Scholarships, Internships and Conferences—Oh My!
“I just like information… Ever since I started reading, I wanted to know, and to share information. I enjoy helping other people find the information that they need.”
MLIS Student, Expected Graduation December 2015
Emily Agunod spent seven years working at a university as a library assistant, providing reference services and orientations to familiarize students with the library. When she decided to get an MLIS to enhance her career, she chose the San José State University School of Information Academic Library Career Pathway to augment her work experience. “I expected to continue working where I was, in an academic library, and up until recently I was thinking I was going to do that,” she says.
But Agunod recalls that her mother wanted her to be a doctor, an inspiration that fostered a desire to gain knowledge in medical librarianship. With lifelong learning as her ultimate goal, and a desire to find an LIS niche she could grow into, Agunod explored all of her options with the help of iSchool scholarships, internships, conferences and assistantships. Absorbing information every step of the way, Agunod’s career path turned into an adventure of LIS proportions.
First Join All the Student Groups
To start, Agunod made it her mission to join LIS student and professional groups for networking, advice and support. She immersed herself in the Association for Information Science and Technology, ASIS&T, the organization she most identifies with, “because technology excites me.” As part of the international professional organization whose members “study and work in the information sciences,” SJSU’s award-winning student chapter provides the opportunity to connect with other information professionals.
“I like ASIS&T because they put on a lot of events [for members] like informative webinars,” Agunod says, “and they host free chapter events for everyone.” Agunod explains that the group covers a broad spectrum of topics, such as copyright, user experience, grant writing, career advice and even the hiring process. “And we try to get other students, not just library students, interested in attending, so it’s a bit more inclusive.”
And Agunod didn’t just sit back observe at ASIS&T events; she jumped right in, ran for office, and served as the student chapter’s executive committee secretary for a year. And with encouragement from former chair Jeremy McLaughlin, she won the ASIS&T New Leader Award, along with iSchool graduate Suzanne Rogers Gruber. The award, which recognizes “outstanding up-and-coming information scientists” by subsidizing trips to two annual conferences, linked Agunod with a mentor in the Knowledge Management Special Interest Group who will show her the ropes at the group’s annual meeting.
“This is my first conference,” Agunod admits. “I’m a little nervous. I don’t know what to expect, so it’ll be nice to have someone to walk me around. I’m glad that [the mentorship] is part of the program.”
Getting to the Heart of Medical Librarianship ,
Continuing to supplement her studies with rich learning opportunities, in 2015 Agunod won an Association of Research Libraries’ Career Enhancement Program fellowship which provides opportunities for MLIS students from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups to get hands-on experience in research libraries through internships. Agunod interned at the National Library of Medicine (she’s pictured, right, with the other interns), where she worked in the Specialized Information Services Division, part of the Disaster Information Management Resource Center. “I was given two major projects,” she explains. “The first was to evaluate the current learning modules, alternative presentation software, and learning management systems; and the second, to research how to improve communications during times of disaster.”
During her fellowship, Agunod was able to complete the Medical Library Association’s Disaster Information Specialization training, which helps librarians support their institutions and communities in emergency preparedness, response, and recovery. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she acknowledges.
And in recognition for her passion for the medical side of her education, Agunod won the 2015 Kaiser Permanente Medical Librarianship Scholarship, which will help her continue her studies by paying a portion of her iSchool tuition.
The Agunod Model for Success
Armed with working knowledge of academic, research and medical librarianship, Agunod took a variety of iSchool courses to find her niche, and to augment her skills to be more marketable in the job search.
“I felt really lucky,” she says. “I felt like I got my money’s worth from every class.”
Two courses she cites as “most influential” for making her career decision are INFO 244: Online Searching and INFO 210: Reference and Information Services.
“I liked those because they taught the actual act of looking for information… the finer points of organizing information to improve accessibility, the best ways to find information and how to make sense of the data,” Agunod explains. “I just like information. I like to know stuff. That’s always been the way I am, ever since I started reading. I wanted to know, and to share information. I enjoy helping other people find the information that they need.”
To complement to her love of knowledge and teaching others, Agunod took on several iSchool student assistant positions. She worked alongside faculty such as Dr. Sandra Hirsh, whom Agunod assisted as a researcher and bibliographic editor, part of the editorial team for Hirsh’s LIS textbook, Information Services Today.
In the end, the student assistantships, internships and conferences provided opportunities for Agunod to learn from LIS professionals, and gave her the skills and confidence to look outside of her library assistant job and apply for other opportunities. To her delight, she has just started a new job with Progressive Technology Federal Systems (PTFS), a government contractor that specializes in content management and library solutions. “It ties in with my professional interests,” she says. “I’m still very interested in medicine and how research is managed… [PTFS] might be able to help me break into that field eventually.”
With all of her experience, awards and exciting career plans, Agunod has one crucial piece of advice for students and professionals: Don’t give up! “It’s a tough program, and a lot of times life gets in the way. But if you really want to be in this field, you just keep at it. Be versatile and inquisitive. Never stop learning.”