Sarah Edwards Obenauf Uses MLIS and Advanced Certificate as Librarian at New Mexico Tech

Community Profile
Sarah Edwards Obenauf

“I am putting the [advanced] certificate to good use now at the library at New Mexico Tech. We are trying to figure out how to get our archives up and running online. The classes that I took in digital asset management are definitely going to translate over into the real world sooner rather than later.”

Sarah Edwards Obenauf
Public Services and Instruction Librarian, New Mexico Tech
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Sarah Edwards Obenauf was so excited about becoming a librarian that she completed the MLIS degree at San José State University School of Information at the same time as pursuing an advanced certificate in digital asset management. Upon completion of her undergraduate and master’s degree from University of New Mexico (UNM) in medieval history in 2016, she knew she wanted to pursue library and information studies. “I always wanted to work in an academic setting. Whenever I would come across a librarian who was working in academia I would ask them for one piece of advice. Unanimously they all said to get a second master’s degree [in a field other than library and information sciences],” said Edwards Obenauf. “I was so happy with my program at UNM as an undergraduate that I stayed and did a master’s in medieval history. I always knew that I would get a master’s in library and information sciences as well.” 

Choosing the Right Program
Edwards Obenauf was initially drawn to the MLIS program at SJSU because it ticked all the right boxes. She was looking for an online program, as she had moved in the past and felt settled in Albuquerque. SJSU has a lower price tag than some other schools and a good reputation. “I heard nothing but good things about it [SJSU] from folks I had spoken to who had been there. SJSU was also the most responsive when I had questions. I automatically disregarded schools when I had a hard time finding information about the program on their websites. I was able to find all the info about SJSU really easily. I don’t regret my decision at all. I had a great experience,” said Edwards Obenauf.

Need for Digital Humanities In Academia
Edwards Obenauf decided to pursue an advanced certificate in digital assets management in addition to the MLIS because she saw the need for an understanding of digital assets in her field. “During my time at UNM as an undergraduate and graduate student I took several classes in digital humanities. There is a big push in academia for analyzing paper texts in a digital format,” said Edwards Obenauf, “Digital humanities is a field that is still being defined.” While finishing the thesis for her first master’s studies in medieval history she analyzed data taken from the Book of Miracles. She plotted the locations of the authors onto a Google map to see how well-known the saints were at the time based upon their locations. “I was so interested in digital humanities that the certificate in digital asset management just seemed like a logical step forward for me,” said Edwards Obenauf.

SJSU’s advanced certificate in digital assets and services offers three pathways: digital asset management; information governance, assurance, and security; and data analytics and data driven decision making. Students who are currently enrolled in the MLIS or MARA program at the iSchool can also complete a certificate with slightly different requirements than students who are not enrolled at SJSU. Edwards Obenauf focused her studies on the digital asset management pathway, which includes courses in digital content management, digital curation tools, and new digital media characteristics. Students or professionals who complete this certificate have an edge in the increasingly digital world of today. 

From Student to Professional
Edwards Obenauf finished her MLIS and advanced certificate in 2017 and got a job at New Mexico Tech soon after. She found her position as a public services librarian while attending the annual New Mexico state library conference. “[At the conference] I happened to sit next to a staff member from the library at New Mexico Tech. We got to talking and I learned that they were looking for a librarian. I applied and by February [2017] I was working,” said Edwards Obenauf. She is grateful to have found the career of her dreams as an academic librarian. She loves teaching and wants to continue her career path in academia. “I get to go into classrooms on Tech’s campus and talk to students about databases and how we can help them. I have [received] good feedback from that. I don’t see myself doing anything else but this; it sounds cliche but it’s true,” said Edwards Obenauf.

Edwards Obenauf says that the highlight of her time in the MLIS program was the volunteer positions that she took on while working towards her degree.  She was asked to be a peer mentor to students in INFO 203. “I helped with the post-master’s certificate group. It was a little intimidating but it was a great experience.” said Edwards Obenauf. INFO 203 is generally the first class that students take in the iSchool, so she was able to introduce them to many of the learning tools that she enjoys from the certificate program. She also took on a role as the secretary and archivist of the ALASC for a short time when they were in need of help.

Her advice for new students in the MLIS program or advanced certificate program is to ask for help when needed. “Students shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help. They are there to learn to be librarians so they need to know how to find information and where to go to get the answers. In addition, the student services team is a great support system. I was just so happy with my time at SJSU,” said Edwards Obenauf. Her willingness to dive head first into her studies at SJSU with both a MLIS degree and a certificate, in addition to volunteer opportunities that the program offers, has led her to a fulfilling career as an academic librarian.