Interview with iSchool Alum, Eori Tokunaga

iStudent Blog

Published: April 28, 2024 by Kesheena Doctor

For an online MLIS program, I was worried about feeling isolated. However, I have been fortunate to meet many fellow iSchool students, including Eori Tokunaga, who I met after I was hired to be the iSchool’s student blogger. Eori just graduated from the iSchool, and I chatted with her about her experience with the program.

Hi Eori, please tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Eori Tokunaga and I use she/her/hers/they/them/theirs pronouns. I graduated with a B.S. in Human Development with Dual Minors in Japanese & Psychology from UC Davis in 2018. I also have an A.A. in Digital Art Media, a Certificate in 3D Animation from American River College, and an MLIS from San José State University (graduated December 2023).

During the program, I focused heavily on Digital Marketing and Children’s Librarianship, as I wanted to combine the coursework with my own personal goals of becoming an established author and illustrator for picture books!

You just graduated last fall. What has post-iSchool life been like?

I was actually planning on graduating in May 2024, but as life would have it, I had to make some adjustments to my schedule so I could graduate earlier since I would be having a medical procedure take place in January 2024. Thus, post-iSchool life has just been me relaxing at home while on medical leave. I currently work as a library assistant for the Palos Verdes Library District, where I work at the circulation desk, providing reference services, reader’s advisory, and passport services to our patrons at the branch locations. It’s been neat to be here during my graduate program, as I’ve been able to dip my hands into a little bit of everything! Plus, I’ve had the opportunity to help out with their EDI and Social Media committees, as well as their Graphics team, where I designed flyers for the library’s various events.

What were your favorite classes that you took as an iSchool student?

My favorite classes were definitely the Peer Mentorship program and INFO 285 Applied Research Methods – Historical Research with Professor Donald Westbrook.

Peer Mentorship with Bethany Winslow was a great opportunity to give back to the students and get them used to being in an online setting. Prior to entering the MLIS program, I was accepted into an MSW and an MA/Ph.D. program for Counseling Psychology, where my main goal was to teach at a university. So, the Peer Mentorship program was a great opportunity to fulfill that dream! I really enjoyed giving feedback to the students and providing them with resources that could benefit their personal goals.

Historical Research Methods was a huge turning point for me because I not only had the chance to write about things that interest me, but I also presented my research as a poster at the 2023 California Library Association (CLA) Conference in Sacramento! Professor Westbrook was so wonderful at helping me find my voice and delve deeper into the world of children’s literature and food history.

Oh, and of course, I can’t forget INFO 204 Information Professions! The coursework was a lot, but I did meet some wonderful friends with whom I still keep in contact! Shoutout to Imani, Maggie, and Janine!

Many iSchool students have concerns about the e-Port. Are there any tips or tricks you’d like to share with other students who will be taking INFO 289 Advanced Topics in Library and Information Science (e-Portfolio)?

Start saving your assignments and putting them into folders for each competency as early as possible! I finished in about 1.5 months, as I only had to worry about creating my website and writing my statements. If you can work ahead by labeling which assignment was for which class and organizing them by competencies, it makes the whole process less stressful.

What were some of your favorite experiences while at the iSchool?

Aside from getting my degree and walking across the stage at commencement, it was definitely getting to go to the California Library Association Conference and presenting my poster! All the parts of my iSchool journey really came together at that moment, and I don’t think I would have gotten to that point if I hadn’t been as involved as I was.

What was being part of the iSchool blog team like?

It was an enlightening experience! I’ve written blogs as part of my job in the past, but I liked how this opportunity allowed me to explore librarianship in ways that I don’t think I would have been able to in my coursework. I am also grateful that it provided me with opportunities to work alongside professors in the iSchool on their grant-funded projects and assist with their research!

What was your experience as part of the leadership team with ALASC?

Being part of the ALASC Executive Committee was truly a life-changing experience! Since the program is completely online, it’s easy to feel lonely. I was so lucky to have the ALASC team to talk to whenever I needed assistance, and it was amazing to see them in person when we went to the CLA Conference!

I regret not creating as many programs or offering as many giveaways as I did during my time as one of the Co-Events Coordinators. It takes a lot more time to plan than one would expect, and I wish I created more opportunities where students could have some respite from school, work, and just life in general.

How was navigating the graduation process like for you?

Make sure you submit any Course Substitution forms if you take a class different from what you provided in the Candidacy Approval form. I had to submit a Course Substitution form after graduating because there was a discrepancy, and I freaked out because I thought I was missing units. The iSchool’s Student Services team is amazing to work with, and I definitely recommend booking a Zoom appointment with them if you can!

What are your career plans for the future? Do you have any advice for iSchool students looking for jobs in our field?

Career-wise, I am really interested in working in marketing. If I could combine that with librarianship, that would be amazing! I know that some library districts have a marketing team, so I am interested in that area. When I entered the program, I started looking into roles that offer remote or online positions for librarians, so that continues to remain on my mind as well.

Ideally, though, I would be able to have a sustainable career as an author and illustrator of picture books while visiting different libraries and schools and collaborating on projects with educators!

My advice for iSchool students looking for jobs in our field is to network as much as possible! I know that can be daunting for people who are shy or introverted like myself, but a lot of librarians are super eager to talk and share their stories. My first job at a library was as a computer assistant at the Los Angeles Public Library, which I learned about through a part-time librarian I was talking to while volunteering at PVLD. He then offered to be a reference for me, as he knew the Senior Librarian for the branch personally. Thank you Chris! That job eventually helped me land my current job as a Library Assistant. So if you can, try to strike up conversations with different professionals in the field. If you have the time, volunteering an hour or two at the library can make a big difference in getting your foot through the door.

What advice would you give to new iSchool students?

Try to take courses that push your skillset. I understand the benefits of taking a course that you are already familiar with and feel competent in, so it’s easier, but you can only grow if you take on new challenges. I did not have any experience with coding so I pushed off the INFO 240 Information Technology Tools and Applications and INFO 246 Information Technology Tools and Applications – Advanced classes until my last few semesters, and I honestly wish I had taken more of them if I could have.

Lastly, are there any favorite books, comics, movies, or other media you enjoy post-iSchool?

When I’m not trying to read my 1400+ pages of Sherlock Holmes, I like to indulge in cheesy romance novels by Ali Hazelwood, Casey McQuiston, Helen Hoang, and Sophie Lark.

Otherwise, I’m usually working on my artwork and illustrations!