Colette Poitras, Mover & Shaker

Career Blog

Published: May 5, 2017 by Kate M. Spaulding

Colette Poitras, 2017 LJ ”Mover & Shaker” and iSchool alumna, dishes out course and career advice

Three(!) San José State University School of Information graduates have been designated as “Movers & Shakers” by Library Journal for their awesome, transformative work in libraries. You can, and should, read all about it in the iSchool Alumni News.

I thought it would be a good opportunity to pick their brains and find out All the Answers in pursuit of career nirvana. We heard from Cynthia Mari Orozco, who was recognized for her work towards universal inclusion, and Erik Berman, whose role as a “change agent” in teen librarianship earned him this honor.

This week, last but certainly not least, I present Colette Poitras, whose success as a “community builder” caught the award committee’s eye.

Was there any particular course that has helped you get a job or succeed at a job? Students are always looking for course recommendations!

As far as specific courses, because I work in the public sphere, I have found all the public library courses I took to be extremely practical. I looked up my e-portfolio to get specifics, and discovered I have really used the competencies found under C: “recognize and describe cultural and economic diversity in the clientele of libraries or information organizations.” With regard to my specific work with Indigenous communities, a couple of courses were particularly worthwhile. 

  • I took Melba Tomeo’s INFO 268 History of Youth Literature, which covered the history of multiculturalism in youth literature. Course readings confirmed that a multicultural population shift is occurring; however, the amount of multicultural materials produced for youth is woefully small. We discussed and debated authenticity in writing (i.e., do writers have to belong to a certain group to write authentically about it?), and we discussed the merits of multicultural literature awards.
  • We examined current issues within the public library environment, including accessibility issues, in INFO 232 Issues in Public Libraries with Arglenda Friday. For a portion of the course, we discussed how cultural, social, and economic factors can create a digital divide among library users and how best to serve these patrons.

I found you on LinkedIn, and it looks like you’ve been at your library since 2000. What inspired you to get your MLIS? Have you found it useful/a good investment?

I have been working at the Northern Lights Library System (NLLS) for quite awhile. I have always loved libraries and have visited them since I was a small child. After moving away from home and graduating with my bachelor’s degree, instead of pursuing an MLIS, I put the dream of becoming a librarian on hold. I chose to get married and move back to my small community, where I have raised my children.

When they were old enough for school, I went to work at NLLS. I loved the environment and working to help people in our libraries and member communities. With the encouragement of my then-manager, Kerry Anderson, I decided to work towards my MLIS. I live in a small, rural community and need to continue to work, so San José’s iSchool worked very well for me. Since obtaining my degree I have been promoted, and I have found the degree to be a very worthwhile investment.

What is the best career advice you’ve gotten and/or what’s your favorite career advice to give?

My career advice is simple: try to find a job that ignites your passions!


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