Life After the MLIS

Many graduates of the ALA-accredited Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program at the San José State University (SJSU) School of Information (iSchool) have exciting, inspiring stories to share as they venture into new careers as information professionals, or advance to new challenges with the help of the MLIS degree. Many graduates of the ALA-accredited MLIS program at the San José State University (SJSU) School of Information (iSchool) have exciting, inspiring stories to share as they venture into new careers as information professionals or advance to new challenges with the help of the MLIS degree. From public libraries to academic institutions, tech companies and multinational corporations, creating programs that benefit communities and enhance the information profession — iSchool alumni are doing it all.

Take alumna Kimberly Partanen (’15 MLIS). As the new library director at Castlegar & District Public Library, Partanen (pictured right) has made her way back to public libraries after over a decade of working inKim Partanen academic institutions. “I’ve had the opportunity to work in both academic and public libraries,” says Partanen, “and I like seeing how people gravitate to a library and hold it dear to them.” Today—two years after graduating from the iSchool—Partenan has a very hands-on job, and she would not trade it for the world. “I am responsible for the bigger picture things,” she says, “such as keeping the strategic plan on track and reporting activities to the provincial government for funding.” She also works the service desk, which puts her face to face with the community she serves. SJSU’s MLIS program helped prepare Partenan for such a range of responsibilities. Skills she learned in the iSchool’s records management, information marketing and information literacy courses have proven to be especially helpful in her role. Says Partenan, “[The iSchool] has such a wide variety of classes to choose from, which I liked. I could choose them very carefully.”

Like Partanen, Erin Berman (’11 MLIS) is making her mark in the public library sector with her MLIS. Recipient of the Zoia Horn Intellectual Freedom Award and named as one of Library Journal’s Movers & Shakers in 2016, Berman serves as innovations manager at the San José Public Library, a position that allows her to serve marginalized and underserved people with such innovation projects as the Maker Spaceship, a state-of-the-art mobile maker’s space (shuttle). "Overall,” Berman says, reflecting on the first big project in her current role, “[the project] went smoothly. It took us almost exactly two years to finish. One year of development and almost one year to build it out.”

Berman credits her course work at the iSchool with giving her the skills needed to succeed at this and her other projects. She assures potential and current students that SJSU knows it takes more than just base information professional skills to truly succeed in the field. “The key to my success,” Berman says, “was the real world application. It’s that need for having the theory put into a real‐world application because you need to be able to take those lessons and go see if they work in the real world.”

For Adam Weissengruber (’14 MLIS), that real world application went beyond his professional life working as a liaison librarian at Humber College. Weissengruber could apply his skills towards a long-held personal goal of his: appearing on the hit syndicated game show Jeopardy!. Although there is no trivia course at the iSchool, his studies at the School of Information helped nurture the skills and mindset he would need to get onto that stage. Weissengruber sees a sizable correlation between the mind of an information professional and that of a Jeopardy! contestant. “Not that I think you have to be some sort of trivia master to be a valuable asset to a library,” Weissengruber (pictured above with Alex Trebek) says, “I just think what connects strong [contestants] in a game like Jeopardy with [professional] success in the library world is a sense of curiosity and an appreciation for lifelong learning.” 

More and more information professionals can be found outside the traditional library walls as well. As senior museum coordinator at the San Francisco 49ers Museum at Levi’s Stadium, Beth Atlas (’13 MLIS) manages the team’s collection of artifacts from their history and curates the different exhibits. She credits the flexibility of the program and the faculty working at the iSchool with allowing her this opportunity and building her skill set so that she could succeed in this position. “Having the flexibility of an online MLIS allowed me to complete an internship that led me to my current position,” Atlas says. “If I had attended another school, I actually would have missed the opportunity to be a part of the developing museum program and the stadium when it happened. I wouldn’t be on the literal groundBeth Atlas, Senior Museum Coordinator floor of the stadium where I am right now.” Once she started in the MLIS program, Atlas (pictured right) used the iSchool’s resources to consider volunteering at an archive, which led her to an internship and eventually to her current position. Doing all this concurrently with her MLIS course work allowed her to actively apply the principles she was learning from her professors—many of whom are working information professionals themselves—with the work she was doing.

Elizabeth Borghi (’12 MLIS) also found work beyond the traditional public or academic library fields. At Rocket Fuel, an ad technology company seated at the heart of Silicon Valley. “A core value that was a part of every class I took at SJSU,” Borghi says, “was the user experience. Whether we’re working at a reference desk, as a children’s librarian, or in my role as a knowledge manager, we are always here for our users.” First and foremost, she carries this value with her to this day, even having moved up the proverbial ladder at Rocket Fuel from knowledge infrastructure manager to enablement and training manager, to director of enablement and training, the positon she works in today. “I’m able to help people all day long,” she says. “And that’s really what attracted me to [this position] and getting an MLIS degree. It allows me to help people, empower them, work with information and use all my tech skills.” As long as she’s aiding those who need it in her career, Borghi will remain more than content in her professional life.

We invite you to learn more about our outstanding alumni by reading their community profiles and alumni career spotlights, which provide a glimpse into LIS workplaces and offer insights on the most valuable LIS skills for different jobs. Visit the MLIS Alumni at Work series page to watch a few videos showing MLIS alums in their workplaces. If you're a graduate of the School of Information at San José State University, please create your alumni career spotlight and share your news!

It’s never too early to be thinking about life after the MLIS. With that in mind, Jill Klees, our school's career counselor, publishes a career newsletter and hosts a career blog—both excellent reads for current iSchool students and alumni. And our school’s online Career Development resources are free for everyone to use. Choose which LIS career direction is right for you by exploring the Career Pathways, where you’ll learn about the information profession from traditional librarianship to digital services, archives and emerging technologies. Then when you’re ready to start or advance your career, check out the job listing sites and employment resources.

The iSchool provides abundant resources to help you discover your LIS passion and start the next phase of your career in information services. 

The faculty was excellent. I still, to this day, several years out from graduation, count a number of them as friends or mentors, and that's been hugely valuable to me in helping me choose between multiple job offers. – Elizabeth Borghi

SJSU iSchool Alumni work at: Google, Library of Congress, Harvard Law, Credo Reference, USC and many more.

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