BSLISE International Scholar Sabrina Gunn Discovers a Love for Information Systems

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“I actually do thrive really well with technology. It’s not this scary monster but I think so many of us just put up boundaries and think, ‘Oh, I’m not this way. I’m not this type of person. I can’t do this.’ I find myself saying, ‘I can’t do this’ a lot. And then I find that I actually can, and be very good at it.”

Sabrina Gunn, MLIS student (anticipated graduation Spring 2023)
Sacramento, CA

Sabrina Gunn started her Masters of Library and Information Science journey at the San José School of Information last spring, with the intention of following the information organization and digital curation pathways. With many interests and a desire to follow her curiosity, narrowing her scope was harder than picking one thing: “I had a general idea but knew more what I didn’t want to do,” she explained. And that knowledge stems from her childhood.

A Family Profession 

As the daughter of a librarian, Sabrina grew up with a love of books and libraries and watched her mom start off as a community college librarian before becoming a corporate librarian at a consulting company. Thanks to her mom, she was also introduced to many other kinds of librarians, giving her a well-rounded view of the profession. But Sabrina didn’t start out with the intention of following in her mother’s footsteps.

Getting her Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies, Sabrina first tried a variety of jobs, looking to see what would feel like the best fit.

“I just constantly felt like I wasn’t finding my place. I felt like I didn’t have a place. I didn’t think there was a purpose to the work that I was doing. And so when the pandemic hit, you know, we all kind of went through this identity crisis of, ‘Where am I? What am I doing?’”

Sabrina’s mom had an inkling that her daughter would be a great fit for librarianship and began sending her links to job applications that would require an MLIS. After reading several descriptions, Sabrina had to agree, even if it was not going to be the same exact pathway her mother followed.  

Technologically Inclined 

As someone who had worked as an operations manager in the world of digital content, Sabrina knew she would need to work alongside technology. Sabrina would not have described herself as someone who was a STEM student, or one that was especially interested in technology – that is until she joined the iSchool. 

“I actually do thrive really well with technology. It’s not this scary monster but I think so many of us just put up boundaries and think, ‘Oh, I’m not this way. I’m not this type of person. I can’t do this.’ I find myself saying ‘I can’t do this’ a lot.”

But then Sabrina took INFO 240 – Information Technology Tools and Applications, and her perspective shifted: she didn’t just like it, she loved it - enough that she has since become the webmaster for both the ALA and SLA student chapters. 

“I’ve been able to use what I learned in that class, you know web accessibility, usability, information architecture,” Sabrina said. “HTML, CSS, PHP. So I think that that’s been something that’s really surprised me something that I definitely want to explore a bit more while I’m doing my MLIS.”

Becoming the BSLISE International Scholar

When Sabrina applied for the BSLISE International Scholar position, she felt that it was the first position that she knew for certain she wanted to do. BSLISE stands for Building Strong Library and Information Science Education and is a working group of the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) that is centered around strengthening the quality of library education around the world.  

This is the first year that they are partnering with SJSU, and Sabrina is their first international scholar from our university. 

“The prospect of helping on initiatives that are strengthening mobility for LIS professionals and the discussions between LIS programs around the world really spoke to me because it’s something I’m passionate about,” Sabrina explained.

This means focusing on creating core competencies that are universal whilst also keeping in mind cultural differences. For Sabrina, this also means using some of her technological skills to contribute to a data model visualization project using the metadata gathered from BSLISE’s research to map out MLIS programs from around the world. 

“We’re currently working on a draft of what the directory component of the map is going to be, who our user is, and what the user experience is going to be like. What are typical information needs? What data we’ll be using, who will be creating and maintaining the data and tools used, etc. I [feel] so far that my classes in the MLIS have really prepared me for this.”

The BSLISE holds an annual conference at different international locations, and this year will be in Dublin, Ireland. Sabrina hopes to go, but also responsibly is keeping an eye on COVID and other potential international problems that may keep her from attending. 

Even still, Sabrina is excited about her position, and the opportunity to work with library professionals from around the world, even virtually. As someone who has lived and traveled abroad, she hopes to work internationally one day, and hopes this position as the BSLIE scholar will open up even more doors for that to happen in the future.

Keeping an Open Mind 

Sabrina anticipates finishing her program in 2023, but in the meantime, she intends to take on as many opportunities as she can fit into her already busy schedule. Finding a healthy work-life balance is a challenge when you want to do it all. Sabrina recommends networking with different campus library societies and organizations to get a better understanding of all the potential paths that exist out there. With a year into the program, Sabrina advises new and potential students to keep an open mind when they look at different classes and pathways. Without this attitude, Sabrina would never have found out how much she loves information architecture or web accessibility. 

She also warns against falling into the trap of imposter syndrome.  

“It can be really easy to feel ill-equipped,” she says, “especially when you’re surrounded by other students who have a lot of library experience. But you have to remember that you bring a unique set of skills that someone doesn’t have, because you’re you, and you have your experiences and your own career path.” 

In other words: comparing your own experience to others rarely leads to anything productive, especially as the world of Information Science continues to evolve and requires different skillsets than what was needed traditionally.

“There’s room for everyone. There’s been room for people who have a lot of library experience. And then for those of us who, you know, this is a new career, a totally new direction. There’s room for us too.”