“Perhaps the most significant lesson I learned was that being my authentic self is the most important aspect of professional growth and development.”
Jessica Gilbert Redman
MLIS Graduate 2016
Grand Forks, ND
The journey to an MLIS at San Jose State University's iSchool became something more than just a way to succeed in the LIS field for Jessica Gilbert Redman. After a debilitating illness left her reeling, Gilbert Redman recognized how important completing the degree had become to her self-regard and personal empowerment. “It was one of those eye-opening periods in my life where I could clearly see my goals and wanted to do anything to make them a reality. It’s funny to me now that an illness that caused disorientation and extreme fatigue was one that also cleared my mind in a way that made my life goals more important to obtain.”
Today, almost a year after packing up her family and moving to her new role as Web Services Librarian at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, ND mere months after graduation, Gilbert Redman has succeeded in all aspects of her professional life. Looking back at when she first received the position, Gilbert Redman recalls “looking forward to learning new skills and about the inner workings of an academic library." It was hard for her believe that she was finally embarking on her first professional job in the LIS field in a position she was and is excited about doing for a long time to come.
Paving the Road to Success
Gilbert Redman chose the MLIS offered by the School of Information because the program is all-online, had no residency requirement, offered courses across multiple pathways and could be completed within a very manageable seven-year period. She first focused on one course each semester, but with the onset of her illness, Gilbert Redman’s vision of the future changed and she sped up the process.
“I see a lot of questions from new iSchool students asking about how to get a bunch of credits in a short period of time,” she observes. “But my advice would be to take things at your own pace. The goal isn’t just to get through the degree, but to obtain an education – to learn as much as you can from each class and each professor.”
She did just that: supporting research for iSchool Director Sandy Hirsh, acting as peer mentor for Debbie Faires's INFO 203 classes, joining several library science professional organizations, and developing mutually beneficial relationships with instructors as she engaged in hands-on information technology and web design courses. “The importance of making the most of your time at the iSchool should not be underestimated. Get involved and meet other iSchool students. Find a way to create community within your classes, make connections and support one another,” she advises.
For Dr. Hirsh, Redman Gilbert worked on a range of projects, all “enlightening and educational.” She remembers “some assignments were pure research of a particular topic or area of interest, and others were based on statistical analysis of online sessions or conferences. I worked most closely with Elaine Hall, a fellow iSchool alum who works with Dr. Hirsh on numerous projects, and I learned so much through her guidance and expertise.”
Gilbert Redman says her WordPress special studies experience with Dr. Michael Stephens was instrumental in landing her dream job in an academic library. “Michael is an immensely compassionate person, and he cares a lot about student involvement, not only in the courses he teaches, but more specifically in the wider LIS field and world. Through this course, I was able to get more hands-on experience with revamping and updating several WordPress sites,” including the iSchool’s Community Site and Dr. Stephen’s personal/professional site, TameTheWeb.com, where she continues to contribute on a regular basis even after graduation.
As a peer mentor to incoming MLIS students, Gilbert Redman says she enjoyed working with the newest cohort and especially “valued being able to see the amount of work and absolute care that goes into creating a fabulous experience for brand new iSchool students. Being a peer mentor “reminded me of all the reasons I loved teaching and helping others find and understand information,” she recalls.
Finding That Dream Job
As she approached graduation, Gilbert Redman joined email lists and followed job search sites on Twitter, while also staying up-to-date on Internet-based library-specific postings. “I’d say that my most-checked sites and Twitter feeds were probably the ALA JobLIST, Naomi House’s INALJ, Code4Lib Jobs and Libgig. I also made sure to check the job boards and sites for all of my professional organizations, including ALA, ASIS&T and SLA.” As important, Gilbert Redman says, was Alison Green’s Ask a Manager blog. “She has tons of excellent and up-to-date job search advice. Her recommendations for building a strong resume and powerful cover letter proved unfailingly helpful during my search.”
Looking back through her graduate school journey, Gilbert Redman reflects, “Perhaps the most significant lesson I learned was that being my authentic self is the most important aspect of professional growth and development. This insight definitely helped me during interviews, making me less afraid to just put myself out there as an LIS professional and a lifelong learner.”