Student Laura Serrano Researches Residency Programs and Emerging Technologies

Community Profile

Student Laura Serrano is exploring library residency programs and emerging technologies as a research assistant with the school’s Catalyst project.

Launched in July 2011 with a generous grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Catalyst project is developing a residency program model to support libraries’ exploration of emerging technologies. The model will concentrate on embedding new MLIS graduates in diverse library settings to provide expertise and support as their host institutions implement new technology.

“The residents will combine their fresh perspective and knowledge with the ability to try something new,” explained Serrano. “The residents obtain valuable work experience, and libraries benefit from having someone in a flexible position to act as a catalyst for change and innovation.”

As the project’s only graduate student research assistant, Serrano is working closely with iSchool instructor and project coordinator Scott Brown to examine the professional literature on existing library residency programs and to develop a working definition of “emerging technology.” “That’s actually a surprisingly difficult thing to pinpoint, because it means different things to different libraries,” said Serrano. “Generally they are the technologies that have passed the prototype phase, but haven’t yet been commercialized or widely adopted. Examples might be augmented reality, game-based learning, or gesture-based computing.”

Implementing emerging technologies can also mean incorporating a technology from another field. “A classic example is bringing the RFID technology used in the grocery store checkout lane into the library setting as an automated way to keep track of library resources,” Serrano explained.

Serrano, who enrolled at the iSchool in spring 2011, joined the Catalyst project in October 2011. She was intrigued by its focus on emerging technologies and was interested in expanding on the technological focus she developed in INFO 202 and INFO 240, and the research skills she developed in INFO 285. She will continue to conduct research and contribute to conference presentations and focus group interviews as the project moves forward in 2012.

“Working with the project team has been very rewarding,” Serrano said. “ I’ve been able to gain professional research experience using different databases and resources, and I’ve developed a deeper understanding of how libraries work.”

Serrano discovered librarianship as a career while studying English at Chicago’s Northeastern Illinois University. She worked at the American Library Association’s headquarters as a paid undergraduate intern from 2008-2009, gaining experience in their Public Information Office and in Conference Services. “It was an amazing introduction to the library world, and I was able to meet a lot of leaders in the field,” Serrano said.

Serrano is following the Web Programming and Information Architecture career pathway at the iSchool, and plans to graduate in December 2012. She hopes to pursue a career in library information technology.

The Catalyst project is led by Dr. Sandra Hirsh, professor and director of the SJSU School of Library and Information Science, and includes a team of project partners from the Association of College and Research Libraries, the Public Library Association, OCLC, and the Urban Libraries Council.