iSchool Graduate Sharaya Olmeda Stands Out for Exceptional Professional Promise

Sharaya Olmeda

The School of Information at San José State University is pleased to announce the winner of the 2020 Ken Haycock Award for Exceptional Professional Promise is Sharaya Olmeda, who completed the Master of Library and Information Science program and graduated Summa Cum Laude in December 2019. This coveted recognition is awarded annually by peers and faculty of the iSchool’s Student Awards and Scholarship Committee.

Olmeda said she felt “both elated and overwhelmed” when she learned she’d been chosen as the recipient of the award. “It felt like a personal acknowledgment of all the hard work, sacrifice, and heart that I poured into every class. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the MLIS program. The classes were engaging, the professors were very helpful and accessible, and the course work was challenging, interesting, and immediately applicable.”

As part of her iSchool experience, Olmeda participated in the American Library Association Student Chapter and was elected social media manager for the chapter in 2019. She recommends iSchool students look for ways to engage with fellow students. “I wanted to connect with people outside of my classes and figure out how to learn more applied skills that I could put on a resume, so I threw my hat in the ring for the ALASC. Being a part of the ALASC Board opened up several different opportunities for me, and I am continuing to build on the relationships that began in this club,” she said. 

“I would also highly recommend going out for as many scholarships as you are eligible for. Yes, some scholarships require videos, infographics, or narratives, but use these opportunities to learn a new skill while going out for funds that you never have to pay back — win-win!”

During her time at the iSchool, Olmeda presented at two iSchool-sponsored poster sessions—the American Library Association Annual Conference in June 2019 and at the California Library Association in October 2019, and noted that doing so was a “great opportunity” to get experience presenting in a professional setting.

“One major highlight for me was being able to attend the ALA Annual Conference last year in Washington DC. I was able to attend this conference because I was a board member of the ALASC and received a grant to cover my travel,” recalled Olmeda. “This was the first library conference I had ever attended, and it was an amazing experience to attend a variety of different sessions where I got to learn about all the different ways librarians are making positive change in their communities.”

Her poster presented the idea of writing a handbook for libraries to use to help establish free food programs to address the rise of food insecurity and the growing trend of food pantries on college campuses. “I am currently in conversation with the Public Library Association about publishing a handbook that I first developed while serving on the ALASC Board—this is a prime example of my continued professional development,” she said.

Olmeda credits the iSchool with enhancing her professional development “by first igniting my desire to seek out professional development opportunities.” She said she found her course work “so engaging” that even though she has completed the MLIS program, she wants to continue learning more about the information field.

In addition to her MLIS degree, Olmeda, who is a librarian at the California Men’s Colony State Prison, holds a Bachelor’s degree in English with a creative writing focus from California State University, Northridge. She is considering getting a Master’s in Social Work to deepen her understanding of how libraries can leverage social programs and support for underserved communities. “My future plans include getting published by the PLA, deepening the ties between the prison library where I work with the local public library, and learning Spanish,” she said.

Olmeda’s demonstrated commitment to serving vulnerable and underserved communities, impressive service accomplishments, valuable contributions to professional associations, and academic excellence set her apart among the Ken Haycock Award applicants. She graduated with a 4.0 GPA after completing the MLIS program in two years, and exhibited exceptional professional promise for leadership among the 2019/2020 academic year graduating iSchool students.

In addition to the prestigious Ken Haycock Award, Olmeda will receive a $1,000 certificate and will serve as the student speaker at the iSchool’s virtual convocation, delivering remarks to her peers alongside former iSchool Director Sandra Hirsh and Julius C. Jefferson, Jr., the invited convocation speaker.

Everyone is invited to attend this synchronous online celebration, scheduled for 5 p.m. Pacific Time on Tuesday, May 19, 2020. Graduates will be sent instructions on how to access the online event in May. In addition, graduates, their families and friends are also encouraged to visit the iSchool’s graduation website featuring graduate profiles and a degree presentation.