work after earning her degree. To make herself more marketable, she’s also taking courses on adult reference services because many of the job listings she’s found  in youth services also want candidates who can work in adult reference.

To supplement class work, Cooper actively incorporates hands-on experiences to increase her knowledge, skill set, and marketability. The past two years, Cooper volunteered at her local library working as a youth services assistant, where she performed a variety of circulation tasks, read to patrons, and assisted with kindergarten library tours. She also served as a summer reading program assistant at a small rural library and is currently volunteering at a local elementary school library.

Cooper’s writing and editing skills have further expanded her experience. She is a book reviewer for VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates), a leading industry journal for middle and high school librarians, and she selects short stories for the Historical Novel Society’s journal, Solander, which targets adult readers.

Cooper has also attended workshops on various aspects of librarianship and is a member of several professional associations, including American Library Association, New York Library Association, Young Adult Library Services Association, Special Libraries Association, and Association for Library Service to Children, where she recently served on a committee to select a short list of scholarship candidates for students enrolled in a LIS program. “Being on this committee, I learned that there are a lot of people really dedicated to becoming librarians,” she said. “I also learned that it’s really important to be involved in your community – especially around literacy. It shows that you are committed to community involvement and sets you apart from all the other people out there getting the degree.”

Cooper further recommends attending workshops for networkingpurposes. “I find it a great way to get my face out there so when the time comes to job hunt, I can say, ‘Hey, I met you at that workshop and we talked about something that was presented,’” she said. “Talking to people working in the field is really inspirational. They’re always very encouraging and helpful.”

Born in England, Cooper has lived in the United States for the past 20 years and entered the MLIS program at SJSU in Spring 2011. “I’ve always considered librarianship on and off,” she said. “When I had my first child, I started to experience the early literacy process with my son, and the idea of working as a children’s librarian began to take root.”

Cooper notes that SJSU’s online program cemented the decision. “I couldn’t earn this degree otherwise,” she said. Cooper plans to complete her degree in May 2014.

Cooper is the recipient of the SLIS 2012 Faculty Scholarship. “I’m putting myself through graduate school, so the award is very helpful,” she said. “But the money is the icing on the cake. The bigger thing is the honor of receiving the award.”