Katherine Donaldson was the Librarian-in-Residence at the Loyola Marymount University. Her residency began October 2014 and ended November 2016. She is currently the Social Sciences/Education Librarian at the University of Oregon. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tell me a little bit about your background. Where did you attend college? What degrees do you have? What programs (undergraduate or graduate) prepared you for your current position? Tell me about your position and what you do?
I grew up in Portland, Oregon in an interracial family. I attended Macalester College, a liberal arts college in St. Paul, Minnesota, where I earned my bachelor’s degree in History with minors in English and American Studies. While at Macalester, I had a work-study job in the library for all four years, which I think exposed me to the idea that I could pursue librarianship as a career. I was fortunate to receive a scholarship award for a senior student employee who demonstrated an interest in librarianship. I then went on to earn my MLIS from the University of Washington residential program in Seattle, where I also held a variety of jobs and internships, both inside and outside of UW. After I graduated, I became the Librarian-in-Residence at Loyola Marymount University (LMU) in Los Angeles, where I worked for two years on a variety of projects related to reference and instruction, scholarly communication, collection development, and digital scholarship. Recently, I have started a new job as the Social Sciences/Education Librarian at the University of Oregon, where I serve as the UO Libraries’ primary liaison to the College of Education. I have many of the typical responsibilities of a subject librarian, providing information literacy instruction, collection development services, and research consultations for faculty and students in my liaison area.
Are you the first resident? What was your experience like?
I was the second resident LMU had ever hired. I completed rotations with the Reference and Instruction Services Department, the Acquisitions and Collection Development Department, and the Digital Library Program (one rotation focusing on scholarly communication, and one focusing on digital scholarship). Throughout my residency, I provided reference and instruction services and served on library committees. These rotations and responsibilities exposed me to a variety of types of library work but also allowed me to gain experience in the areas that I’d identified as being a priority for me. I was also given the same support for professional development as any other librarian and had the opportunity to attend and/or present at both local and national conferences, like ALA, ACRL, LOEX, the National Diversity in Libraries Conference, and the California Academic and Research Libraries Conference for example. I had a lot of freedom to decide which rotations I wanted to do and what types of projects I wanted to work on. Sometimes that freedom could be overwhelming, but I think I was able to balance what I wanted to learn with being open to new areas where I didn’t have very much experience or specific goals set. That balance was important because it gave me a much more well-rounded set of experiences and projects that I could talk about once I was on the job market again.
What would you say you have learned or applied most from your residency experience?
Having the opportunity to teach and observe my colleagues teach was very valuable. I was mostly looking at instruction librarian and subject specialist positions, so having practical experience to draw from helped me become a competitive candidate for a wider range of librarian positions. I think it also helped to gain exposure to issues of scholarly communication and digital scholarship through working with the Digital Library Program at LMU. These were topics I didn’t really learn about in library school but are very relevant for subject librarians to have some foundation in. I think having experience in those areas probably made me stand out from other early career librarian candidates. I look forward to continuing to develop my skills in all of these areas as I become better acquainted with the needs of the faculty and students in my liaison area.
Do you have any comments or advice for current residents?
One thing I would recommend for current residents is to try to get on a search committee if possible. I was able to do this at LMU about halfway through my residency and found it to be very eye-opening. You get to see how things work on the other side as well as learn from the entire application process. At the very least, attend candidate presentations if your institution is hiring and remember that your colleagues are there as a resource while you look for your next job. Going along with that, I think it’s very important to find colleagues both inside and outside of your institution that can serve as mentors or support. I was fortunate to be assigned a formal mentor at LMU and to have a colleague who was a former resident (as well as several other supportive colleagues). They all helped make my experience at LMU a meaningful one and served as a sounding board for me when I started my post-residency job search. You can also find support outside of your institution through professional organizations, some of which have formal mentorship programs or provide other informal opportunities to meet librarians in various stages of their careers.
How are you becoming or staying in involved with the wider profession?
I had the opportunity to attend and present at several conferences during my residency and I anticipate that finding these opportunities will also be important in my current position. I’ve been involved with the RIG web team throughout my residency and have found that to be a good way to stay in touch with the experiences of other early career librarians. I’m also on the ACRL University Libraries Section (ULS) Communications Committee. While at LMU, I also participated in the ALA Emerging Leaders Program, where I had the opportunity to work on a group project for the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA). Now that I’m in a permanent position, I look forward to continuing to be involved with some of these groups as well as looking for new opportunities related to my job responsibilities and the region I’m living in now.
Do you have any advice for graduates applying to residencies or jobs?
While residencies provide an opportunity to explore a variety of areas of interest, I think it’s also important to have clear goals for what you want to get out of your residency. Decide if a residency that allows you to rotate around different departments or a residency focused on particular job responsibilities is right for you. Even if you will be rotating, are there certain skills that you feel like you need to be more competitive in the job market? For example, I didn’t have very much practical experience with instruction when I graduated from library school, so I made that a priority while at LMU by volunteering to teach classes even when I rotated in other departments. I made sure to ask about this during my interview in order to determine whether the needs of the library and the opportunities they were offering matched my interests and goals. I would also say in general that it helps to be willing to move if you can, particularly if you live in a very saturated job market. It can be very hard to move away from your existing support systems, but it does give you more options.
RIG will feature a monthly interview with a current or past resident on the RIG blog. Please contact Twanna Hodge at email@example.com if you are interested in being featured.