Alumna Havilah Joy-Steinman Bakken Highlights Top 5 Resources for iSchool Students
Published: September 27, 2020 by Leslie Parry
Hello readers! I’m Leslie Parry, a MLIS student from Los Angeles. I’m thrilled to be taking the helm of the iStudent blog. I recently had a chance to talk to my predecessor and iSchool alumna, Havilah Joy-Steinman Bakken (‘20 MLIS), about her time in the program. As a student, Havilah took advantage of as many resources as she could, not only because they strengthened her résumé and allowed her to network, but because they helped her develop skills that can’t always be mastered in the classroom. Now a reference librarian at the San Diego Law Library, she describes the resources that best prepared her for life after iSchool.
A self-described extrovert, Havilah took regular advantage of meet-ups and events. It was important to her, especially in an online program, to connect with others and expand her sense of what librarianship could be. Even though she was following an academic law librarian track, she didn’t want to lose sight of what was happening in the field at large. “I made strategic decisions to make sure I was meeting people throughout my program and not just sitting at home doing my classes.” While it might seem awkward at first, she says, it’s hugely rewarding to get out there and talk to people. “Every librarian that I have ever met is willing to sit down with you and talk to you about how they got in their position, what they had to do to get there and how to best present yourself.”
Read those iSchool alerts! So many opportunities are delivered right to your inbox. And don’t be afraid to say yes to things, Havilah urges, even if they seem outside your purview. “Every email alert, I just, like, applied.” She became a writer for the iStudent blog and a content editor for the Student Research Journal (SRJ). She credits her student assistantships with honing her writing skills. “When I was evaluating manuscripts, it impacted my own writing in a really positive way.” These positions built up her confidence, provided evidence for her e-Portfolio and conferred valuable work experience. “Being part of the Student Research Journal was a big reason that I was hired out of the program so quickly.”
Her willingness to explore outside her track landed her an internship in archives. “I viewed my time in grad school as a time to explore and try new things… that excited me or made me a little bit nervous or challenged me.” She went on a tour of the San Diego Zoo Global Library and Archives, hosted by a student group. Fascinated by the collection, she later contacted the librarians to ask if she could intern. By the time she applied for a part-time position at the San Diego Law Library, she had real – and enviable! – work experience on her résumé.
“Mentorship is such a loaded word, and it doesn’t have to be. What that really means is the professor is going to help you.” Havilah credits Vicki Steiner, her INFO 203 professor, for guiding her down the law librarian track. “People think that they need to have a mentor assigned to them, [but] I just found professors that I resonated with personally and was able to connect with.”
While students can look for an advisor on the iSchool site, Havilah recommends engaging with a professor who cares about the same things you do. This can be as simple as responding to feedback on assignments, or staying active in class discussions – anything that sets a conversation in motion.
She’s also grateful for the wisdom of professors who helped her overcome challenges and disappointments. “There are really wonderful professors… that will talk to you and will guide you through those more difficult transitions and more painful decisions that you have to make in grad school.” It was hard for Havilah to give up her dream of writing a thesis, but Dr. Bernier, her advisor at the SRJ, helped her see the advantages of an e-Portfolio. “The professors are really what guided me in the right direction,” she says.
She paid it forward as an INFO 203 peer mentor. Not only was it a positive, real-world experience she could highlight on her résumé, but it prepared her for her current role teaching classes at the law library.
The iSchool offers other excellent resources, she adds student groups, blogs and career development. But if you’re struggling to find something, “Don’t be afraid to ask. It’s easy to think that in an online program, if you can’t find something… it doesn’t exist. But it very well could.” Havilah stresses that it’s not a failure for a potential librarian to search and come up empty; it’s an opportunity to create what you need.
Her own creativity and tenacity paid off. She was offered a full-time job just before graduation (Spring 2020) – and just as the pandemic broke. An unexpected benefit of distance learning, she found, was that it prepared her for “100% distance librarianship.” “I feel so fortunate to be working full-time in this economy straight out of grad school,” she says. The degree is essential, but she also attributes her success to thoughtful networking, saying yes to challenges and “being open to everything the program could offer me.”