At 64, Nan Singh Pursues Her MLIS While Working in an Academic Library

Community Profile

Singh’s first exposure to library work as a student at Northwest Nazarene College in the 1960s did nothing to enamor her to the profession. She recalls spending hours alone in a windowless basement binding periodicals by hand with a table saw. She went on to work as a high school English teacher and then helped her husband with his sales venture, Wear-ever Cutco, and then his taxi cab company for 22 years. He was tragically killed on the job in 1992, leaving her a single mother of four children aged 6 to 15.

Although she’s a lifelong “book lover and collector,” she didn’t consider librarianship as a profession until she started working seven years ago with a ministry to female ex-inmates and their children. “These small children would get placed in foster homes or with relatives when their moms went to jail. After their release from jail, many of the moms had difficulty relating well to their own children,” Singh said. “Bringing them together through a reading program called Book Buddies opened my eyes to the therapeutic value of reading and books.”

Singh, who hopes to graduate in spring 2010, now oversees the 20,000-book California Christian College library. She’s taught herself the basics of librarianship while on the job, first taking community college classes and later starting the iSchool program in 2007. She admits to battling a bit of “technophobia” both on the job and in her iSchool classes, but she’s been able to persevere.

Singh “discovered the world of information literacy” by taking INFO 250 (Instructional Strategies for Information Professionals), taught by the late Connie Costantino. A INFO 287 course (Seminar in Information Science) provided her with valuable information about open source software, as well as open access educational resources.

Also, seeing SJSU’s King Library in action has inspired Singh to think differently about her own library. “Seeing people on all eight floors with laptops…reading and studying – it is exciting,” she said. “Why couldn’t our library do some things differently and be more relevant not only to our students but to the surrounding community? We have so many good books and other resources …My vision is to create a library that serves the community through meaningful programs such as literacy development. ”

Outside of working full-time and grad school, Singh enjoys her grown children and grandchildren. Her youngest son is a first-year medical student at University of California, San Francisco, another son is an elementary music teacher, and her daughter is considering social work. “After getting them on their feet, it was my turn to go back to school,” she said.

The $1,000 Blanche Woolls Spectrum Scholarship, endowed in honor of former iSchool director and professor Dr. Blanche Woolls, is awarded each year by iSchool to a student already holding a Spectrum scholarship from the American Library Association.