Finding Success in Academic Libraries with Dominique Dozier

Community Profile

“No one has been in my position. I’m the first one. But I’m creating it. I am figuring things out. I’m using the tools that I learned in iSchool. I’m applying all this knowledge and trying to support the students and faculty the best way that I can.”

Dominique Dozier, ‘21 MLIS
Santa Clara, CA 

For Dominique Dozier, there was not one single moment that showed her she wanted to be a librarian – it was a collection of moments. As an undergrad, she worked as a part-time library clerk at San Leandro Community Library, which she enjoyed as she finished her bachelor’s in psychology at Cal State East Bay. After graduation, she began her job hunt and applied to a full-time library technician post at Laney College Library, which introduced her to the world of academic libraries. 

“I always tell people, ‘when you’re in public libraries, you’re always “on,” right?’” Dominique says. “Someone’s coming up to you: a parent doesn’t know where their child is; a child is looking at something inappropriate on the computer; a librarian is hosting a program and you need to run over and help them. All these things are happening, but what I noticed in academic libraries is you’re working with students, you’re working with faculty and their questions.” It was a completely different experience and one that appealed to her. 

Dominique applied to an online Library Technician program at Cuesta College in San Luis Obisbo to even further familiarize herself with academic libraries.

“I was about a year into the program and one of my mentors, a great librarian, walked past my desk and asked, ‘Why are you not going for your MLIS? You’re answering these questions and you’re so passionate about helping students – you need to get paid for what you’re doing. You are a librarian; you just need the degree.’”

Her mentor’s name was Phillipa Caldeira, and she was an iSchool alumnus who recommended Dominique apply to San José State University, knowing it would set her up for success. 

Dominique applied and was accepted into SJSU in the spring of 2019. She still has gratitude towards her for encouraging her to pursue her graduate studies. 

Putting Her Studies Into Practice 

For Dominique, her education was a mix of practical and theoretical experience. She remembers a particular moment while interning at Laney College Library when she was running through online reference service interactions based on what she could remember from her INFO 210: Reference and Information Services textbook. Her colleague observed her doing this and told her that while the textbook responses were a great place to start, a lot of patrons (especially students) may have library anxiety and so librarians need to consider their reference questioning style. 

“You want to come across as authentic to students — and I think that’s [true] in public libraries as well. You’re working with the community; you want to be personable and engaging. People have this feeling about librarians, that they know everything, so it’s trying to break that barrier and say, ‘hey, I may not know everything, but I know how to help you get that information.’”

Dominique is a strong believer in applying one’s background knowledge to fill in the role of a librarian, and that gaining necessary skills like communication and organization can come from school and other experiences.

“Time management is very important. I learned that through the iSchool. So for students that are currently in the iSchool program, learning how to manage your time will translate into that professional field that you’ll go into.”

While many students worry about the e-Portfolio, the culminating experience for MLIS students, Dominique recommends being present and taking classes you are interested in, because it can all be applied to your portfolio anyway. She also stresses that planning a realistic timeline is better than rushing through the degree. 

“We’re all on different paths. Don’t put too much on yourself because burnout is real. Who you are as a person is just as important as the work that you do. So take time for yourself.”

Finding Work and Community

Dominique stresses that each MLIS candidate brings something valuable, even if it isn’t apparent right away, because they are able to bring their unique background of classes, workshops, and experience, which can be applied in all kinds of new ways. She also knows how challenging the job hunt can be, regardless, and can take time. 

“There are just a lot of people searching for jobs — but it’ll come. Use every opportunity for interviewing. That just builds your confidence. Because the interviews are a totally different thing.”

Interviews can take almost entire days, and involve presentations and Q&A with various departments and committees, especially in academic libraries. 

“I would highly recommend that students think about that, research and learn through recent ACRL articles and recent CLA articles and just watch videos of people who have gone through things so you can get an idea of what it may look like.”

Though she didn’t have time to be involved in student organizations at SJSU, Dominique is affiliated with the California Librarians Black Caucus, an affiliate of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA) today. 

“Finding out that there were other Black librarians in California that I can lean on for support and mentorship, that’s where I was able to put my time. I feel it’s helpful, especially for Students of Color, to find organizations that they can join and feel supported. It helps with identity and imposter syndrome.”

Dominique has been a part of ALASC Connect over Coffee, which invites alumni to come and talk about their experiences with current MLIS candidates, and through that, she has connected with anxious iSchool students.

“A lot of students in the program have never worked in a library or even volunteered. There’s nothing wrong with that. The cool thing about librarianship is everyone’s perspective matters. And even if you just go into a library being a patron, that is just a perspective that you bring to the position. You know how it feels when you walk into the library, you know how you want to feel talking to a librarian, and now you’re gonna bring those things to your career.”

Advice for the Future

Today, Dominique is a Student Success Librarian and the Subject Librarian for Ethnic Studies and Women and Gender Studies at Santa Clara University. In her role, she supports first-generation, first-year, and transfer students to become aware of library services. Student Success Librarians are relatively new, and this often means that the role can grow and be shaped by whoever holds the position. 

“No one has been in my position. I’m the first one. But I’m creating it. I am figuring things out. I’m using the tools that I learned in iSchool. I’m applying all this knowledge and trying to support the students and faculty the best way that I can.”

Her position also gives Dominique a chance to teach information literacy to college students, which is something she really loves. 

“I’m always so excited, and I know the students are like, ‘Why is she so excited? It’s 8:30 in the morning…’ but it’s because research is fun, it’s important, you need to know it, this is what you’re gonna be doing the next four years, let me give you some tools to help you, and support you in that.”

Dominique enjoys her role and the chance to show what it’s like to work as a Person of Color in these spaces. As far as the future is concerned? Dominique hopes to teach more and possibly one day pursue her Ph.D. 

Check this out!

Like many librarians, Dominique has her own extensive library at home, but her most recent recommendation is Viola Davis’ memoir: Finding Me.

“Her memoir is just so fulfilling. Persistence, determination. A lot of people can relate to it. Maybe not to her whole story, but just wanting to be your best self and wanting to overcome challenges that have probably been set before you for generations, and still being a person of integrity. It’s just a great story.”

Dominique also enjoys reading articles and newsletters from the ACRL and recommends subscribing to listservs to stay on top of current events, trends, and literature to keep a pulse on where librarianship is headed. 

“This is what the future looks like. This is what’s currently going on you know, so I think utilizing professional organizations to find out what’s current, what’s new, what’s trending. Very important.”