Liaison Librarian and iSchool Graduate Appears on Jeopardy!

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“One of the main factors in choosing to apply to the iSchool was that I would be able to curate my own learning experience so that I could engage with topics and areas of study that were new to me and didn’t repeat my previous education and job experience.”

Adam Weissengruber
MLIS Graduate, 2014
Toronto, Ontario

MLIS grad Adam Weissengruber sees a tangible correlation between a mind for trivia and being an information professional.

We’ll get the big question out of the way first: what is Alex Trebek like? “You really only interact with him while the show is taping,” says librarian and San José State University School of Information graduate Adam Weissengruber, “but he is very professional and charming. My one hope is that he wouldn’t chastise me too heavily for my incorrect answers and I think I survived unscathed.” Weissengruber appeared on Jeopardy! on March 21st, 2017, where he amassed over $17,000 before going into the final round. Says Weissengruber, “I was amazed that when the [second] round ended and I looked up and saw that I was in the lead.” While he didn’t end up winning the game, Weissengruber came in second place and realized a long-held dream of appearing as a contestant on the show. In many ways, his work as an information professional and even his studies at SJSU’s School of Information helped him achieve it. “Not that I think you have to be some sort of trivia master to be a valuable asset to a library,” Weissengruber says, “I just think what connects strong [contestants] in a game like Jeopardy with [professional] success in the library world is a sense of curiosity and an appreciation for lifelong learning.”

Weissengruber for $2000, Alex
Outside of answering clues in the form of a question, Weissengruber (pictured below with Trebek) works as a liaison librarian at the School of Applied Technology & Media Studies/IT at Humber College in Toronto, Ontario, a well-regarded polytechnic college. He performs many of the traditional liaison librarian duties including information literacy instruction and collection development, but he also gets to work on some interesting and fulfilling side projects. “I have been able to work on our college’s archive, both physical and digital,” says Weissengruber. “This has given me the opportunity to learn a lot about an area of librarianship I hope to continue working in in the future.” He adds, “If it wasn’t for SJSU and having the ability to complete my degree while continuing to work at Humber, the opportunity to work in my current position would not have been possible.”

Indeed, Weissengruber credits the flexibility and versatility of SJSU’s MLIS program for much of his recent career developments. “One of the main factors in choosing to apply to the iSchool,” adds Weissengruber, “was that I would be able to curate my own learning experience so that I could engage with topics and areas of study that were new to me and didn’t repeat my previous education and job experience.” One such experience was an iteration of LIBR 246 (now INFO 246) Information Technology Tools and Applications, taught by Derek Christiansen, that focused on building sites with the Drupal platform. Says Weissengruber, “The class forced me to truly experience the challenges and satisfaction that comes from the trial and error of solving technical problems.” He continues, “Derek would often give you tips and hints on what the solution would be, but still allowed you to really work at the problem and learn about the software.”

Today’s Final Category: Career Advice and Philosophy
Weissengruber’s path to librarianship has been quite a unique one. “I was having trouble finding a career that interested me,” says Weissengruber, “and that I felt would leverage my particular set of skills.” After seeing a library technician job posting, he realized that would be an interesting position for him, though in Canada it required a library technician’s diploma. One intensive year of study later and he was on the path that led him to Humber and an MLIS degree at the iSchool. “I feel like that my path has been quite unique,” says Weissengruber, “so I can’t claim to be an expert on what will work for somebody else. My main advice, though, would be perseverance and staying positive as you work to land your first positions.” He also suggests that once you have that position, keep an eye out for additional assisting and volunteer opportunities within your organization even if they aren’t in your job description. Says Weissengruber, “I found that the education and experience I brought to the library that was unrelated to specific library education and experience made me a valuable asset to the workplace.”

As for Weissengruber’s own future, he’ll be staying at Humber for the foreseeable future, but he’s always open to new challenges and developments in the LIS field. “For me,” he says, “one of the most interesting challenges [in the LIS field] is finding ways to adapt the traditional values and services of librarianship, such as ensuring access to knowledge and the preservation of information, to the rapidly evolving digital reality.” He goes on, “As more and more of the information we provide access to is contracted and not owned by us, how do we continue to play a strong role in the information ecosystem? Finding ways to promote and institutionalize open access publishing will be a key part of this work and it’s exciting to see many examples of this sort of work going on in the library field.”

“It was a fairly surreal experience,” says Weissengruber, “from start to finish.” But an experience he would no doubt have again.