Jill Zimmerman Sharpens Knowledge of Tech Trends with Post-Master’s Certificate

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Longtime information professional Jill Zimmerman needs to stay abreast of new and emerging technologies as she makes recommendations regarding technology updates at the academic library where she works. She found the San José State University School of Information’s Post-Master’s Certificate program ideal for helping her understand technology trends. She completed the program in May 2014.

Acknowledging how rapidly technology changes in the information field, Zimmerman said her library is currently contemplating making a number of changes, such as replacing its library management system and looking at discovery services. Zimmerman is being called on to make recommendations in these and other areas. As part of this planning process, she’s also asked about future trends in information science and what they will mean for libraries.

“I wanted to make sure I could keep up to date and give good recommendations,” Zimmerman said.

As a tenured associate professor, Zimmerman is required to take advantage of professional development opportunities, but has difficulty finding ones that will help her in her job. The courses available through the Post-Master’s Certificate (PMC) program, though, were exactly what she needed.

Zimmerman works at St. Philip’s College, a community college in San Antonio, Texas, that is part of the five-college Alamo College District. An employee of St. Philip’s since 1991, Zimmerman does “a little bit of everything.” This includes teaching information literacy and research, staffing the reference desk, and serving as a liaison to other departments. However, she mainly works with automation and access services.

One of Zimmerman’s favorite aspects of her job is working with ever-changing technology, “exploring new technologies, seeing what we need, and implementing technology,” she said. What she finds most fulfilling, though, is working with the college’s students and faculty.

When Zimmerman enrolled in the PMC program, she initially followed the Web Programming and Information Architecture career pathway, but quickly switched to Digital Services and Emerging Technologies courses. Her focus on technology not only helps her directly in her job duties, but also eases communication with St. Philip’s College’s IT staff.

For instance, Zimmerman found that if she needs to explain to IT what’s not working properly, it helps to put it in their ‘language’ rather than ‘library language.’ “So I needed to know enough of [that language] to be able to get their attention to explain what’s not working well, or what our users want that they’re not getting now from the way the system’s working.”

Although Zimmerman reads a lot of LIS publications, talks to many colleagues and follows others online, she still had trouble keeping up with fast-changing technology. “It had gotten to the point, especially with a lot of the acronyms, that I didn’t know what they were talking about any more,” she said. “So the PMC coursework really helped me learn not only new sources to get in touch with, but also to understand what’s going on in the field and where it’s likely to go.”

Zimmerman recalls two courses from the PMC program that she draws on the most day to day. One was INFO 250 Design and Implementation of Instructional Strategies, which she said “really helped me because I’d had no other coursework in how to teach, and I’m having to teach more and more.”

The other particularly helpful course was INFO 283 Marketing of Information Products and Services. Zimmerman had previously taken workshops on library marketing, but felt she needed “more in-depth training on how to really get out there and talk to people about our services,” she said. Improved marketing was a goal for her department, and she was readily able to apply what she learned in INFO 283 to her job.

Zimmerman earned a bachelor’s degree in library science from Texas Women’s University in Denton, with a concentration in history and sociology. She then earned an ALA-accredited master’s in library and information science (MLIS) from another Texas university.

Having taken some courses and workshops online, Zimmerman felt comfortable with the iSchool’s fully online teaching format. In fact, in her job, she’s very much involved with providing library services to distance learners. “So early on I started taking distance-learning webinars, workshops, and whatever I could in order to be able to see it from the other side, so I can actually know the kind of obstacles that online students face using our resources,” she said. “I want to remove as many of the obstacles to the information as I can.”

Favorite Things about the iSchool’s PMC Program

“I really liked how flexible it was in letting me choose courses I would find helpful, rather than prescribed courses just because they were in the plan. I liked that it had a set fee that let me know how much it was going to cost. I think SJSU does a great job of bringing the distance-learning student into the SJSU community. I felt part of the process. When we ran into an obstacle or had a question, the faculty were very good about getting back to us and communicating with us.”

Career Tips

“Networking works at all levels, so I would really advise students to get involved with professional associations while they’re still students, because it’s not that costly and the networking is definitely worth it.”

Tech Tips

“Know Microsoft Office, anything to do with statistics, and how to seek information from others. That’s just a constant.”

Professional Affiliations

American Library Association (ALA); Bexar (County) Library Association (BLA); Texas Library Association (TXLA)

Favorite Website

LOEX, a library instruction and information literacy group

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