Choose Your Own Adventure in Special Libraries

iStudent Blog

Published: February 23, 2017

Did you know that you can put your MLIS or MARA degree to work at an architecture firm, or that the National Park Service needs librarians? It’s true! On February 6, 2017 the SJSU iSchool’s Special Libraries Association (SLA) student chapter gathered alumni and current students to give short presentations at their event called “There’s a Special Library for THAT?”

It was a fascinating experience, getting to hear about all the different places (both literally and figuratively) that librarianship can take you. As one of the presenters Heather Kiger said, “Somewhere an adventure exists to suit every librarian, and I encourage you to go find yours.” 

Career Spotlight: Archives and Special Collections
The evening’s illuminating talk began with Lara Doublet, who works at the University of Calgary, where it was a cool 10 degrees below zero at the time of broadcast. Doublet started in cataloging and soon became part of an enormous three-year project, bar coding and cataloging the entire collection for the new high-density storage where over 70 percent of the university’s collection is housed. Doublet currently works as the Archives and Special Collections manager where she is in charge of print, music and archival materials, as well as writing up descriptions of materials for the catalogue. One of her favorite parts of the job is to work at the Archives and Special Collections reference desk. “I love to see how the patrons use our resources,” said Doublet. “It is so gratifying to see a patron use a source that I have personally catalogued.”

Career Spotlight: Medical Librarianship
Former SLASC president and iSchool alumna Basia Delawska-Elliott shared her experience in a medical library. She began her presentation with statistics from a study that showed how medical library services had a positive effect on patient care. Through the help of medical librarians, patients avoided adverse effects including additional tests, misdiagnosis, medication errors, adverse drug reactions, patient misunderstanding of the disease and patient mortality. Delawska-Elliott described her job responsibilities, which include being in charge of information literacy training for interns, nurses and hospital employees and teaching them how to find the best information and educating staff about evidence based practice. She cited Info 285 Research Methods as a great class for learning how to develop many of the skills she uses in her job. “Working in a special library can be a lot like running a small business said Delawska-Elliott, “You really have to be a Jack or Jill of all trades.”

SJSU School of Information alumnus Brian Elliott works in a medical library with a focus on technical services and resources. Elliott works primarily in what is called the Table of Contents service. This service provides electronic journal publications to physicians and other hospital employees based on their specific requests. When the journal publishes, quarterly or semi-annually, Elliott makes sure that the employees are on these journals’ email distribution lists. Through word-of-mouth marketing he was able to increase the patron usage and distribution. He is a crucial link to keeping his hospital’s medical professionals up-to-date with current research.

Career Spotlight: Corporate Librarianship
Swetta Abeyta started her career by working in a corporate library setting for an architectural firm. Her first job had her simply routing periodicals but then went on to cataloguing and purchasing for the collection. As her responsibilities increased, she went on to conduct research outside of the library, specifically looking at green and sustainable architecture and buildings. The architectural firm she worked for even joined the competition to build the new Bay Bridge, so she started doing a lot of research about bridge design. Abeyta’s next job took her to the Pacific Energy Center sponsored by PG&E, which specializes in energy conservation research. Here she catalogued books, provided reference services for drop-in patrons and participated in education programs with architects and designers. Currently, she’s employed in an academic library.

Career Spotlight: The National Park Service and other Federal Agencies
Next up was iSchool alumna Heather Kiger, who worked for a year in the research library in Yosemite National Park. Most national parks have special libraries, but most of them are not open to the public and few of those libraries are staffed by MLIS-holding librarians. Working within federal agencies right now is challenging and Kiger recommended people develop their professional stance and to be sure to review the ethics and values of librarianship that can come into conflict with government orders. Kiger encouraged participants to pursue internships at the National Parks which will give you not only great views but excellent government-related experience for your resume. She recommended subscribing to the SLASC social media channels to keep up to date with the availability of the short-term internships currently being offered through the National Parks Service and the iSchool. Pathways at is also a great place to get an idea of what’s available.

Career Spotlight: Acquisitions
Yael Hod has worked as a librarian in Israel. After moving to California, she tried a few other careers but missed librarianship and enrolled at the SJSU School of Information. She now serves as the social media director for the SLASC and feels that being a part of the student group is one of the best decisions she made in her time at the iSchool. Currently, she works for Stanford University as an Acquisitions Librarian and Ordering Specialist for most of the school’s special libraries. She is responsible for the selection and purchase of materials and resources, negotiating consortium pricing and arranging for standing orders. Hod’s focus is on purchasing for the categories of Hebrew and Judaica, Linguistics, Sociology and Psychology, and British and American Literature.

Career Spotlight: Labor Relations
Current SLASC webmaster Will Shepard shared his experience as a librarian at Castlewood Library at NY School of Labor Relations at Cornell University. The library serves unions and provides reference services on labor law and an archive of labor and union historical materials and ephemera. Shepard says that it ends up being a very small but incredibly diverse, supporting human relations staff with reference information. Most of his days are spent fielding questions from students and faculty at the School of Labor Relations. The library is a resource of labor negotiation records.

I encourage you to listen to this amazing presentation, whether you’re well-established in your career environment or still wandering along your path. It is amazing where librarianship can take you!

Related Stories from the iSchool Blogs:
Career Environments– the Wide World of Possibility for Your Master’s Degree

Career Blog– Question Everyone to Find Your Path

Continue to Learn Beyond the SJSU’s iSchool by Creating a Personal Learning Network


images courtesy of: fotographic1980, The University of Calgary, and the National Parks Conservation Association



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