SLIS Sneak Peek: A Roundtable at the University of Iowa

As an updated follow-up to our Library School Career Center piece featuring the University of Iowa’s School of Library Information and Sciences (SLIS), HLS Contributing Writer and Community Manager Kellee Forkenbrock moderated a roundtable with three SLIS faculty and staff members: Dr. Lucy Santos Green (Professor/Director), Katie McCullough (Program Administrator), and Jennifer Burek Pierce (Professor/Associate Director). Check out the video and transcript below:


Kellee: Hello, thank you for joining us for this roundtable with the School of Library Information Sciences here at the University of Iowa. I’m Kellee Forkenbrock. I am a second year student with the SLIS Program, and I am honored to welcome three people who are very integral to this program to talk about SLIS, to talk about its impact on our students and alumni, and to give you more insight into what they do every day. I’ll start by allowing them to introduce themselves. First, we’ll start with Dr. Lucy Santos Green.

Lucy: Hi, everybody. I’m Dr. Lucy Santos Green. I am the new Director here at SLIS, and Kellee will give you a little bit more info on that. Before coming to the University of Iowa, I was at the University of South Carolina and was a professor of Information Science there. And my personal passion is school librarianship and services for all people. Emphasis on all.

Kellee: All right, thank you, Dr. Green. Next, I would like to introduce Katie McCullough.

Katie: Hey, everyone. I’m Katie McCullough and I am the Program Administrator for the SLIS program here at the University of Iowa. I’ve been with the University for about 12 years, mostly in Student Services, so I continue that here at SLIS.

Kellee: Hi. Thank you, Katie. And last but not least, I’d like to introduce Jennifer Burek Pierce.

Jennifer: Hi. So, yes, Jennifer Burek Pierce. I’m a professor here in the School of Library and Information Science. I’ve served recently as Interim Director while we were searching for Lucy, and now I’m supporting her as Associate Director. I teach in a lot of different areas, but most of all, I work on library history. I work on communities of readers, looking at the types of materials that have historically been available in libraries and how our users and how our profession have responded to the questions, the issues, the passions, the priorities, and the sometimes controversies that emerge from those decisions.

Kellee: All right. Well, thank you all for agreeing to be on this panel for this roundtable. I’m sure we’re going to get some great information about SLIS from all three of you. Before we launch into our kind of question and answer portion, I wanted to reiterate that, Dr. Santos Green is our new SLIS director. You can read all about her and her vision for the program on the University of Iowa’s Graduate School website. There is an article that’s launched there. We’ll also leave the link in the show notes. We’ll also leave links to all of the ways that you can learn more about the SLIS program through our many social media channels and websites. You can always start at the University of Iowa’s SLIS website. You can also make sure that you’re checking your email if you are a student, a current student, of the program. Please be sure to check your University of Iowa email specifically. You should be connected to the SLIS listserv. If you aren’t connected to the SLIS listserv, please contact us and let us know. But you should be receiving emails from the listserv. It’s always important information that you should know specifically about the program that you may not be reaching from your other email channels or other social media networks. And also you can find both SLIS and LISSO, which is the Library of Information and Sciences Student Organization, online. You can find LISSO on Facebook. You can find LISSO on Twitter, and you can also find SLIS on Instagram, LinkedIn – which is specifically great for our alumni – and Facebook. So please be sure to reach out to us through the website, through email, or through our many social media channels and platforms so that you can get the most up-to-date information about the program at your fingertips.

All right, so we’re gonna start with the first question, I think, for career support information. What does the school do to support students and alumni as they look for jobs?

Lucy: So there are many things that university programs do in general and things that SLIS does specifically. We actually have access to a massive amount of resources in that way. ALA Joblist is a fantastic way to always keep tabs on what is out there. We also have just recently submitted our application to join the I-School consortium, and I’m especially excited about that because it means that our students and alumni are gonna have access to a job board of job postings on an international basis. So we’ll be able to look all over the world for job opportunities there as well. There are also other programs that do have very robust Listervs. ALISE is another one. I am the President elect of the Association of Library and Information Science Educators. And so there are jobs posted there as well. So, when you’re looking at all of these different job resources, probably the most specific thing that SLIS can do to support its students and alum is the one-on-one networking and advising that we do with students. People have very different career aspirations and ideas of what they want to do with their LIS degree, their MLIS degree. And the thing is, it’s not always a job that’s gonna be posted as ‘librarian’. There are all kinds of opportunities out there and titles that give you a chance to apply the skills that you get through this degree and through this program of study. And so, so it’s on us as faculty and as student advisors to work with students and help them kind of unearth those opportunities. Much of that is done through coursework too, um, where faculty go through these different kinds of positions.

Um, so I just wanted to kind of generally speak from that program level and that outward looking level. And then I think, like Katie mentioned earlier, um, our LinkedIn Pro, uh, LinkedIn is a great place to always be in touch, always networking, always sharing that information. And then the listserv: I can’t tell you how often I get people. In fact, I’ll be sharing one here after, um, our meeting where people will send out to the directors and they will say, Hey, there’s this internship opportunity coming up. Hey, there’s this job opportunity coming up. Please share with your students and with your alum. And we always put that out on the listserv, and we always share that on our channels too. So there is kind of that unofficial networking happening as well that we support. So I’m gonna kick it off to Jennifer so she can discuss from her perspective as well.

Jennifer: Yeah. One of the things that I would say about that is that every student gets individualized support and attention from our faculty. And in part that happens, I think as Lucy started to indicate, sometimes through our coursework. We’ve had in classes like the required intro class. We’ve often asked people to start working on a library or information organization specific sort of resume or CV and preparation of a cover letter for a job application for themselves. But then when you’re graduating from SLIS, there’s the required career portfolio exit assessment. And that exit assessment has you working one-to-one with a faculty member who you can meet with before you submit the portfolio. We have a guided ICON, or, if you’re not Iowa specific, a guided section that sort of walks people through and provides all sorts of information on how you prepare for a job search and present yourself professionally. And then you meet one-to-one with a faculty member who’s going to tell you what you’ve done that’s likely to be successful, and what you could do to make your case for that job that you’ve found that you’re super interested in now that you’re graduating, how you can make a stronger case for your ability as a match for that search. So those are some of the things that I think about when I think about how we’re supporting students as they move into the job market.

Lucy: Yeah, and the other thing about that too is, is part of that advising, part of those interactions is helping students develop a very long-term vision of what their career might look like. It’s not just about the job you currently have or the job that you’re going going to apply for on that day. It’s about equipping students to think about their career as,you know, a never ending list of opportunities. So we want students to have a very forward thinking perspective. We want to, to graduate people who are always thinking about how they can continue to develop professionally, how they can continue to look at, you know, new opportunities that they might pursue. And so, again, that’s why things like the portfolio are so important. That’s why we are always onto students about making sure you keep your resume and your CV updated. Always putting it out on that portfolio. You don’t just live for the job you currently have. You, you always live for that kind of dream situation that might be happening five to 10 years down the road. And so I really appreciate that perspective that our faculty bring to the table whenever they are discussing these things with our students, what they want to bring out. Katie, is there anything that we’re not touching on?

Katie: Just a couple of things. One would be every week, that those jobs, that Dr. Green mentioned, we do send out a list, one list a week of everything kind of compiled in one place with all the links that you need to apply and these types of things. So it’s a really good resource, to kind of a one-stop shop for some of the things that are out there in the world, if you wanna look. Additionally, in the past, we have also offered some, some training, some, diversity equity and inclusion trainings and implicit bias trainings and things like this to sort of, extracurricularly round out and discuss some of the things that students are learning in class too, and how that applies to libraries. So, if we do, you know, if and when we do offer those things, I would also encourage students to, to take advantage of them because it’s important professional development that’s something that SLIS and the University of Iowa, can support you on. Additionally, the Pomerantz Career Center here at the University of Iowa is open to graduate students and they can help you with your job search or with your resume as well. Um, they’re, they’re able, there are resources to have you take your professional headshot, for things like that so that you can have that to shop around for people or use it on your social media page. We would, you know, we can talk about that. Um, I myself, know quite a bit about, and, and so do our faculty too, about how to sort of put that social media image together. Cuz that’s very important in your job search as you transition from sort of student world to job world. Sometimes the, the face you wanna put forward to the, to the community is very different than what you might other, you know, what you did when you were in school. And there’s also at the University of Iowa, the handshake app where employers and employees can kind of hook up. So if you’ve not made a profile on Handshake at the University of Iowa, it’s a really good idea. and that information is all available through the Pomerantz Career Center here. And, if you have any questions about those things, I’m happy to send links so you can reach out to me.

Kellee: Fantastic. Thank you all for the explanation on all of the resources available to students. I imagine that, some folks who are listening in and watching this are also alumni or soon to be alumni like myself, who will be graduating at the end of this semester. What do you think is the best way for alumni to use the career help provided, by UI SLIS?

Lucy: And so one of the things that we are really working closely with our IT person here at the graduate college is to create a very robust, um, communication venue with our alum. So if you’re an alum, we will be contacting you, we will be reaching out, asking you to update your email with us, asking you to update your contact information so that we can be reaching out. And my hope is for us to generate an alum listerv so that we can go ahead and start really communicating directly with our alum even more frequently. In the meantime, the LinkedIn situation, I know Jennifer can speak to that is quite powerful and people do connect on that and on the social media accounts that we have. So always make sure that you’re reaching out there. My understanding, and perhaps I’m wrong, but I do believe that you can hold onto your UI email for quite a while after graduation. And so you can still access some of those resources in terms of the opportunities that are shared through the student channel.

Jennifer: Um, as Lucy was mentioning, you know, we have a robust intersection of people and voices and people who have graduated at different points and professionals who are invested in our program, and that’s happening on LinkedIn. And I can also say that, you know, like I have students who sometimes they’re, they’re really holding out for that, that just right position. And I, you know, we don’t drop our grads like a, a hot potato just because they cross the finish line. I, I know, you know, myself and a number of faculty have, have continued to sort of work with people while they, work to find that their, their next place that they’re going to from SLIS, even though they are technically graduated and technically no longer our students. I mean, I think we feel that, you know, once you’re in SLIS you’re always in SLIS.

Lucy: Yes. And the other opportunity that is available to alum, and I certainly encourage alum to take advantage of this, we will always have a presence at our state library conference. We will always have a presence at a ALA. If you are a teacher librarian, we will always have a presence at AASL. So when we go to these conferences, we will be reaching out, letting people know, Hey, alum, we’re gonna be there. Come join us for this, you know, unofficial get together dinner or join us. We will be presenting in these sessions. Come talk to us, come connect with us. So we’ll always be reaching out to let people know where faculty are presenting, where, um, staff are putting on, you know, any kind of work so that alum can connect with us. I’m also a big fan of co-writing, co-presenting with alum. And so, I think you’ll notice that as faculty are putting in new grant applications, starting new research projects, it’s always, a kind of a top thing in your mind as a faculty member. Like, I’m gonna reach out to my alum, because they are on the front, you know, front end of the work. They are our most up to date informants when it comes to practice. And so we always want to be able to inform our research with their perspective, and we are always calling on alum to collaborate and work with us in this way. So again, when you get that little love note from us saying, Hey, update your info, we wanna talk to you. Um, please update your info, please join us on LinkedIn, join us on Instagram, join us on Twitter, and, and remain connected with us because we certainly consider you part of this SLIS family.

Katie: And I will add too, so you get your email for two years after you graduate your email, so pay attention to that. Um, and also, again, that Handshake that’s available. And some of those resources at Pomerantz are available to you as alumni as well, not just students. So, my biggest piece of advice for alum, you know, kind of engaging as well is, is, reach out, reach out to your professors, your former professors. That’s what they’re there for. And I know that sometimes can be scary or not scary. We’re not scary, but like , um, we, that’s, we want to do it and it’s, it’s not a problem.

Lucy: Mm-hmm.

Katie: So, do remember that.

Kellee: All right, great. So we’ve talked about students, we’ve talked about alumni. With the onset of the pandemic, online and remote learning has been become more and more closer to the norm. In fact, with, UI SLIS in particular, a lot of the programs have been able to be either hybrid or online only.

Lucy: Mm-hmm.

Kellee: What are your suggestions for students and alumni, who may not even live in the state of Iowa? Uh, how they can engage, with UI SLIS best as remote or online students?

Jennifer: Um, you know, how, how do you connect? What do you do? Well, one thing I would come back to is LISSO’s history of outreach in that respect. You know, I’m used to LISSO having, awareness of their fellow students who are not on the third floor with them. Making meetings available online, trying to record programs for, people who might be at work during the day and missing that person who’s gonna tell you about how they read your CV when you apply for a job and things like that. So I would say one thing is, is take advantage of LISSO’s support for the online cohort. Some other things I’d point to, many faculty have online office hours and even just, you know, you don’t have to have a, a formal question to arrive at office hours. You can pop in for just a few minutes to the, the Zoom office hour session to say hello and help put a, a face and name together with that faculty member, uh, to start facilitating your communication with us.

Lucy: Yeah. We also have a really long list of, of amazing resources available to our online students. The Writing Center has, targeted services for online students. We have an entire series of videos that will help you navigate the learning management system, if you’re having any kind of issue at all. We have a very fantastic ITS group that will help you with tech support. We have policies for behaving appropriately online and being treated appropriately online. So if you need some guidance in that way, and a whole system for, you know, expressing your engagement with other students in online spaces. So it is possible to have a very robust and rich community experience, whether you’re here with us physically or you’re joining us online. But again I just wanna reiterate, that the, the increase in online learning and the increase in that as a delivery mode, as an expectation, we’ve been tracking that for years and every year it goes up, it has never gone down. And so this is really becoming not only a part of our learning lives, it’s, it’s becoming a part of our professional lives. And, and that’s why it’s, it’s kind of a dual effort for SLIS. It’s about bringing in, building that community, staying connected, getting those resources, but it’s also about equipping students to move forward with the skills that they need to be, again, ever developing, ever growing, ever achieving professionals.

Kellee: All right. So I wanna talk a bit about the program itself because, we know that the main focus of the SLIS program is the MLIS, the Master’s of Library Information and Science, but there are several other certifications and other programs intertwined with that. Can we talk a bit about those?

Jennifer: We have had a longstanding partnership with the University of Iowa’s Center for the Book, and the Center for the Book is dedicated to material culture and to the making of books to artist books as a way of expressing and engaging with texts and with textual materials. so through a certificate that we usually shorthand refer to as the BLISS certificate, I think it’s books and libraries, um, in information systems or something. I forget exactly what that acronym stands for, but, shorthand, it tends to be the BLISS Certificate. And so that allows students to complete our MLIS and to do the certificate on top of it with a reduced number of courses required than would be if you had done them like sequentially. we have a number of students who pursue that option, and then they go on to work in special collections. Um, I’m trying to think, you know, work as curators and archives and things like that because of the book material training. You know, there, there are courses in conservation, there are courses that support that certificate, uh, that are in like material analysis of rare books and things like that. Um, there’s also a joint degree with the Center for the Book, where it’s our MA and their MFA, again, a reduced number of courses than if you were to take each degree separately. And again, you know, people pursuing, you know, very similar types of paths, but with a, a more enriched and more extensive, engagement with those material book learning options that the center provides. More recently, we have developed in-house a special collection certificate that you add on, again, to the MA that we offer. And again, as is the case with most joint degree or joint certificate offerings, fewer hours when taken together than they would for each separately. And that is a certificate that is fully available online. So if you are not someone who’s resident in Iowa City, but you’re interested in special collections and the types of knowledge needed to practice in that area of the field, then our special collections certificate is a great option. It’s a new option. It’s led by Colleen Theisen who has many years of experience at top notch collections, both the University of Iowa Special Collections and also Syracuse’s Special Collections. Someone who is recognized by ALA for her leadership in communication practices, for outreach, for special collections libraries. So we’re really, really proud and excited to have Colleen anchoring that area of our curriculum.

Lucy: Yeah, it’s fantastic. We’re also, again, as part of our always ever growing analysis of what the job market is demanding, are pursuing other opportunities with other programs, very, some exciting things on the horizon for some dual degrees that are coming out. We have a new law course, specifically for people interested in law librarianship. That’s gonna be coming up pretty soon that we’re working with the law school. One of our alum, in fact, one of our alum is the one that is putting this together. So we have all kinds of fantastic, things on the horizon. And I, I can’t confirm them yet, but I will the minute they’re out there, but we are always looking at ways that we can equip our students to, again, have the most broad, expansive ability to visit that job market and have a really fantastic list of options for their career.

Jennifer: Yeah. Because we do also have that joint degree with the, the JD and the law school mm-hmm. . we have a certifi-, well, it’s just not a certificate, it’s certification of people as teacher librarians who wanna work in the public schools and the libraries that they have. we’ve got a number of interesting certificates and concentrations in addition to the, the primary MA in LIS.

Lucy: Mm-hmm.

Katie: And I will add that the University of Iowa, the Graduate College of which we are a part, does offer several types of several certificates, if there’s a specific area in another department that you’re interested in, if it’s something you wanna do, you would work with your advisor, add on to your SLIS work with certificates in digital humanities or other things like that. We also have an undergrad-to-grad program. for undergraduate students who are interested, starting your even first year, second year of, of your undergrad, is time to come meet with us and talk to us about the undergrad to grad program, because you’re really gonna kick things off in your third year, once you’ve hit 60 credits, basically at the University of Iowa. So, something very interesting as well.

Lucy: Yeah, fantastic opportunity to graduate after five years with your undergrad and your masters. Mm-hmm. . So talk about a time and a money saver. That is a fantastic option. So we do encourage you if you’re an undergrad or if you know an undergrad who might be interested in a career, um, with MLIS potential, then send them our way.

Kellee: All right. Well, I think this was an awesome conversation, chock full with information about the SLIS program. Before we sign off, I want to give you each an opportunity to add any additional information that you’d like about the program, or any, pieces of advice, that you would give to current or prospective students of the SLIS program.

Jennifer: I think that part of what I have in mind is, is our alums, you know, looking at where people have gone from SLIS because, you know, like I know Kellee, you have done some things even as you’re wrapping up your education that have earned notice from ALA and have been supported by ALA and yeah, we’ve got, you know, so we’ve got people like you. We’ve got another recent graduate, uh, to me, everyone’s recent at this point, you know, like everyone’s graduated, you know, but, but we have a recent graduate who’s now a library director in Minnesota. Madeline Jarvis, she’s someone who’s been identified and praised by ALA through its emerging leadership program. We have people like Andrea Koshi, who again, recent graduate, you know, and she’s done everything from, graduating with that joint, MA and MFA, with the Center for the Book, working in rare books with the University of Richmond, and is now a UX research librarian with LinkedIn. We have people running small libraries like Cindy Nicholson Davis, up in one of the corners of our state. She’s served on, advisory boards on rural libraries, helping provide the state and the governor with information about libraries. You know, so when I think about, okay, what advice, what do students need to think about? One is, is yeah, we have people who go amazing places. And so looking at our alums, looking at the different career paths that people have, the opportunities and the things that they’ve been able to do, starting to reach out and maybe talk to those people. Like when we gather at ILA or ALA or just reaching out and connecting on social media or, or other library events. To me, that’s where you’ll see some of the really positive and powerful things that are possible when you join us in SLIS.

Lucy: My piece of advice would be, and I think this is fits so perfectly with what Jennifer’s talking about with our alum, is to not think of your experience in SLIS as a static end. Think of it as the beginning of your professional journey. We do not graduate people who immediately know all of the things, the first day on the job. We graduate people who are ready to begin their professional journeys, who come out of here with a strong foundation, with the skills they need to pursue their professional dreams. And so don’t think of your time with, with SLIS as a static, think of it as the starting point, and think of us as, as being really eager travel companions as you continue in your professional journey as you go on to do great things in the world and make it a better place. I know for me personally, that’s one of the reasons I’m, I’m in education still for the, the 20-something years that I’ve been in education, is because I, I hope that my small impact on my students translates into their massive impact on the world. So go out there and make an impact, folks, no pressure.

Katie: I will add to just from more of a like, logistical standpoint, cuz that’s sort of what I deal with , in my job, is communicate with us. Reach out to your professors, to faculty, staff, learn, meet, find ways to network with people who work in our library system as well and, and ask faculty to make those introductions. If there’s something that you’d like, or you know, to, to, to learn from somebody. Do not be afraid. That’s, this, of all the faculties I’ve ever worked with, this is the most supportive and uh, kind of cheerleader faculty that, that I’ve worked with in terms of helping the students. And, and if you’re having a problem, come to us and it’s better to be proactive in those types of things than it is, to let yourself get overwhelmed. Or if there’s something you want or some path you need to find or anything like that, you will find a very supportive and wonderful group of folks here looking to help you. Cuz that’s, that’s why we do this, this is what we wanna do. So it’s a great place and a great environment, whether you’re virtual or otherwise. Mm-hmm.

Kellee: Well thank you all for, just, just so much information about, University of Iowa’s SLIS program. I want to repeat your names again so that everyone knows who you are. We have Dr. Lucy Santos Green, which again, you can read all about her being our new SLIS director on the University of Iowa’s graduate school website, Katie McCullough and Jennifer Burek Pierce. Again, I’m Kellee Forkenbrock, I thank you all for listening in and please be sure to contact us and get in touch with us on the University of Iowa’s SLIS website, as well as all of our social media platforms and websites. Again, we will leave those links in today’s show notes, and we look forward to hearing from you and hearing more about your thoughts about the University of Iowa’s SLIS program. Have a great day.

Additional links for information about the University of Iowa’s SLIS program:

Kellee Forkenbrock is an MLIS student at the University of Iowa (May 2023). She also works full time as the Public Services Librarian for the North Liberty Library (North Liberty, Iowa), assisting with the management of part-time staff as well as serving as the community engagement liaison for the library. Kellee has spoken about library outreach and engagement on behalf of organizations such as the Association for Rural & Small Libraries (ARSL), the Entrepreneurship and Libraries Conference (ELC), EBSCO, and the American Library Association (ALA) Conference. In addition to pursuing her MLIS, Kellee is also in pursuit of a certification in Digital Humanities. Her twenty-plus years of professional experience includes project management, public relations, and multimedia advertising. Kellee is active in her community, having lent her service to the Iowa City Public Library Board of Trustees, Girls on the Run of Eastern Iowa, and currently as an Ambassador for the Iowa City Area Business Partnership as well as a UNESCO City of Literature Board Member. Read more about Kellee on her LinkedIn profile.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s