iSchool Alumna Enjoys Role in Online Student Outreach
“I had such kind and encouraging advisors when I was a student here. It’s gratifying to be able to give back.”
Sheila Gurtu, MLIS ‘99
Student Outreach Specialist
San José State University
Unintentionally, Sheila started her library career early by spending a semester as a teacher’s assistant in her high school’s library but had no thoughts of further pursuing library work. Instead, she went on to pursue a double major in art history and anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
The library field again came calling during Sheila’s senior year while she was working as a history museum intern. When she started looking at graduate programs in museum science, the museum’s collections manager suggested a library science degree instead because it provided the option for a broader field of study.
Sheila acted on this recommendation and took a year after graduation to save money for her future studies. In the course of that year, Sheila held a job teaching an after-school program for a city recreation department and discovered that she loved teaching because it gave her the opportunity to work both collaboratively and autonomously and also provided a variety of different duties that encouraged her creativity. As a result of this experience, Sheila decided to pursue teacher librarianship as her chosen career path.
Dual-Program Graduate Studies
Sheila started her graduate studies by enrolling in not one but two programs at San José State University. She based her graduate school choice on its location and affordability. Enrolling in summer sessions allowed her to complete both her SJSU College of Education Multiple Subject Teaching Credential and her MLIS in the iSchool within three years.
It was definitely a busy three years for Sheila as her student career also included a stint as a writing tutor for SJSU’s undergraduate Educational Opportunity Program in addition to various student teaching placements. Sheila credits INFO 204 Information Professions, INFO 240 Information Technology Tools and Applications, INFO 266 Collection Management and her INFO 295 School Library Field Work experience at Castro Valley High School and Searles Elementary in Union City, California among her most memorable experiences during her time at the iSchool.
Advice to Current and Future iSchool Students
As a busy working professional and mother of two, Sheila believes that “time management is crucial in taking on this degree program.” Reflecting on her time as a student at SJSU, Sheila compares her experience to the very different academic landscape faced by today’s iSchool students.
“When I was a student,” Sheila recalls, “resources were not fully available electronically to the extent that they are now, [so students] had to fit research time into specific library hours.” This is indeed quite different from today’s iSchool experience where students can access the majority of the King Library’s collection online. Looking back, Sheila wishes that she would have “broadened [herself] by taking more technology courses.”
With all the iSchool has to offer, Sheila urges current and future iSchool students to stay open to a range of career possibilities even if they begin the program with a specific type of library or information setting in mind. For help in exploring these possibilities, she recommends that iSchool students take advantage of the always-expanding Career Development page on the iSchool website and seek out iSchool Career Liaison Jill Klees for career workshops, resume and interview help, and job search tips. Sheila also recommends that students become familiar with the career planning checklist contained in the Student Success Planner.
Current Role Helping iSchool Students
Sheila enjoyed working as a teacher-librarian in elementary and junior high schools in San José for many years, but she eventually found her way back to SJSU. Her current position as the student outreach specialist on the iSchool Student Services Team requires her to play many different roles, one of which is developing student success resources for iSchool students.
This past summer, Sheila was hard at work doing just that when she organized the third iSchool Community Poster Session at the SJSU reception held during the 2019 annual ALA conference in Washington, D.C. Sheila’s efforts resulted in a successful event that provided student presenters the opportunity to practice their presentation skills. The poster session brought students, faculty and alumni together to connect and learn about the various projects being worked on by current iSchool students and recent alumni. Sheila put in long hours into making sure that the students were well informed and provided with the proper materials (she even carried all 13 of the posters onto the plane to DC herself!).
Sheila’s work on the poster session reflects the overall immense dedication she devotes to her job and iSchool students. Sheila’s own words about her time here at SJSU, both as a student and serving on the Student Services Team, sums up her attitude toward the iSchool best: “I love getting to know our students…and helping them on their journey. I had such kind and encouraging advisors when I was a student here. It’s gratifying to be able to give back.”