Alumna Naomi Jelks Maintains African American Collection and Develops Programs for the Local African American Community
Starting small paid off big for alumna Naomi Jelks, who recently started a full-time job as the librarian at the San Francisco Public Library’s African American Center.
She moved into the position on September 15, 2013, after working since August 2011 in the library’s branches as a part-time adult services/reference librarian. That job included teaching computer competency workshops to the community.
In her new position at the library’s main facility in downtown San Francisco, Jelks maintains the African American Center’s collection of academic and general interest materials, and makes sure the physical space is in good working order. Plus, a key component of her job is community engagement, which entails developing programs and being an ambassador for the library.
“I do a fair amount of programming for the local African American community, and make sure the library is offering programs of interest to community members,” Jelks said. She comes up with some new program ideas herself, and also relies on feedback from community members to develop new programs.
Jelks completed her Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree from the San José State University School of Information in August 2010. Initially interested in archiving, she switched her focus to the reference and information instruction Career Pathway after realizing she was “a little bit more of a people person.”
In her last semester at the iSchool, Jelks interned at the City College of San Francisco’s Rosenberg Library. During her internship, Jelks helped create a video tutorial for students on how to find materials in the library. She also helped her internship site supervisor collect feedback from students regarding material used to provide information literacy instruction for incoming freshmen.
She got reference desk experience as well, answering questions and helping students with information competency questions. In addition, Jelks got to help the Rosenberg Library weed its collection – experience she says was invaluable.
After earning an undergraduate degree in history, Jelks enrolled in a master’s degree program in that discipline. Then she realized what she liked most about studying history was the research. At the same time, some of her friends who were earning master’s degrees were talking about becoming librarians. So in 2008, she looked into the MLIS program at San José State University.
“I thought it would be a good fit just in terms of my intellectual interests and my background as a history major, and once I got into the MLIS program, I felt it was a really great choice,” Jelks said. “It was a time when a lot of the new wave of librarians were deciding to enter the profession, so I wanted to be part of that wave.”
“One of the things I like most about being a librarian is it allows me to engage with the community, and this position really allows me to do that,” Jelks said. “And at the same time, I have this great collection I can maintain and add to, which brings value to the overall collection of the library. So those are things that coincide with where my intellectual and cultural interests lie.”
“I was especially impressed by Dr. Lili Luo. I had her for INFO 285 Research Methods, and for INFO 210 Reference and Information Services. I thought she was a very good instructor. She was really good at imparting that knowledge and making sure the students were on the same page and understood what she was saying.”
“I think networking is extremely important when earning an online degree in any field, but specifically as information professionals, it’s important to know people who are degreed in your field and will be going into the same area that you’re in. Also, take advantage of every resource your instructors are putting out there for you as things that you can learn from. And if you’re not entirely certain what you want to do, try out as many internships as you’re able to.”
“Take every opportunity to learn new technology. Since graduating, I did an online workshop on cataloging, because that’s not really my strong suit and I want to be stronger in that, so continuing to be a lifelong learner as a librarian is key.”