iSchool Student Sees the LIS Field as a Perfect Amalgam of Anthropology and Information

Community Profile
Mariko Baba

“I wanted to be part of a program that would not only be accessible but challenging as well. I quickly found that the iSchool was a perfect fit for my lifestyle.”

Mariko Baba
MLIS Student Graduating 2017
San Francisco, CA

Mariko Baba works as Coordinator of Cultural Affairs for the Japanese government in San Francisco, applying skills she’s learning at the San José State University School of Information daily.

iSchool student Mariko Baba saw herself as an information professional back in high school, long before her days in higher education began. But life, as it does, took her another way at first. “I spent my undergrad years studying anthropology at a university in Tokyo,” she says, the study of human societies being another passion of hers. This experience did eventually lead her back to the LIS field, though, as she discovered through several jobs and volunteering opportunities just how closely linked the two studies are. “[The LIS field] is a mixture of all the fields I’m interested in: anthropology, sociology, psychology,” Baba says. “I appreciate how open and malleable it is.” Per Baba, the MLIS program at the School of Information understands how connected the LIS field is to the fields of human studies and explores that element in every course she has taken thus far.

The Human Element
Today, Baba works as a coordinator of cultural affairs at the Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco. “My job consists of varied duties,” she says, “like managing our social media pages, coordinating our gallery space and developing programs and events to promote Japanese art and culture.” Finding a position like this has proven to be a dream come true for Baba (pictured below in the gallery space), as she’s finding how relevant her experience here will be to a job as a public librarian once she graduates from the iSchool in December 2017. The surrounding cultures of an area are engrained in every public library across the globe. Learning not only how to coordinate events and such, as most librarians must, but also how to handle varied cultures with tact and sincerity is an important step towards becoming a public librarian. Often, public librarians need to build events that meet the needs of a certain demographic or culture.

Through classes at SJSU like Ruth Barefoot’s INFO 232: Issues in Public Libraries course and Raymond Dean’s INFO 240: Information Technology Tools and Applications, Baba has learned both theory and practical skills to apply to her daily work and take with her on her pathway towards becoming a public librarian. Baba laughs, “Learning HTML and CSS [in INFO 240] was really like learning a different language, but I found it to be a fun, new challenge.” This challenging aspect was a part of what brought Baba to SJSU in the first place. “I spent a good amount of time looking at schools across the nation,” she says. “I wanted to be part of a program that would not only be accessible but challenging as well. I was working full time in San Francisco and quickly found that the iSchool was the perfect for my lifestyle.”

Forward Thinking
Looking ahead, Baba must look back a bit at the librarians that she wants to model herself after in one way or another. “I wanted to make sure that my interest in [the LIS field] was serious,” she recalls. “So, I spoke to librarians in my community and back home to find out more about the job.” The sheer accommodating nature of each librarian she spoke to rubbed off on her. Says Baba, “I will never forget the time they took to answer all my questions over numerous cups of coffee and tea.” SJSU has taught Baba that a basic core value of public librarianship is an open ear for those who need someone to listen. This is a lesson she won’t soon forget.

For now, Baba will remain in her position at the Consulate General with her sights set on a role in the public library field soon after graduation. Baba’s advice for others looking for guidance towards a career is the same advice she gives herself: “Just meet people in your field and ask questions. Without the patience and help from the many librarians I peppered with questions, I would not be in this program today.”