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Margaret Keir
ePortfolio Reflective Essay


It was nearly two years ago that I began my educational journey at Dominican
University. I had just moved from Bloomington, Illinois to Elmwood Park with the sole
purpose of pursuing my Masters of Library and Information Science. I was more than a
little nervous; I had never lived so far from my family, I had never worked in a library,
and I had never wanted to attain any goal as much as I wanted to be a library
professional.
Growing up I was fortunate enough to have numerous positive library
experiences. My mother often took me to the Sulzer Regional Library when we lived in
the city, and it was there I received my first library card. Childrens librarians helped fill
my arms with books that I was all too eager to take. At my grade school, it was our
library media specialist who cheered as I finished my first chapter book.
As it has been said in many of my classes, early library experiences are among the
most formative. I have carried the memory of those encounters with me from childhood
to adulthood, and in considering a career path they had always been at the forefront of my
mind. It was in the library that I discovered a love of reading, of discovery, and the value
of information access.
Of course, my perspective on libraries and librarianship has changed significantly
since starting the program. Once accepted to Dominican I chose to focus on the Youth
Services pathway for children and young adults. I knew that specializing in that
particular area of the GSLIS program would enable me to best achieve my personal
career goals of aiding young people in realizing their love of learning and reading just as
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I had. I found the curriculum rigorously stimulating as well as extremely beneficial in the
field. I did take some courses outside of the typical Youth Services track, and found
them to be just as rewarding, and the skills and theories learned within those classes to
prove equally as meaningful to my context of librarianship.
In my first semester at Dominican, I took LIS 701 with Professor Janice Del
Negro. As part of my final project I (along with classmate He Tian) presented on The
Atlas of New Librarianship. Reading Atlas gave me a much clearer picture of
librarianship in todays world as opposed to the abstract one I had in my mind. I never
thought libraries were only about the books stored inside, but I knew people who did
think that. It is due to that foundational course that I began to be able to explain what
libraries really are to the misinformed. I truly believe, as Lankes does, that the mission of
librarians is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation. This is
something every librarian, public, academic, or otherwise endeavors to do in various
ways. This understanding is a substantial portion of my identity as a library professional,
and provides evidence of the first learning goal; Develop a professional identity,
including commitment to core values of LIS.
Understanding information is one of the most important aspects of the LIS field.
It is this expertise that sets us apart from all other professions. One of the artifacts I am
most proud of that supports the second learning goal, Understand the essential nature of
information and its relevance to society, is my final exam for LIS 703. I was extremely
nervous about taking the Organization of Knowledge course. Cataloguing seemed akin to
an ancient mystic language; full of symbols and rules I did not understand. Taking the
class with Dr. Snow made the importance cataloging clear, and though I may never be a
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cataloguer, I left that class with a much greater comprehension and appreciation for
cataloging.
In LIS 753 I took the courage I had gained in learning the language of cataloguing
in LIS 703 and applied it to learning web content languages. This was one of my most
challenging classes at Dominican. I spent hours pouring over html code. Sometimes it
was frustrating. I might accidently overlook inserting a crucial bracket or quotation mark
and suddenly everything would register as an error. But then I would realize my mistake
and correct it. The satisfaction of creating a website from scratch of my very own for the
first time is something I will always cherish. Perhaps even more importantly, coding is a
concrete skill that I can bring to whatever library I serve. We live in an increasingly
digital landscape and being able to create information within that context is crucial. The
creation of this website helps to illustrate goal three, Navigate, curate and create
information across the spectrum of human records from local to global contexts.
My LIS 718 class, Storytelling for Adults and Children, affected me in a number
of ways. Firstly, it had a strong performance component to it. I am not an overly
loquacious person by nature, and in the past had found public speaking to be intimidating.
That knowledge of myself propelled me to take the course because of how critical
communication skills are in this field. In retrospect, I wish I had recorded the stories I
told in class to exhibit as artifacts. There was such growth in the delivery of story and
confidence between my first and final one. I do however have the written work I
submitted for the class, which I selected for goal four, Synthesize theory and practice
within a dynamic and evolving information environment.
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In LIS 718 I wrote a number of annotated bibliographies of the books I examined
in order to prepare for telling stories. Preparing the annotations prompted me to consider
how the collections could be used in libraries, what stories could be used with what age
levels, and which ones would suit my style of storytelling best in practice.
As I mentioned earlier, I fully recognize the importance of communication in the
LIS field. Because of that, I included the syllabus created as part of a group project for
LIS 796, the International Book Fair course in Bologna, Italy. During the trip I tried to
take in as much of the experience as I could. I explored the Fair for as long as possible
each day as we there. I attended panels that discussed the use of fairy tales in
bibliotherapy, diversity in childrens publishing, and a fascinating author panel on YA
science fiction. I took advantage of the opportunity to visit a public childrens library in
Venice, Italy as well as the University Library of Bologna. This project was my largest
collaborative effort in the GSLIS program, and probably my largest collaborative effort
in general. We all endeavored to incorporate our best ideas, and sincerely listened to each
other. I gained new insights on the entire trip from the discussions I had with my fellow
classmates. I truly believe that the resulting syllabus exemplifies the amazing results that
can be attained through cooperation and teamwork, which is why I selected it as one of
my artifacts for goal five, Effectively communicate and collaborate to deliver, market,
and advocate for library and information services.
In reviewing all of my artifacts for this ePortfolio, I have come to appreciate the
interconnectedness of the all outcomes to the five learning goals. For example, my LIS
796 group syllabus demonstrates the negotiation of group dynamics, but it also could
show other outcomes for goal five, such as how I write, speak, and listen to attain
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common understanding. But it could also connect to other learning goals, such as
outcome 2b, Interpret information policies from local to global levels in relation to their
impact on intellectual freedom, access, literacy, and information behavior. All of the
assignments impacted my learning experiences in multiple ways, and though I do feel
that my artifacts more than suitably illustrate their desired outcomes, they had other
outcomes as well. Some clear and concrete, some intangible, but these outcomes will
provide me with a dynamic wealth of knowledge to draw from for the rest of my
professional life.
Thinking back on the past two years of library school for this ePortfolio has made
me realize just how far I have come as a person and a professional. When I began I was
user of libraries, but I had never actually worked or even volunteered in one. Currently I
work as a tween and teen associate in a local suburban library, and I find it very fulfilling.
I am in charge of the YA fiction, non-fiction, and graphic novel collections, and I love
applying what I learned in LIS 722, Materials for Young Adults, to the collection
development process. I feel that what I absorbed from that particular class has enabled
me to not only make better selections, but also be able to deliver successful booktalks to
patrons. Circulation of YA materials has increased greatly, and I am so happy that I am
able to help connect the teens of my library to the materials they want, need, and deserve.
I love being in a position to help people.
Aside from that position, I have also been lucky enough to gain practical
experience at other public libraries. Through a fellow classmate, I heard about the
wonderful opportunity Oak Park Public Library provides with its Storytime Internship
program. I applied and was accepted, and for about ten weeks in the spring of 2013 I
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performed storytimes in the library and at numerous local daycares. I really enjoyed my
time there, and the experience helped illuminate the connection between the theoretical
importance of outreach services discussed in many of my classes, to its practical
application. I also recently completed a mini practicum at the Forest Park Public Library.
While there I was able to help weed and rebuild their childrens poetry section, refresh
their early literacy tablets with new apps, and aid in research for their picture book
reorganization process.
I strove to gain as much experience in as many libraries as I could during my time
at Dominican, and I quickly realized how diverse library and information centers could
be from one another. The knowledge I gained in the classroom had immediate
applications. My coursework and practical experience make me confident in my decision
to pursue a career in youth services in the public library setting. I currently love working
with teens, in part because my own reading tastes lean toward the YA genre. However, I
could just as easily see myself working with younger children, as I believe children need
the strongest advocates, since they cannot advocate for themselves.
Aside from the artifacts in this portfolio, one of the greatest takeaways from the
GSLIS program will be the connections forged and relationships built with fellow
students and professors. I do not think I would not have come so far without their
guidance and wisdom. I am so glad I will have a strong network of other library
professionals that I can rely on for solid insightful advice. There will inevitably be
situations that prompt questions, but I am entering a field that is filled with professionals
who are eager to connect and share information. I am devoted to life long learning, and
am ecstatic to be part of a community that shares that passion. I truly feel that I have
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attained a mastery of the skills and knowledge necessary to provide excellent professional
service.