Student John Jackson Assists ALA Staff at Annual Conference

Community Profile

MLIS student John Jackson, the 2010-2011 Program Coordinator for our school’s American Library Association Student Chapter (ALASC), was one of 40 students working behind the scenes during ALA’s 2011 Annual Conference in New Orleans.

As a participant in ALA’s Student-to-Staff Program, Jackson received free conference registration, housing, and a daily meal allowance in exchange for working four hours each day to assist ALA staff.

Jackson was assigned to work with ALA’s Governance Office to provide support at the Executive Board and ALA Council meetings. “It was a totally different perspective from the usual conference experience,” said Jackson, who has attended ALA twice before. “I got the chance to learn about how the organization’s finances are structured and about the priorities ALA has set for the next five years.”

In addition to his work with the Governance Office, Jackson also helped out during the Opening General Session and escorted speakers Dan Savage and New Orleans Mayor Mitchell J. Landrieu to the stage. His other tasks included assisting at a book award reception and at an event featuring the Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation.

“The most rewarding part of the entire conference was getting to meet so many people and share different experiences,” Jackson said. He recommends that students focus on meeting people instead of trying to attend every session at a conference. “Go to the receptions, sit next to people on the shuttle bus, and introduce yourself.”

Jackson first became involved with ALASC leadership in 2010, when he expressed an interest in organizing more activities for southern California students. He started out by offering his help at local events and eventually took over as Program Coordinator. “I just put myself out there and was available, and that’s how I got involved,” he said.

Jackson, who hopes to pursue a career as a reference and instruction librarian, found his calling while studying medieval literature at the University of Virginia. After earning his MA and moving to Los Angeles in 2007, he applied for a job as an office assistant with the University of Southern California’s Library Technical Services to gain library experience.

“I knew I wanted to work in a library but I didn’t have any experience, so I got an office job in one,” Jackson said. “It gave me a chance to get in the system, understand how it works, meet people, and work on building my basic skill set.”

In between ordering supplies and “making sure the plumbing worked,” Jackson studied AACR2, learned about the library, and enrolled in our school’s MLIS program. In 2009 he was able to move into a position as Cataloging Supervisor, and now works to create bibliographic records and oversee a team of student assistants.

The Student-to-Staff Program accepts 40 library students, one per LIS school, to participate each year. Our school typically offers the opportunity to our ALASC Chair, but as she was already attending the conference as a student presenter, Program Coordinator Jackson was nominated instead.

Jackson is planning to graduate from San José State University School of Information in December 2011.