Student Kamilah Jackson Moves from Coast Guard to School Librarian

Kamilah Jackson served 10 years in the U.S. Coast Guard, where her duties included inspecting foreign freight at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. But she traded in her Lieutenant/0-3 rank to become a teacher, and today is working on her MLIS degree as one of 13 participants in the Librarians for Tomorrow program at SJSU.

In her first job after leaving the military, Jackson taught English at a middle school. While there, she was intrigued with the idea of becoming a librarian after befriending her school’s librarian, Alja Gabeddon.

“She is an African-American woman and an inspiration to me because she works so hard and always wears a smile,” Jackson said. “Before meeting Alja, I’d never seen an African-American librarian, so when she suggested that I became one I was honored.”

Jackson knows something about working hard. She’s currently juggling her MLIS courses with working full time as school librarian at Markham Middle School in Watts and raising her two children, ages 6 and 4, with her husband.

Jackson expects to graduate in 2010 with an MLIS degree and the coursework required to obtain a California Teacher Librarian Services credential. She previously taught at a high school and hopes to work as a librarian in a high school setting after graduation.

“I know that I want to make a difference in the neighborhood where I grew up,” she said. “I want inner city kids to see my face and understand that this profession is not limited to any color or group of people. I want to be a role model to them.”

Jackson graduated from Coast Guard Officer Candidate School in New London, Conn. She holds a B.A. in Spanish and English from Grambling State University in Louisiana, and earned her Master’s in Secondary Education from the University of Phoenix.

These days, Jackson fills her precious spare time blogging, going to church, visiting family and hopping on her beach cruiser to ride the coast. To see her blogs, go to:

The Librarians for Tomorrow program provides MLIS students with tuition scholarships, mentoring, and the opportunity to network with inspirational library leaders. The program is made possible by grant funds received by the SJSU library, in partnership with SLIS, from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 122,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. Using grant funds, SJSU is partnering with the San Jose Public Library and the National Hispanic University to recruit librarians from diverse backgrounds, and then provide them with financial assistance and other support as they earn their MLIS degree.