Santa Clara County Deputy Librarian and iSchool Alumnus Reflects on His Time at SJSU

Community Profile

“I received all these tools in the program, but I also received an introduction to what kind of caliber your work has to achieve in the field.”

Christopher Brown
MLIS Graduate 2010
Santa Clara, California

With projects like War Ink, a collection of veterans’ tattoos and their stories, San José State University School of Information alumnus Christopher Brown experiences the scope of the LIS profession every day.

In a previous community profile, iSchool alumnus Christopher Brown discussed the Santa Clara County Library’s project War Ink, a virtual exhibit that tells the story of community war veterans through their tattoos. It’s a combination of Brown’s creativity, education, sleepless nights and endless grant writing that brought the project to life. “War Ink wasn’t to make money,” Brown said. “It was just to make sure an issue was raised and that we were talking about it.” To this day, Brown still receives messages from veterans and their families praising the project. 

Without his experiences at the iSchool, Brown acknowledges, he wouldn’t have had the opportunity to create something like War Ink. The flexibility of the program allowed him to keep his focus on his work as well as his studies. “In addition to getting all the skills [at the iSchool],” Brown says, “I wanted to actually be able to practice them. There are not a lot of programs that’ll let you both go to school and work at the same time.” Due to the flexibility offered by the iSchool and the opportunity to learn new skills like grant writing, Brown could begin making his mark in his previous position at the Contra County Library and start climbing the ladder towards his current one.

As part of the School of Information’s video series MLIS Alumni at Work, which highlights iSchool alumni in their workplaces, Brown shared with the community his experiences and responsibilities as Deputy County Librarian at the Santa Clara County Library:

A large part of what made the iSchool work for Brown and set him on the path that led him to directing and running, from beginning to end, his War Ink project was the faculty at SJSU. “For me,” he says, “the question was always, ‘What’s the quality of the professor?’ I’ve been in classes where they’re in person, but I’m less engaged because neither the professor nor the students are as prepared. At SJSU, I had a wonderful wealth of teachers.” Brown singles out Professor Todd Gilman from the Yale Literature Library and Patty Wong as especially influential during his time in the MLIS program. “Gilman,” Brown says, “had very high standards and really got the students thinking about what their work has to look like as a professional in this field.” He continues, “[And] Patty Wong’s experience as the Yolo County librarian was so practical that I felt really prepared when I got into the field myself.” Wong’s grant writing course, an iteration of INFO 282, proved especially invaluable when Brown worked on War Ink.

Brown has a few words for prospective students thinking about getting into the LIS field and the program at SJSU. “Getting your MLIS and graduate school in general,” he says, “[is about] investing in this field and building up those tools that are going to be needed when you enter the field and begin practicing as a librarian.” Through his education and experience, Brown has learned that the information field is a varied place with numerous roles and definitions of work. “Information is such a vital part of our lives. You really don’t know what role you’re going to play in it.”

For more about life after the MLIS, check out the previous community profiles from this video series, featuring Beth Atlas, Erin Berman and Elizabeth Borghi.