SLIS Alum Lisa Webster Hired as Archives Librarian at CNN

SLIS alum Lisa Webster credits her recent hire as CNN’s Archives Librarian to an assignment in her LIBR 259 (Preservation Management) class with instructor Victoria McCargar. “In the class, we had to research professional organizations in digital preservation and join their email lists. I signed up for several lists that were interesting to me and monitored them regularly for industry news and job listings. I saw an opening at CNN on one of them and applied.”

After an intense round of interviews, “five to seven with Human Resources, CNN Librarians, Library Managers, and CNN Executives,” said Webster, CNN went with another candidate. Since Webster still had a year left toward earning her MLIS degree, this came, in part, as a relief.  But when CNN contacted her nearly a year later for the job she currently holds, she jumped at the chance and, after an accelerated round of interviews, was hired a month after her graduation in December 2011. She began working in March 2012.

Working with CNN’s video collection, Webster says that half of her job at the internationally renowned cable news station involves reference services. “Working at the reference desk, I get calls from production personnel who need access to video of anything from candidates speaking on specific topics, to shoppers in a given country, to interviews with celebrities.”  

When she is not engaged in research, Webster wears the hat of cataloger, classifying footage that comes into CNN from all over the world, be it video of a national election or the birth of a rare zoo animal.

Working with video and film is not new to Webster. Prior to entering the MLIS program in Fall 2009, Webster spent 12 years in Los Angeles as a production manager in film. “Filmmaking is a lot of fun, but also very stressful and time consuming,” she said. “I’d gotten to the point in my career where I realized that film would start dictating my life if I wanted to go further. I realized I wanted a career that would allow me to have a life outside work.”

Because Webster had worked with film archives during her production career, getting a MLIS degree so that she could potentially work in one felt as though she was building on her first career. Rather than follow a set career pathway in the MLIS program, Webster decided to choose classes based on her specific interests. “I looked extensively at courses in the digital services pathway, and also at the classes recommended for careers in academic librarianship and special libraries. “I looked for classes that would teach me new technologies and build my skill-set.  In my experience, degrees qualify you for the careers and skills get you jobs.  My goal at SLIS was to graduate with both.”

Webster cites LIBR 210 (Reference and Information Services), LIBR 259 (Preservation Management), LIBR 284 (Seminar in Archives and Records Management), and LIBR 281 (Seminar in Contemporary Issues) as excellent examples of skills-focused classes that helped land her internships  with the Academy of Motion Picture of Arts & Sciences’ Science and Technology Council, in Los Angeles, and at the Library of Congress Packard Center for Audio Visual Conservation, in Culpeper, Virginia.  While completing her MLIS at SLIS, she also worked as a Library Assistant III at the University of Texas at San Antonio, and volunteered with the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District at the Rainbow Library Branch.

Now in Atlanta, GA, Webster credits the flexibility of the SJSU SLIS program as critical to her success. “If you can use the flexibility of an online program to do internships and accept temporary library positions that give you real-life work experiences while going to school, that will help you down the road,” she said. “It’s one of the selling points of SLIS that many people don’t realize.”