Background, experiences, and learning
My affinity to libraries stems from my childhood. In the first grade of elementary school, I had a school assignment – every other week, I had to visit a local library, get a book, read it, and then discuss it with my classmates. As time progressed, I pranced from book to book, traveling to exotic places and finding joy in the sense of companionship with the authors. Reading and experiencing life through the authors’ minds, I have grown to become an avid reader.
As a student, while studying Classics at Moscow State University in Russia, I learned to appreciate libraries not only as a place where I can get textbooks for my courses, but also as a source of my professional inspiration. While in the Master’s program, I traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia, to intern in the Saltykov-Shchedrin Public Library and the Hermitage State Museum. I also interned in the Tauric Chersonesos archeological site in the Crimea. These internships left an indelible mark on my soul and triggered my career aspirations related to preservation and providing access to, human knowledge.
My master’s thesis was dedicated to Hellenistic poetry. In it, exploring the epigram genre, I compared works of Callimachus and Leonidas of Tarentum. Years have passed since, and in the LIBR 200 class at San José State University I found myself reading about Callimachus again—this time as a notable librarian and scholar, an author of a subject catalog at the famous Alexandria Library in Egypt (Rubin, 2010, p. 28). This was a moment when I realized that my professional aspirations had truly come full circle.
After college, I have developed a diverse professional background in academia, audiovisual collections, and international education, with previous positions including assistant professor teaching Latin and Russian, historical content analyst, and, currently, international digital education associate (IDEA). I continued my education and received another master’s degree—in public administration from California State University, Northridge.
Since switching my career from teaching Latin to working with digital audiovisual materials, I have been professionally involved with USC Shoah Foundation – The Institute for Visual History and Education. The USC Shoah Foundation was established by Steven Spielberg in 1994. In 2006, it became part of the Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. My roles in this organization included video production coordination, cataloging and indexing the Visual History Archive, international program coordination, and co-managing design of the Institute’s online educational platforms and online delivery of educational multimedia resources.
Growing together with the organization and witnessing the transformative change generated by the USC Shoah Foundation’s digital archive in the global learning community became a major factor in my decision to study librarianship and digital archives.
While in the MLIS program at San José State University, from 2013-2016, I have been focusing my studies on three career paths: (1) information organization, description, analysis, and retrieval; (2) digital services; and (3) emerging technologies. The MLIS program has equipped me with the diverse knowledge of library and archive management, information organization and retrieval systems design, information literacy instruction, reference services, and information technology supporting digital collections, including web development, database design, encoded archival description, digital preservation, and digital curation.
From my MLIS coursework, I have not only gained the knowledge I needed to pursue my interest in the theories and practices related to creation and management of digital collections, the intellectual property of digital collections and online multimedia, the use of digital libraries in education, and digital initiatives between museums, archives, libraries, and educational institution. I have also gained extensive knowledge and practical skills required to master the program’s core competencies; each of these competencies has been instrumental in expanding my professional interests, in particular as they relate to the career of a blended librarian.
Defined by Steven J. Bell and John Shank (2007), the blended librarian concept “refers to the idea that many librarian positions combine elements of traditional librarianship as well as the skills of educators and technologists,” Pressley explains. “Librarians in these positions often work directly with faculty and other instructional support staff. These positions are sometimes responsible for designing online learning materials to help students learn to do library research” (2009, p. 92). Other tasks of blended librarians include working with library reference departments on incorporating new reference technology, conducting usability studies, suggesting new technology-enhanced services that can improve library performance in content organization, discovery, and delivery, and evaluating technology vendors to help library managers with strategic planning. In the course of my academic training, I have developed a unique set of skills in the traditional librarianship, reference services, teaching, and information technologies—the skills one needs to become a successful blended librarian.
Traditional librarianship. I have learned to create MARC records, using MARC 21 Format for Bibliographic Data, for items in various formats in OCLC Connexion using the RDA and AACR2 rules. I can compose the bibliographic description of the items, determine access points to the records, assign proper subjects from the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), and use the Dewey Decimal and Library of Congress classification schedules to select the call number for an item. Finally, I can produce bibliographic records using a variety of metadata schemes, including Dublin Core, RDF-XML, MODS, TEI, as well as a crosswalk from Dublin Core to MARC21. Finally, I can encode finding aids for archival collections in XML, using EAD3—the third release of the Encoded Archival Description standard, in accordance with DACS. My traditional librarianship skills are demonstrated in competencies E, F, G, and H.
Reference services. When I think of facilitating access to library resources as the primary purpose of reference service, the equitable access to information; professional commitment to intellectual freedom and fair use; robust preservation and access programs; along with provision of digital and information literacy programs that meet the changing information needs of diverse populations—speak to me the most. As the body of human knowledge, and the technology impacting the mode of delivery of that knowledge to the people with diverse information needs, continue their steady growth—I understand that reference librarians need to keep up with the latest developments in order to provide effective reference services, while ensuring continuous improvement in the management of reference materials and communication technologies. In Competency I and Competency J, I have demonstrated my knowledge of information seeking behaviors and my skills in library reference.
Teaching. “With the increasing use of technologies in both the classroom and the media center, there is a clear need to teach students how to locate and evaluate information,” Rubin maintains (2010, p. 195). Library audiences will continue to benefit from the information literacy instruction, teaching them how to orient themselves in the new information landscape and retrieve information most effectively and efficiently, using the new technologies—on the way to becoming life-long learners. Competency K , in particular, demonstrates my understanding of contemporary sociocultural theories and theories of human learning, and their practical value for library reference service. I have learned to produce instructional video tutorials and design instructional unit proposals for information literacy programs accommodating multiple learning styles of academic library users.
Now, at the end of the MLIS journey, I am optimistic regarding my future potential, as a blended librarian, of contributing my knowledge and skills to the librarianship profession.
Competency O of the SJSU Statement of Core Competencies mandates that “each graduate of the Master of Library and Information Science program is able to contribute to the cultural, economic, educational, and social well-being of our global communities” (San José State University, n.d.).
Globalization has become a major driver in the shifting informational needs of library users. In not such remote past, libraries used to cater to interests of local communities. People would come to their branch to borrow books or periodicals, or to socialize at a book club. With the shift to global economy, the news is no longer about what happens in one’s neighborhood—the entire world is now at focus. Libraries need to evolve in order to satisfy the global curiosities of the new information users. As future librarians, our challenge, in that regard, lays in expanding the information services while still recognizing the unique nature of every patron and learning to customize the service we provide to individual information needs.
It is through the comprehensive lens of all major change drivers—technological, economic, political, and social—that we, the information professionals of the future, will maintain our professional growth. Accordingly, as Michalak et al forecast, “the essence of contemporary goals and values revolving around organization of information, universal access, collaboration, intellectual freedom and diversity of thought, self-directed learning, creativity, stewardship and preservation of knowledge, and responsiveness to user needs will be evident in everyday work practices of the future” (2012, p. 71).
I have expressed my commitment to contributing to the cultural, economic, educational, and social well-being of our global communities throughout my entire e-Portfolio. Through the coursework I have completed in the MLIS program, I have gained a deeper understanding of the core values of librarianship. Equipped with this knowledge, I have already begun applying it in practice, in my current work in an online educational environment at a university setting. At USC Shoah Foundation – The Institute for Visual History and Education, I managed 12 international web “portals”, which provide educational materials and other testimony-based resources for educators in French, Hungarian, Italian, Chinese, Polish, Ukrainian, and more. The international portals have grown significantly over the years in size and scope. Together with the USC Shoah Foundation’s international consultants, based in France, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, and Ukraine, I worked to coordinate the development of teacher’s guides and multimedia resources in different languages that utilize testimony from the Institute’s Visual History Archive, and then make them available in free, open access on the portals. Recent publications have included the Italian online exhibit Giving Memory a Future: The Sinti and Roma in Italy and around the World and the Ukrainian guide Where Do Human Rights Begin: Lessons of History and Contemporary Approaches. The portals provide excellent educational resources and multimedia for use anywhere around the globe— helping the Institute maintain a global presence in education.
Since August 2016, I have been working as a researcher, on a volunteer basis, contributing to the International Directory of National Archives project. The publication will be used as a resource by historians, researchers, and archivists with an interest in learning how nations protect their cultural heritage and make that information accessible to the world. The members of the IDNA work group will research and assemble descriptions of 196 National Archives in the world that are recognized by the United Nations. As a member of the IDNA work group, I work on the directory entries dedicated to the national archives of Ukraine, Poland, Hungary, and Czech Republic. The International Directory of National Archives is scheduled for publication in July 2018, in both print and electronic editions, by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Bell, S. J., & Shank, J. D. (2007). Academic librarianship by design: A blended librarian’s guide to the tools and techniques. Chicago, IL: American Library Association.
Michalak, S., Poole, N., & Sheble, L. (2012). The future of libraries and archives. In G. Marchionini and B. B. Moran (Eds.), Information Professionals 2050: Educational Possibilities and Pathways. School of Information and Library Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 70-73. Retrieved from https://sils.unc.edu/sites/default/files/publications/Information-Professionals-2050.pdf
Pressley, L. (2009). So you want to be a librarian. Duluth, MN: Library Juice Press.
Rubin, R. E. (2010). Foundations of library and information science. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers.
San José State University. (n.d.). MLIS Core Competencies (Program Learning Outcomes). Retrieved November 2, 2016 from http://ischool.sjsu.edu/current-students/courses/core-competencies