Infographic Scholarship Applications Examine Future Careers for New MLIS Students


Five incoming students to the Master of Library and Information Science online degree program at the San José State University School of Information were awarded the Director’s Scholarship for Excellence to assist them as they embark on their graduate school journey.

Laura Erwin, Monica Keane, Kristin Spencer, Lauren McNeil, and Lauren Seaver, who will begin their studies in the fall, received $1,000 each for their infographic scholarship applications (or digital posters) on the theme “Why I Want To Be An Information Professional.”

Erwin, who works as a part-time library clerk, said she knew after she began in her position that she wanted to pursue a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science. She eventually realized the importance of providing an inclusive space for teens to attend events like movie and game nights, and to participate in a book and craft club. Her digital poster, “Serving Teens in the Public Library,” reflects her desire to promote advocacy, literacy, representation and safety.

“Teens in our area are vulnerable to so many elements outside of their control – poverty, isolation, lack of access to technology, and so forth – and if I can help our library bridge some of these gaps as a career, then that’s absolutely how I want to spend my energy,” she said.

Erwin said she has taken online classes before and wanted a master’s degree program that would fit her need for schedule flexibility. She’d read positive opinions regarding the iSchool faculty and decided the online MLIS degree program would suit her.

“I am looking forward to all of the knowledge I can put to use day-to-day! I am also thrilled to join a professional community of like-minded people who are devoted to protecting intellectual freedom,” she said.

Keane’s experience utilizing library resources while pursuing an education in medieval literature has inspired her to become an academic librarian. Her infographic, “A Journey to Librarianship,” explores preserving cultural heritage while facilitating scholarship.

“There are so many wonderful resources for researchers and for students coming out of academic libraries in recent years that have really helped me in my own studies and research. I feel like there is so much potential in this field right now,” she said.

Keane is raising two young children and teaching part-time at a local community college, so her decision to attend the School of Information was one of practicality and convenience.

“I actually live in San Jose, and even though the program is online, I wanted to be sure that I would be able to make local connections through internships. The fact that the course work is online will make it easier for me to manage,” she said.

Keane is particularly interested in learning more about manuscripts and paleography in hopes of working in special collections at a university library while involving herself in a digital humanities project that will help make materials more accessible.

“My Future” is an examination of Spencer’s role in the future of libraries and creating literate communities. While she’s yet to determine what her dream job will be, she feels certain it involves working with children and promoting early literacy.

“I love when I see the kids feel comfortable and happy in the library,” she said. “I love when the tweens come in and they love a book so much they insist I read it. I love when a kid tells me he doesn’t like reading and I send him home with a few books because ‘they’re free and if you don’t like them you just bring them back.’ When that kid comes back and loves one of the books and finishes off the rest of that series, I get such a strong feeling of joy.”

While researching the statistics on literacy in America for her digital poster, Spencer was discouraged by the numbers, but she said it clarified her career goals.

“Literacy levels and incarceration rates are closely related, and that’s something libraries can really impact. Giving people access to literacy and access to the tools to build a life are so critical in our communities,” she said.

When seeking an online MLIS degree program, Spencer said SJSU “rose to the top quickly.” Several of her co-workers received their master’s degrees from the SJSU iSchool and recommended the MLIS program, and her examination of the courses offered solidified her choice.

“Being a list oriented person, I drafted a hypothetical course list. When I hit the 43 credits, there were still two or three classes I thought looked really great but didn’t have room for in my made-up schedule. That made the decision for me,” she said.

After teaching high school English for the past decade, McNeil said she has become keenly aware of the need adolescents have for guidance, support and inspiration. Her infographic, “School Librarian: Lauren McNeil’s Journey to a New World,” frames her desire to inspire students to read for pleasure, to help them develop research skills, and to support their information and technology literacy.

She chose to earn an MLIS degree at the SJSU iSchool because she had heard “great things” about it from colleagues who also attended, and she believes it prepared them well for their library and information science careers.

“As I begin my journey toward becoming a school librarian, I am looking forward to becoming a part of a community of learners with whom I share a similar interest and us learning from each other over the course of the program,” she said.

Seaver said she was “largely built by books,” and she can think of nothing more exciting than sharing her passion for them with children. After spending 18 years as an elementary and special education teacher, and an additional three running a preschool, she said she’s looking for a career change.

“I am a fun seeker and love life and learning, and I deeply enjoy supporting children in exploring their passions in whatever manner works best for them. As a children’s librarian, I believe I will be able to support children and their families in finding the resources they need, as well as offer enriching and exciting programming that engages, inspires and promotes self-acceptance and social justice,” she said.

“A Journey to Children’s Librarianship” discusses Seaver’s personal connections to various children’s books and the benefits public libraries provide for children and families. 

“I love that public libraries are accessible, free and inclusive of everyone and believe I can powerfully impact my community by serving children and families as a children’s librarian,” she said.

As a homeschooling mother and small business owner, Seaver was looking for a MLIS degree program that was affordable, flexible and available online, and offered many choices for courses.

“The SJSU School of Information far exceeded all of my criteria! I live in upstate New York and searched MLIS programs across the country. The iSchool stood out as the perfect fit for my family and myself,” she said.

“In addition to the fascinating classes I am planning to take, I am especially excited about the internship possibilities through SJSU’s program. In my experience, on-the-job learning is by far the best method for developing the skills needed to perform any job. I love that SJSU is so inclusive of internships for the MLIS students. I feel very lucky to be starting at this phenomenal school in the fall.”

Dr. Cheryl Stenstrom, scholarship committee chair, said the panel received more than 50 applications and the selected recipients are entering the MLIS program with “exceptionally strong” academic records. The applicants also made up one of the most diverse pools with several states represented and the greatest mix of chosen career paths since the scholarship was established in 2015.

The next round of scholarships will be awarded in spring 2018, and will be open to new students starting the Master of Library and Information Science or Master of Archives and Records Administration degree program. More information regarding the spring 2018 scholarships will be posted in August. The digital posters of the fall 2017 scholarship recipients are posted to the SJSU iSchool’s Slideshare and Pinterest board.