Student Genna Buhr Serves as Mentor for Technology Institute

Community Profile

iSchool student Genna Buhr was recently appointed as a mentor in a prestigious new institute for Illinois library staff that seeks to become a national model for teaching librarians about technology tools.

Buhr, who expects to graduate in spring 2011 with her MLIS degree, is one of nine mentors in ILEAD U (Illinois Libraries Explore, Apply and Discover). The nine-month institute was made possible by a grant awarded to the Illinois State Library by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Participants in the ILEAD U institute explore web tools, including digital audio and podcasting, gaming, photo sharing, and web conference software. ILEAD U mixes three in-person, multi-day “immersion sessions” along with group work via email, web conferencing, and Ning.

“It’s been a whirlwind ride so far,” said Buhr, who hopes the experience as an ILEAD U mentor will help her polish her leadership skills while exploring new technology. ”The ILEAD U grant was implemented not only to achieve the educational goals of the participants, but also to develop a replicable nationwide model for other states looking to implement similar immersion learning programs.”

Buhr has found that her iSchool course work complements her ILEAD duties. In particular, her experience in INFO 246 Information Technology Tools and Applications – Advanced, with instructor Ellyssa Kroski, encouraged her to have an “exploratory” approach to technology and play with existing and cutting edge tools. She also found her semester as an Elluminate peer mentor for SLIS was “invaluable in many aspects of my professional life” because it improved her approach to teaching as well as her communication with colleagues.

Buhr has been interested in libraries since she attended Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Ill., where she worked both as a circulation clerk at Bloomington Public Library and in tech services at the university library.

“My attraction to librarianship stems from my aspiration to teach others the skills they need and lead them to the resources they can use to help them achieve a better life,” she said. ”I want to be an integral part of an institution that abounds with opportunities for those who choose to seize them, and I want to make it an inviting and accessible place for those who are reluctant.”

Buhr wasn’t anxious to take on any more debt by going to graduate school right after college, so she worked at a variety of companies, including DaimlerChrysler, Purina, and advertising firm BBDO.

In 2004, she moved back to central Illinois and a few years later began working for the Alliance Library System as a library development specialist. Unfortunately, at the end of May 2010, her position, along with dozens of others, was eliminated due to the fiscal crisis in the state of Illinois. Her hope is to remain active in the library community of central Illinois and to serve a central Illinois library and its patrons again in the near future.

Buhr has just two semesters left in the MLIS program. ”Granted, there are many, many long nights, but I am lucky to have an amazing support system, including my husband, parents, and in-laws,” she said. ”Time management (or at least a valiant attempt at it) and the flexibility of the iSchool program also play a big role in my ability to juggle work, school, and raising my 16-month-old son.”