“Ask Me Anything” with Dr. Linda Main
Published: March 15, 2021 by Leslie Parry
Dr. Linda Main, interim director of the San José State University School of Information, met with iSchool students earlier this month for an insightful “Ask Me Anything” session. These regular, informal meetups give students a chance to chat with the director and ask about anything from career paths to iSchool resources to the LIS world at large. Below are just a few of the questions Dr. Main fielded. To view the full Q&A, click here.
Would you recommend an internship to explore careers?
“I absolutely would, and I often do with students who come to me as an advisor,” said Dr. Main. “I actually think, especially as you get towards the end of your program, that it can be more valuable than a class.” Students can take up to eight units of internships, she explained. A single internship can count as two, three or four units, depending on the hours committed. Internships are beneficial not only for students who are looking to gain basic library experience but for those already working in a library environment who want to explore different facets of the field. “You get real-life experience working in an area and interacting with people, whether it’s online or onsite.” One consequence of the COVID era, she said, is that many organizations have seen the value and possibility of virtual and hybrid internships, which might allow for more opportunity and flexibility. She added that these can be crucial to a student’s burgeoning career. Some students have been hired straight into the organizations after graduation, while others have gotten valuable references from their internship site supervisors.
Check out the iSchool Internship Database to view current internship opportunities. To be eligible for an internship, you need to have completed at least 19 units (including core classes) and be in good academic standing.
Is it possible to get internships other than those listed in the iSchool database?
“It’s certainly possible,” Dr. Main said, but added that “this would be a custom internship.” This means that if a student wants credit for an internship, the school needs to have an agreement in place with the internship site. (This is a California State University requirement, Dr. Main explained, owing to insurance and federal government regulations.) SJSU already has agreements with the institutions listed in the database, but if you find an external organization that is willing to give you credit, “You can contact me and we can try to set up a custom internship,” said Dr. Main. Of course, she added, there’s nothing to stop you from doing work that doesn’t count toward school credit. But without credit, she said, “You’re basically going in as a volunteer,” and there may be legal restrictions around unpaid internships, depending on where you live. Still, it’s not an impossibility.” You can go ahead and do an internship for non-credit anywhere that you want, and it’s probably going to be just as useful to you. It’s just not going to advance you in the units for your degree.”
I’m still a bit confused about how advisors work at the iSchool. Could you give an overview?
“We do not assign you an advisor in iSchool,” Dr. Main explained.” The only time you get assigned an advisor is when you’re doing your e-Portfolio.” This advisor, she said, is assigned randomly from full-time faculty members and will work with you specifically on your e-Portfolio during your final semester. If you’re looking for someone to help you more broadly through the program — from course suggestions to career advice — then there are multiple options.” We have lists of people who are relevant to particular areas,” Dr. Main said, referring students to the Faculty Pathway Advisors tool, which helps students find an advisor based on their interests. Alternatively, she said, “You can approach any faculty member and say that you’d like to touch base with them and talk with them about class content.” If you’re looking for more generalized advice, Dr. Main offered, “You can reach out to me and a few others who are listed as general advisors, because we have a wide view of all content.”
You can find a list of faculty advisors, along with their welcome videos, here.
What course work do you recommend for students who are concentrating on archival work but also want to be comfortable working in public or academic libraries, where there might be more employment opportunities?
”The best thing to do might be to look at classes that cross over. We have a tool on our website that will let you look at two different career pathways and find classes that are common to both,” Dr. Main suggested, referring to the Course Intersection tool. “The other is to perhaps reach out either to me or to any of the other faculty and ask them about classes that might work in both environments. I’m quite happy to take questions on that. I personally think it’s very good to mix and match in today’s world so that you can turn on a dime and be the person that’s needed, no matter where that need is.”
Is there such a thing as a traveling librarian?
”I actually have a friend who is a camel librarian in Ethiopia. I don’t mean she’s a camel – I mean that she travels with camels and books and laptop computers. Not all the time, obviously, but she often likes to go out with her team from her main library in Addis Ababa. They go into villages and they set up satellite Internet tents to bring down Internet connectivity. Then they set up laptops and connect people, and also bring books and various tools and technologies. You can find this in many developing countries. The Internet has just brought great opportunities there.”
What is your favorite thing about being a director or professor?
While Dr. Main is currently serving as interim director, she said, “I’m hoping that we will be introducing to you a new director and then I will revert back to my associate director position. I quite enjoy that because it tends to be more operational. I like doing things that are kind of operational and in the weeds.” As for being a professor, she said, “We work a lot, but we also have tremendous freedom. I can teach a class and work from Northern Ireland in the summer. I’ve taught classes from Estonia, from the Shetland Islands.” She added, “I spend a lot of time with something that I really like now, which is teaching and history of books – the incunabula, the early printed book class, my medieval manuscripts class, all of those kinds of things. They’re all fun and interesting to me. I have a very pleasant life, frankly.”
For more of Dr. Main’s advice on internships, student groups, career resources, and other topics, check out the full recording of the session here.