In this interview series, we ask our graduate assistants questions for our readers to get to know them better. Our first interview this year is with Ryan Yoakum!
What is your background education and work experience?
I came to graduate school directly after receiving my bachelor’s degree in May 2021 in History and Religion here at the University of Illinois. During my undergraduate, I had taken a role working for the University of Illinois Residence Hall Libraries (which was super convenient as I lived in the same building I worked in!) and absolutely loved helping patrons find resources they were interested in. I eventually took a second position with them as a processing assistant, which gave me a taste for working on the back end as I primarily prepared materials bought to be shelved at each of the libraries within the system. I really loved my work with the Residence Hall Libraries and wanted to shift my career to working in a library of some form, which has led me here today!
What are your favorite projects you’ve worked on?
I have really enjoyed projects where I have gotten to work with data (both for patrons as well as internal data). Such projects have allowed me to explore my growing interest in data science (which is the last thing I would have initially expected when I began the master’s program in August 2021). I have also really enjoyed teaching some of the Savvy Researcher workshops, which have included ones on optical character recognition (OCR) and creative commons licensing!
What are some of your favorite underutilized Scholarly Commons resources that you would
The two that come to mind are the software on our lab computers as well as our consultation services. If I were still in history, using ABBYY FineReader for OCR would have been a tremendous help as well as supplementing that with qualitative data analysis tools such as ATLAS.ti. I also appreciate the expertise of the many talented people who work here in the library. Carissa Phillips and Sandi Caldrone, for example, have been very influential in helping me explore my interests in data. Likewise, Wenjie Wang, JP Goguen, and Jess Hagman (all of whom now have drop-in consultation hours) have all guided me in working with software related to their specific interests, and I have benefitted greatly by bringing my questions to each of them.
When you graduate, what would your ideal job position look like?
I currently have two competing job interests in mind. The first is that I would love to work in a theological library. The theological library could be either in a seminary or an academic library focusing on religious studies. Pursuing the MSLIS has also shifted my interests in working with data, so I would also love to work a job where I can manage, analyze, and visualize data!
What is the one thing you would want people to know about your field?
Library and Information science is not a field limited to working in the stereotypical way society pictures what a librarian’s work looks like (there was a good satirical article recently on this). It is also far from being a dead field (and one that will likely gain more relevance over time). As part of the program, I am slowly gaining skills that have prepared me for working in data which can apply in any field. There are so many job opportunities for MSLIS students that I strongly encourage people to join the field if they are interested in library and information science but have doubts about its career prospects!