Alumna Kristen Mulvihill’s Research on Library Services for Veterans Aids California Outreach Initiative
While earning her graduate degree at our school, U.S. Army veteran Kristen Mulvihill conducted research regarding how libraries can support veterans, and as a result, she now does consulting work for a grant-funded outreach program in California.
Mulvihill’s research project in the summer of 2012 caught the attention of state librarians, who were working on a grant proposal, seeking funding to help public library employees provide programming, collections and reference resources for veterans. At the same time Mulvihill was doing the research as part of an independent study course, she was also taking San José State University School of Information instructor Patty Wong’s course on professional networking and trendspotting. Through Wong, Mulvihill got to meet Stacey Aldrich, state librarian at the time.
After hearing Mulvihill’s elevator speech about her research, Aldrich had grant writer Jacquie Thomas contact her. With Mulvihill’s permission, Thomas used her research in the grant proposal and later, after they received grant funding, asked Mulvihill to conduct workshops for the Library Outreach to Veterans Initiative as a consultant.
Mulvihill, who graduated from the Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program in August 2013, knows firsthand how valuable libraries and their services are to veterans. After leaving the Army in 1994, she felt overwhelmed by the amount of information she found at the Veterans Administration, and she didn’t feel comfortable asking for help. “But I loved going to the library,” she said. “The library was a safe place.”
She said the veterans outreach initiative provides a way for libraries to help veterans connect with one another, navigate all the available information, and become less isolated.
In her three-hour workshops, Mulvihill gives librarians an overview of the needs and interests of veterans, how public libraries can assist veterans and their families in finding information and resources, and ideas for low-cost programs and collections to assist them.
“Almost everyone I’ve talked to is very grateful and very eager to learn more,” Mulvihill said. “They just need a starting point.”
Dr. Mary Somerville supervised Mulvihill’s LIBR 298 Special Studies research project, which culminated in a 25-page report titled “Strategic Reality Check for Public Libraries and Services for Military Veterans.”
In May 2013, Mulvihill presented on the topic during an Infopeople webinar Mulvihill gave titled “Veterans and Public Libraries: What Every Librarian Should Know.” She was excited to share her knowledge regarding what the veterans community is like and what every librarian should know about outreach to veterans.
After leaving the military, Mulvihill earned a bachelor’s in interdisciplinary humanities at Arizona State University. She earned her first master’s degree in Chinese in spring 2006 from the University of Oregon, where she lectured on medieval Chinese poetry and political allegory in Chinese literature. She initially thought she wanted to be a professor, but decided it would be more fulfilling to be a librarian.
“It means a lot to me to empower people with information, because I see what it means to me in my own life and with my family and friends,” she said. “My focus, having changed career goals from academia to the public library, is a career with a sense of purpose, and I feel that sense of purpose is in the public library.”
In her MLIS studies, Mulvihill focused on courses in children’s services. During an internship at the San Diego County Library, she designed a program that helps bilingual parents find books that have both languages on the same page so parents can read the books to their children. “I didn’t even realize until I started the internship that there was such a great need,” she said.
Currently working as a part-time library assistant at a branch of the San Diego Public Library, Mulvihill is eager to find a full-time job in a public library and work her way up the career ladder. Ultimately, she’d like to be a branch manager for a public library.
“I regard Patty Wong as one of my favorite instructors, because she understands what is unique about each student and truly works hard to mentor each person in her class. I also had very positive experiences with Dr. Jeremy Kemp and Lori Bell, who were co-teaching an emerging technologies class. And Dr. Michelle Simmons was my advisor, always there to answer my crazy questions when I had an idea or wanted to research something new. Jeremy Kemp later supervised my e-portfolio, and it was a very positive experience. I also learned a lot from Dr. Mary Somerville, who supervised my summer project. Last but not least, Dr. Arglenda Friday’s class on diversity was very instructive and I wish it were a required class — so many of the challenges we face as librarians in the public sector have to do with diversity issues, such as helping the homeless or working around language barriers.”