After Three Years at the iStudent Blog, Lead Writer Allison Randall Gatt Says Good-Bye
Published: August 18, 2017
I’ll confess that my decision to apply to the San José State University School of Information was based on pragmatism and vague desperation. I had a daughter, barely three years old, and the single income my family was trying to live on was not going to sustain us.
I would have to go back to work as soon as any children we had or would have were in public school. I considered briefly going back to the world of retail where I had been employed previously, but then I would have to pay for childcare while I was at work. With retail paychecks being so poor, it would have been a wash—my whole paycheck would go to someone else to care for my child. I didn’t want to work in retail anymore and I didn’t want to miss out on raising my own child, so I had to have another plan.
If I was going to spend the next three years out of the workforce (or more if we decided to have another child), then I thought I should probably have a better plan than selling overpriced merchandise for just over minimum wage. I needed more skills than my art degree could provide. I needed to go back to school. An acquaintance told me about getting his graduate degree through San José State to become a librarian—and I could do it all at home, without having to worry about childcare coverage. Librarianship sounded like a good career move to me, since I had already worked in a bookstore and I loved to read. I volunteered at my local library for six months, just to make sure. I found everybody so nice and encouraging of my graduate school inquiries that I applied to the SJSU program. It was the only school I applied to because it came highly recommended by someone I respected.
So began my journey towards my MLIS in the fall of 2011. I figured I could drop off my daughter at preschool and then spend time at the local library studying for my graduate school classes. What I hadn’t figured on was getting pregnant with twins in my first semester. Fortunately, I had a sympathetic professor that first semester who had twins of his own and my professor for my second core course—Dr. Carol Sawyer who taught my Info 204 section –was very understanding and accommodating, especially considering that I could have missed the last few weeks of the semester if my twins came early. My babies were very considerate, and while it wasn’t fun carrying them to term, I was able to get through my course work and deliver them six weeks later.
With three children, a part-time job writing this blog and one or two graduate level courses each semester (including two summer sessions), I worked my way through my degree. It was a lot of work, and it took a lot of planning and a lot of discipline. I was busy, to say the least. My final year (2016-2017), I squeezed in an internship and a position on the ALASC board of directors to round out my studies. I went from busy to busier, but it was all fairly well calculated. I knew the value of joining a student group, and I knew I needed to do an internship and get a taste of the working world of library and information science. My ALASC position as newsletter editor simply entailed more writing and using the same WordPress.org platform that I had used earlier in writing this blog. In a similar fashion, I applied for an internship with EveryLibrary in the same semester I took a one-unit course in Political Advocacy from the organization’s political director, Patrick Sweeney.When I enrolled in courses every semester, I took into account how the course work would apply to my current life or how I could apply my life experiences to my course discussions, research and projects. I did not want my schoolwork to be done in a bubble, separate from everything else going on in my life. By necessity, it couldn’t—there just wasn’t enough time, and with all I have going on I don’t sacrifice sleep. Almost every course I took at the SJSU iSchool tied in wonderfully with my life. I used early literacy components to help my children learn to read. I have grant writing skills and campaigning research tactics that work wonderfully well in getting to know the new community in which I’m raising my children.
With the exception of finding a life-long partner and bringing our three children into the world, I can’t think of another more life changing experience than working my way through the last six years and earning a Master’s of Library and Information Science. I am still surprised at how that simple, and in my case rather naïve, act of applying to the iSchool changed the course of the future for both me and my family.
A huge part of that was being hired as the writer here at the iStudent Blog three years ago. This opportunity has given me more writing experience and publishing credits than I ever would have dreamed of. It has also provided the chance to work with a lot of amazing people. I thank you all who read my posts and all the students, faculty, and staff who took time to be interviewed and answer my questions about a specific program or event. I have also appreciated the staff and faculty who helped me develop ideas before they had yet become stories. While I’ve only met a few of my readers through attending professional conferences, I will miss you all. Keep an eye out for me on the iSchool website. I’ll be writing up an Alumni Career Spotlight soon, and I plan on attending the Library 2.0 conferences whenever I can. The SJSU iSchool is proud of its alumni, and writes up their achievements in news stories and Community Profiles. I hope that in the coming years, you can see what I’m up to there.
Thanks so much for making me a part of your life in graduate school. I wish every reader and all the students the very best in the pursuit of your degrees and of life-long learning.
Allison Randall Gatt