“More and more, libraries—public as well as academic—are becoming places of community, places where people gather, where they display what they’ve created, where they work to create and collaborate. It’s really fascinating: it’s really about community.”
Associate Dean, SJSU King Library
iSchool Alumna and International Advisory Council Member
Mary Nino, associate dean of the SJSU King Library, is retiring from her position after thirteen years with San José State University. But rest assured—Nino won’t be going too far. An iSchool alumna who has also been a member of the iSchool's International Advisory Council and Leadership and Management Program Advisory Committee, Nino will continue to provide library advice and recommendations to the school. And we’re all the better for it.
The Way to San José
Working with students and literature is her primary passion. Nino started off in San José public high schools as an English teacher, then transitioned to school librarian after obtaining her MLIS and Teacher Librarian Services Credential from the iSchool. “It was a great program,” Nino says. “The iSchool made me realize that there is way more to the profession than I thought.” Nino also worked as a part-time librarian for the County of Santa Clara, “a great library system, with wonderful collections and wonderful people,” she says. Filling her “off hours” with libraries, it’s a job she continues to this day, and that she credits with helping make her a better school librarian early in her career.
“When you’re a school librarian you’re doing everything solo,” Nino explains. “You have to figure things out on the fly. As a public librarian there are lots more processes in place, resources and tools for marketing, the ability to create displays. It just opened my mind to what I could transfer into the school library.”
Continuing to gather experience in different kinds of libraries, Nino also worked part-time for San José City College. In time, she decided a change was in order, and applied for an opening at SJSU. The newly rebuilt King Library, a unique partnership between SJSU and the city of San José, was set to become both the university library and the main branch of the San José Public Library system. "The new joint library was being planned to include an educational resource center,” she says, “And, because of my background in education, I was hired to oversee the process.” Over the years, Nino’s role morphed to head of special projects, coordinator of strategic planning, and finally, associate dean.
Library Life at SJSU
One of two associate deans at the library, Nino’s focus is on public services. “I’m responsible for reference and research services, instruction and collection development, and what’s called 'access services'—circulation, interlibrary loan, periodicals, and the welcome desk—a lot of public-facing services.”
What she enjoys most about her job is what drew her to libraries in the first place: the opportunity to work with students. “In a class, at an open house, at a transfer day,” Nino lists the communication she enjoys: “Chatting with students, meeting their parents, or just stopping someone in the library and asking if they need help. Libraries are still pretty mysterious for folks, so it’s really great to be able to put someone in contact with the information they need. It’s something our people at the library do every day: cataloguing a book, answering a question, looking up something in a database. We’re all proud of what we do and happy to help.” And as extra incentive, it helps that she’s in love with the library itself.
“Out of all the [California State University libraries] we have some of the best databases,” says Nino. “Our dean has really made an effort to put funds into resources that students and faculty will use.” Nino says that the library is always looking at what they can to do assist students and faculty, with some of the most popular services including laptop, iPad and phone charger check-out.
“The interesting thing about libraries is that people thought that with the move to digital, libraries would be passé, but we’re finding the reverse: we’re busier all the time,” she says. "We really try to be student and faculty centered, and conscious of their needs. We try to make their lives easier and their time at SJSU effective and useful.”
Nino adds that, since many school libraries are no longer in existence or open on the weekends, local high school students also frequent the King Library. “The public might not have computers at home, or they’re broken, or they're looking for a job or information on various resources, services, or companies to work for,” she says. With SJSU located in the heart of Silicon Valley, many people come looking to expand their skills for work in the tech industry, or to brush up on programs like MS Word and Excel.
“More and more, libraries—public as well as academic—are becoming places of community, places where people gather, where they display what they’ve created, where they work to create and collaborate. It’s really fascinating: it’s really about community. A Pew Research survey pointed out that libraries are the most trusted public institution, and that’s really something to be proud of. It gives us a lot to live up to.”
Words to Live By
Over the years, Nino watched the profession change and grow, and has shared the benefit of her experience with others. “You should not be afraid to step up, volunteer, work in literacy programs, get out there in conferences, even apply for a new job,” Nino advises. “The people who step up—eventually, things come their way.”
Dr. Sandra Hirsh, professor and director of the iSchool, (pictured at right with Nino) will miss Nino's positive attitude, good ideas, and helpful advice as part of the iSchool's International Advisory Council. "I am grateful that she will continue providing guidance on our curriculum on the School’s Leadership and Management Program Advisory Committee," Hirsh says. "Mary has been a great partner and friend to the School."
“It’s such a great profession,” Nino concludes. “Many people find [librarianship] as a second or third career; for me it was a third career, and it was the best ever.”
“I love the opportunities and the ability to help people. How lucky I am to be here!”