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Library and Information Science Advising Program

Graduate profile: Maria Ford, Augustana Class of 2010

Maria Ford is the library director for the Tremont (Ill.) Area Public Library District.

She says:

"I loved writing and painting, so I decided to double-major in English/writing and studio art. I enjoyed these classes, but I didn't know what I was going to do with my degree.

"Meanwhile, I landed a job in the reference department at Augustana's library. There I found a place for my art skills: creating bulletin board displays for upcoming events. I also really enjoyed working with the librarians. I decided to go into library science, with the thought that if all librarians were even half as awesome as the ones at Tredway Library, it was a field worth pursuing.

"I received my master's in library science from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and was hired as the director of a small rural library. During grad school, I worked many different jobs and learned about all the different aspects of library science. Since I like all the parts of being a librarian, I wanted a job where I could do a little bit of everything — and so a small library was perfect. Work is exciting because I find it challenging and rewarding.

"Why Augustana? Library science and a liberal arts education go together perfectly! Back as an art and English major, I would have laughed if someone had told me I would end up in a job where I had to do accounting. Despite my dislike for math, I took a practical math course, and I am so glad I did. Even writers and painters need to know some math... and library directors definitely do. My liberal arts education helped prepare me to be ready for all the many facets of my job.

The liberal arts education Augustana offers is a good fit for students wishing to pursue a career in library and information science, a career which can be as varied as the types of institutions that employ librarians.

Librarians work in public libraries, educational institutions at all levels, hospitals, museums, newspapers, archives, and corporations such as Google.

Graduate programs in library and information science do not specify a preference for a particular undergraduate major. Accordingly, Augustana does not offer a pre-LIS major, minor or concentration, but does offer relevant courses and pre-LIS advising to assist students majoring in any discipline(s).

The key to preparing for graduate work in library and information science is a broad and demanding liberal arts education. Such an education develops the skills that will be needed for graduate study: critical thinking, reading and comprehending difficult material, writing and speaking clearly and conducting thorough research using sources thoughtfully and effectively.

Strong computer skills are highly desirable. Courses in computer science often are helpful since website and systems management, digital initiatives and database construction fall into the purview of librarian duties in many settings.

In many situations, librarians act as generalists or interpreters in a world of specialists. Recent Augustana graduates now working in the field strongly recommend that students take a wide range of courses in many disciplines to broaden their knowledge base. Students also may choose to enroll in additional courses that will prepare them for further study in a specific area of library and information science. For example, a student interested in K-12 teacher librarianship or children’s librarianship may take children’s or adolescent literature courses, while a student pursuing a career as a hospital librarian may choose to take a number of biology courses.

It is strongly recommended that students interested in library and information science seek employment in a library, either at Augustana’s Thomas Tredway Library or at a public library in the Quad Cities or the student’s hometown. If applying to work at the Thomas Tredway Library, students should indicate their interest in studying library and information science on their employment application(s). They also should consider setting up an internship opportunity through the Community Engagement Center with a library of interest to them. These types of experiences are highly valued by graduate programs.

All students considering careers in academic, public, or special (e.g., corporate, law, or medical) libraries, K-12 media centers, archival or special collections work, information science, or museum studies should contact Connie Ghinazzi, librarian outreach coordinator. Students interested in becoming a teacher librarian (K-12) and seeking teacher certification also should meet with an education department advisor.