141: Pursuing a Master of Library Science and Bilingual School Librarianship with Jeffrey Merino

141: Pursuing a Master of Library Science and Bilingual School Librarianship with Jeffrey Merino

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141: Pursuing a Master of Library Science and Bilingual School Librarianship with Jeffrey Merino

This week our special guest is Jeffrey Merino who discusses the process of pursuing a master of library science and a career as a bilingual school librarian. Jeffrey has experience as a bilingual school librarian for a Kindergarten through 5th grade elementary school. He has also taught in the classroom as a dual language educator.

 

In this episode we discuss:

– How an undergrad job as a research data collector led to him working in elementary schools and switching his major to elementary education

– The need for more bilingual school librarians, male librarians, and queer librarians

– The benefits and challenges of being a school librarian and the many skills that librarians learn related to research, technology, and leadership

-And advice on how to find library science programs and the wide range of careers you can pursue with that degree

 

You can connect with Jeffrey on Twitter (@jmerinoedu) and Instagram (@makingthesebookstacks).

 

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Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

Welcome back, everyone, to the Grad School Femtoring podcast. This is Dra. Yvette, and today I have a really interesting episode, all about pursuing a Master of Library Science degree and bilingual school librarianship with our special guest.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

His name is Jeffrey Merino. He has recent experience as a bilingual school librarian for a kindergarten through fifth grade elementary school. Prior to that, he taught in the classroom as a dual language educator. Jeffrey has a Master of Library Science degree from Sam Houston State University, and a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from the University of Houston Clear Lake. He currently lives in Chicago, Illinois, but he plans to move back to his hometown of Houston, Texas. So if you know folks, if any of y'all are from the Chicago area or the Houston area, definitely reach out. Yeah, so that's Jeffrey. Welcome to the podcast.

Jeffrey Merino

Hello, thank you for welcoming me.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

I'm so excited to have you on the show. Some folks don't know that the reason I know you is because of you having been a listener. So I love that. I love that you're on the show now.

Jeffrey Merino

Yeah, I've been following since the very early days. I think I might have been either in my graduate program, and I just wanted to be in a space or surrounded by a space of just all the support. I think when I found your podcast it was like a way to decompress, and know that there's someone out there that's looking out for first generation, BIPOC individuals that are trying to navigate higher education. It was always like, I definitely looked forward always when you dropped a new episode. It was kind of like a therapy session, just hearing the stories, your advice, and then the stories of others, and just knowing that, okay. Whatever I'm going through right now, you know, there is an end in sight. There's also other people that are just as ambitious and have goals like me. So thank you. Thank you for having me.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

Wow, that means so much to hear. Thank you, Jeffrey. It's really nice to turn the tables around, and now have you as a guest and for you to share your wisdom and your experience. For the folks that don't know you, I would love for you to get us started by telling us more about yourself, your backstory, and also how you ended up going into the field of Library Science, of all fields.

Jeffrey Merino

Yeah, of course. I think my start with education definitely began during undergrad. I worked as a research data collector, out in Houston for the University of Texas Health Science Center system. Specifically, it's a research institution known as the Children's Learning Institute. And for me, it was just really like, you know, I just really need a job during undergrad. I need some work. It worked, the job description talked about, you would deal heavily with children, interact with them during the week, during the school day. It worked out for me where I was able to do that. One of the projects- and back then my major- I was interested in science, specifically environmental science.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

You say Science in Elementary Education, that's a real specific major.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

Yeah, yeah. At first, I was interested in just environmental science. I was looking to see like, oh, maybe I can go into environmental public health at some point. But I got into being a research data collector, and I would go and they would send me to schools. I would spend sometimes the whole day in a school, like a whole school day, and work with really young children pre K and kindergarten. I would observe teachers for our research, collect a lot of qualitative data, and then bring it back and talk at the office.

Jeffrey Merino

It was during that time that I was like, I really enjoy being here. I enjoy working with the children. And I wonder if- and at that time, I was also volunteering. I just wanted to volunteer. I was volunteering in Houston Independent School District. They have a program- and I think they still currently have it-which is called Real Men Read. And that program, they didn't initiate the program. It was started out, I think, in another urban education area. Maybe it was Philadelphia or New York. But with there was the same goal. They've noticed that children- specifically boys, males- in elementary school, all the way up to at the end of high school, that they are not really as interested in reading, as maybe girls or females in the school system. The point for that is for them to bring in male role models, community male role models, from many different backgrounds, just to come in and share their passion for reading. Which I did have, definitely, back then. I've always been a reader, I think, from my very early days. I was volunteering, so I was at a school a lot.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

It was those two experiences. I was like, I really enjoy being in the classroom. I wonder if I can switch my major to elementary education. And when I did, I definitely had to complete-there was very few classes that transferred over from my environmental science background to education. But once I got in, I kind of like powered through. I really enjoyed learning very specific coursework, like teaching science to elementary age students, or the science of reading. I really started to notice back then that I gravitated toward teaching language arts, because that's something that I enjoyed as a student myself. I was like, I'll be able to teach that.

Jeffrey Merino

So that's how I got started. I changed my major, like I mentioned, to education, and then I finished up my Bachelor's in education. I was able to get a job right before graduating. I know in many states in the US, trying to hire qualified fluent bilingual English and Spanish teachers is sometimes hard to come by. Different school districts around the US, they have different ways of attracting them. Some even go as far as definitely trying to recruit them from abroad, like from Spain, or Puerto Rico. There is a need. So for me, I was able to get where I was doing my student teaching that final semester, that's where I started. I started teaching first grade, dual language two way. That's where I began.

Jeffrey Merino

It was during that time, when I was teaching first and second grade, that I again noticed that I really gravitated towards- I enjoyed teaching all my subjects that I had to, because I was self contained, meaning I taught language arts, math, and science and social studies. But I really enjoyed my language arts block with my students, and just seeing them grow as a reader. And I was always in the library, my school library. I was always in there looking for resources, talking to the librarian, trying to bring her to collaborate with me on co-teaching certain things. She was all for it, because she would tell me, this is the kind of work that she enjoyed doing, and she was also a former teacher.

Jeffrey Merino

It was her that actually mentioned to me-she was like, you know, have you ever thought about pursuing a Master of Library Science? At that point, I was like, I want to do something. I see myself, at some point, being out of the classroom. Still in education, but just helping other teachers, or working on a larger scale in a school, and not just contained in my own classroom. So I looked into it, and in Texas, we have a few universities that have a librarian and information science degree graduate program. I decided to do the same one as her, which was Sam Houston State.

Jeffrey Merino

I applied and I got in, and that program really, definitely, changed a lot for me. It was great for me to be able to look at the coursework that I was doing in my classes. Immediately- and I think the students that I taught those two years that I was doing my graduate program, the second grade and fifth graders. They really benefited, because it was just a lot of resources and strategies, different ways of presenting all types of different genres and fiction to them, research skills. They really were my testing. Everything that I wanted to do, as I forsaw as a future librarian, Iwas like, I was going to do it with them. And they really enjoyed it. So that was my way of how I changed my major, from environment science to elementary education, and then into being a librarian.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

I really like hearing- I actually didn't know about that connection between you going into teaching and then having this kind of collaboration with a librarian who then motivated you to pursue that degree and that career. I really like hearing people's backstories, and knowing the impetus or the catalyst or the multiple kind of moments that inspire that transition. And you're here to talk about not just being a librarian- was this person bilingual by any chance?

Jeffrey Merino

Yes. Yeah.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

Oh, interesting.

Jeffrey Merino

That's something also, she's still the librarian on my former campus. But yeah, that's something that we kind of bonded on. We would commiserate over- you know, even though we worked in a school district that was very supportive of their bilingual teachers or dual language teachers, we noticed that out there, there wasn't still- this was a few years ago- just a lack of resources for Spanish speaking students, bilingual students in our school district, or even the state of Texas.

Jeffrey Merino

But yeah, she is bilingual and that's something that was brought up. She was like there's very few- well, a few things that she brought up. She was like, there's very few bilingual- whether they be public librarians or even school librarians, or even if they work in academic libraries or special libraries. But there's also, when it comes to education as well, there's few male librarians. So she was like you'd be a very interesting fit, maybe for some campuses, being for one, a male, bilingual- if it came to be known- Queer, school librarian. I was like, wow yeah.

Jeffrey Merino

So that's something we definitely bonded over. Even now, a few years into being a librarian, I still haven't met- I've met more monolingual, or non bilingual school librarians, even being in Texas. I actually just came back from the 2022 Texas Library Association, our annual conference, and even there, there's very few that are out there, compared to our English speaking counterparts.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

Right. It's true that there aren't enough bilingual librarians, and then I can imagine too, Latinos who are librarians. And not everyone who identifies that as Latinx isn't necessarily bilingual either. So you kind of have multiple identities in which kind of, there is a lack of representation in the field, so I can understand why this other library was trying to recruit you.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

But can you tell us a little bit more about that experience? In your case, once you started doing the work, what was it like being a librarian that's bilingual? Can you tell us a little bit about the things that you enjoyed, maybe some of the challenges? I want to hear, because there might be people listening to this podcast thinking, wow. That sounds like a really amazing career choice. But you having lived and experienced it- no career is ideal. No career is perfect. There are things that keep us in that role, and there are things that maybe make us want to pivot. So in your experience, tell us a little bit more about that experience, whatever you're comfortable sharing, you know, the good and the not so great.

Jeffrey Merino

Yeah, so when I even looked into applying, and that's something we can get into a little bit later, as far as choosing your program. I chose a program that definitely tailored its instruction specifically to classroom teachers, to make them into school librarians. For this program, one of the requirements was that you needed not only a Bachelor's, but you needed at least two years of teaching experience before you even applied, which I did have. That's one of the things that they definitely wanted to see, is that you were certified- this being in Texas- you were certified to teach in Texas, whatever grade level or age group or grade level group that you're certified in, have two years of teaching experience. Letters of recommendation from your administrators as well, because you're moving into a graduate program and into a leadership position. Actually some, I don't have that experience here in Illinois, but in Texas, when you look at the administration of some schools, especially elementary schools, sometimes the school librarian is considered a campus administrator like in that hierarchy.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

Oh, their title, their job title.

Jeffrey Merino

Yeah. Sometimes when you see the school administrative team, it'll be, of course, the principals, assistant principals, a counselor, and then sometimes a librarian. So they are sometimes in there making decisions. It would happen sometimes where, at my former campus, you know, the principal was out, maybe sick or taking care of personal matters. The assistant principle was at a meeting the whole day. The counselor was away at another campus, so they were like, well. Our person in charge for the day is the librarian.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

Wow.

Jeffrey Merino

She was like, I'm the next one up. That sometimes would happen. That was something interesting to see. So when I applied to the program, that was something that was mentioned in there, that you would take on probably a leadership role within your school campus, depending on, of course, where you're at. Yeah, so I applied. I, of course, looked at- I wanted to see what kind of coursework I would be doing, because I was like, I wonder what it would entail as a library science degree. I was like, it couldn't all just be all about reading, or all about trying to push literature out to students. And it isn't.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

That's what it seems like.

Jeffrey Merino

Yeah, it's definitely- you learn very technical skills, very, of course, professional skills that are, later of course, transferable. But you know, some of the things, of course, you do get introduced to is children's literature, young adult literature, middle grade, and then of course, finding those resources of how to keep current. Because there's so much that's being produced, which is great. I think it's definitely a different experience than what I had growing up. Now, you know, there's different literature for -there's still, of course, a gap- but they're definitely more representative of what's in our classrooms in the US.

Jeffrey Merino

Something that I learned to do is research design and methodology. That's something, of course, that a lot of graduate programs probably focus on. Because we are doing research at the graduate level, so finding a problem in our field. Mine was how dual language instruction- how the library supported that dual language instruction. But you also learn digital technology, because sometimes- and I haven't had this experience- but sometimes some campuses, the library.

Jeffrey Merino

That's, I think, a con for me, would be not only are you the librarian for a campus, but some librarians, you're the librarian, and all that entails, but also you're like the digital technology culture. You're in charge of all the digital devices on the campus. I think that's definitely a lot to ask for one person. People that go into a library- a school library- sometimes, it's unfortunate at some places and that was my experience. I was by myself. I had no library assistant, and people would come into the library and be like, wow. This place looks amazing. It's always organized. How do you keep it up? It's a lot to keep up.

Jeffrey Merino

Think of all these books that go out, and in. It's constantly changing. I would tell my students-because I was in the specialist rotation at my school. That meant that I saw the whole campus once a week. I was with the art teacher, the music teacher, the gym teacher. So I was part of a special, and I would tell them, I'm different from your other special teachers, because I'm the only one where you're usually checking in devices, checking in books, materials, checking them out. They have to go back on the shelves in an organized manner. So I'm, like, when you go to art, sometimes you're not really checking out, like let me check out all these art materials, take it home and do a project and then bring it back. Maybe some places it is, but at my school it wasn't.

Jeffrey Merino

I can only imagine places that- luckily, I was at a campus where we did have a separate technology coach and people that dealt with the technology. But I really feel for those school librarians that have to do all of it. They have to be in charge of the Chromebooks, but also be in charge of maintaining order in the library, and then doing lessons and co-teaching with teachers. That's, I think, a con of the profession, of some places that some people, they find themselves in the school library.

Jeffrey Merino

But yeah, some of the great benefits is, like I mentioned, you learn a lot of really great skills, working with students from early age, pre kindergarten, kindergarten, all the way up to twelfth grade. You learn what it means to organize a collection. You learn what it means to develop a collection.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

Is this what you learn when you are studying, in training? Or is this something you learn on the job?

Jeffrey Merino

Both, you definitely learn the theory in your coursework. There was, I think, four of my courses were definitely just dedicated to organizing a collection, cataloging. We definitely learn the Dewey Decimal System, the different classes that fall under there, but we learn Library of Congress cataloging, academic cataloging. We get introduced to all that. It just depends on what kind of library you work in. Some places now, they have genre find to make it a little bit easier for students to find books based on what kind of genre that they're drawn to, if they're like historical fiction, science fiction, animal stories. You learn lots of different techniques.

Jeffrey Merino

But you really learn on the job once you're a librarian, because you make that library your own. But yeah, so I definitely looked at the coursework to see what I'd be learning and all of it, like I enjoyed every single one of my classes. That's also what got me through my degree, is continuously being hungry for that information to eventually become a librarian and put into practice.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

Hearing you talk about almost like, not even a full day in the life, but some of the things that you do as a librarian, and what a lot of librarians are doing, I have so much respect and admiration for you. Because to have to do that and be on your own, without an assistant, without an aid, an entire library. I like to think that I'm organized, but that seems daunting.

Jeffrey Merino

Yeah, and it wasn't until I became a librarian that I would reach out to my former coworker, and I was like, I never appreciated all the work that you were doing behind the scenes to make the library look amazing. A lot of libraries now, not only is it a place for kids, of course, to learn research skills, and an appreciation for reading, but a lot of them are including what's known now as maker spaces. It's been makerspace movement for over a decade now, and some places, they have really well developed makerspaces, where kids come in, and then-

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

What is that? I'm sorry, I'm not familiar with the Makerspace.

Jeffrey Merino

So a MakerSpace- students come in, and again, it depends on what resources you have on your campus and in your Makerspace, and the money that you have to spend on it. But kids come in if they're interested in designing things, like having a vision of like, I'd like to make a necklace or a keychain using a 3D printer. We have that technology for the students to go through the whole process of using the software to design whatever item that they would like for themselves, and then see it be 3D printed.

Jeffrey Merino

They're being introduced to these very early STEM concepts in elementary, and then as they get older, if they're lucky to have a makerspace, to develop Makerspace in their school, just even doing more things. Like creating a podcast- some places, that's something where they have actual recording studios for the kids. So it builds upon the interest of the students. If they're interested in maybe, you know, being a writer, some places, they have the materials for them to publish their own book, or make it online, and then have it published at their school library, if they have the resources. We definitely have a lot of like materials for kids to build with. Not only like Legos, but wooden materials, things that they can cut. There's quite a bit of crafts that go on as well, if they're interested in that as well. And then coding and programming.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

Oh, my goodness. How is this all part of being a librarian?

Jeffrey Merino

Yeah, so it is and it's interesting. I was one that definitely enjoyed it, so it also takes initiative from the librarian itself. You get introduced to that during your library science program, that this is how libraries are moving towards, the direction that they're moving towards. Like do you want to be the hub of a school that kids come to for all are their information needs? If they have ambitions, we want to play to their strengths, and motivate them to develop their full potential. Kids definitely, they really enjoyed coming to the library to explore all the materials that we had, and get introduced to, like I said, a lot of STEM concepts, the Fine Arts in the library. It's good to see that that's a direction that a lot of libraries are moving towards.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

That's really interesting, because it reminds me of really teaching kids to access multiple modes and multiple kinds of literacies. Not everybody is going to be drawn to a book. Some folks might be drawn to, you know, audio format. Some folks might be drawn to more kinesthetic ways of learning. And I had no idea that librarians were involved to this extent. That's both really interesting, fascinating, exciting, but at the same time, that's a lot to ask of an individual.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

I want to have you maybe go back, circle back a little bit more to talk about choosing a program. So if you're interested- you're like, wow, that sounds really cool, and not only do I love books, but I love learning. I want to learn about technology. How do you find a library science program? Because at least from my experience, I don't think I've seen many library science programs available. I don't know as much as you do, and I haven't been in the field. I'm just curious about that, about how do you find a program, and then to what extent do they support you in finding a job?

Jeffrey Merino

Yeah, so the best place to go to- because you definitely want to go to an accredited program that's accredited by the American Library Association, because we're here, for those people that are listening in the US. As far as outside the US, I'm not sure. That's something that you might have research.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

It's okay, I think 99% of my audience is in the US.

Jeffrey Merino

Yeah, so being in the US, you definitely would want to look into- there's a directory. If you go through the American Library Association, there's a directory of ALA- accredited programs in Library and Information Studies. Some places, it just depends on the type of program it is. But you might see somebody who has that they call it a Master of Library Science, or a Master of Arts in Librarianship or a Master of just Library and Information Studies, or information management. It depends on the program, how they'd like to call it.

Jeffrey Merino

But there are really, I guess, you could say, two strands. There's the programs that are accredited by the American Library Association. Then there are those that are accredited by what's known as the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. A lot of teacher preparation programs, they kind of follow that program, that model, or they're accredited by that unit. They're recognized by the American- we also have the American Association of School Librarians. So either one is fine for you to be in a school library, but something I think that I would have spent a little bit more time on is- here in Texas, we have, if I'm correct, five library programs. We have one at the University of Houston, Clear Lake. We have one at Sam Houston State University, University of Texas, University of North Texas, and Texas Women's University. I don't believe I'm forgetting one, but I think it's those five library programs.

Jeffrey Merino

But what I would have liked to have researched a little bit more on is maybe attending a program that's just solely accredited by the American Library Association, because I think with that one, it would open more- not that I couldn't do it now, but it would just open more opportunities for you to explore different types of librarianship out there. If you're interested in history, and of course, librarianship, maybe you could be an archivist, working in museum archives, working in a museum with archives. Or if you're interested in science, and medicine, and librarianship, you can work in a medical library.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

Now, you need to expand on this, because that's my follow up question. So wait, you don't just become a librarian? What can you do with a degree in library science?

Jeffrey Merino

So when you go through a program- it depends, again. The program that I went to, it was really tailored for school librarianship. All the information that we received, it's what you would get at any other program, as far as, like I mentioned, organizing a collection, research, assissting individuals with research needs, managing databases, or how to look through a database. But a lot of our information, again, was assuming we were going to work in a school, in a K through 12 setting.

Jeffrey Merino

But I know some colleagues, they go through just an American Library Association accredited program where, after their first year, after everyone usually takes similar coursework, foundational coursework that's foundational to the whole librarianship. Then they like to see- again, like I'm interested in maybe medicine, so I might want to look into what it means to work in a medical library. Or if I'm interested in science, or yeah, a medical librarianship. Or if I'm interested in history, then what does it mean to work with archives and photographs, documents, very old materials like books? Or if I want to work maybe only with digital media, then maybe looking into becoming a digital archivist or digital librarianships. It's after that, usually in those programs that they're not only limited to school librarianship. That's where you get to explore, and you work with maybe different colleges, different departments at the university to really look into that.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

I have so many follow up questions, because one thing leads to another. So you said digital librarian. What does a digital librarian do? How is that different from a regular librarian?

Jeffrey Merino

Yeah, so a lot of digital librarians they're looking to make a lot of their content accessible to people, that you don't have to be in person in their library. A lot of archivists do this as well. A lot of the preservation work that's being done for many years, it was definitely being preserved physically in one space. But as we learned with COVID, having access to things where you don't have to be in person, we've noticed that that's really beneficial for many different people in different situations.

Jeffrey Merino

I think that's exciting to see that within the next few years, a lot of institutions, universities, organizations, nonprofits, museums, they're like, we need to make our collections accessible to people outside of our community here. And we need to find people that are skilled in how to make our resources, you know, digitize them- not only for themselves, but also for posterity. Well, for themselves, but for posterity to have them, a digital collection out there. There's people that are very specialized in just digitizing an entire institutions collection. Whether that be scanning them, taking photographs, video, virtual- like a lot of virtual simulation of how you can experience some of the collections without, again, without being there physically, but seeing it.

Jeffrey Merino

I always get interested whenever I go to conferences, or I connect with other people that are in the library world, and just looking to see where their library background took them. Recently, that's something that I think I want to explore is getting into a special library, that's not academic, like meaning at a university, that's not public, and that's not a school library.

Jeffrey Merino

So, recently, I know when I went to the Texas Library Association the conference, there is a whole special libraries division of people that work, like I said, that work in a medical library. There's someone that mentioned- that I met recently- that they are a medical librarian, and they specifically help the dental graduate program of a certain university, and that they have dental students, dental school faculty that have come to them. They're like, we need to find either photographs, or archives, or research related to our very specific field, and the librarians are able to help them navigate the resources on their campus.

Jeffrey Merino

I met an individual that worked at a hospital, as a librarian in the hospital that works with not only patients but staff there. Again, how to make them meet their needs of- it's a lot of information, usually, like when someone is diagnosed with any kind of illness, and you want someone that knows how to navigate and kind of comb through lots of vast information and make it accessible, make it hopefully not overwhelming. It was interesting to hear that this individual, in a previous position, was working as an academic librarian. And something that I didn't really know is that academic librarians kind of also, depending on institution, they're on a tenure track as well.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

Oh, yes. I'm so glad you mentioned that. I am familiar with that, because I worked with librarians when I was in undergrad and in grad school, and someone once told me about that process of earning tenure as a librarian. I just don't know the details of that, but I found that super fascinating and interesting to learn. Not only can you be a university librarian, but you can specialize in an area of your choice, and then you can get on the tenure track. What can you share with us, more than what I just said?

Jeffrey Merino

Yeah, with that one as well, like I said, sometimes people find themselves in departments, like maybe the English department, or like the African American Studies Department. They don't always necessarily have their education background in that. Maybe in undergrad, they majored in history very broadly and then they got their library science degree. Then they started working for the university, but they somehow found their way into the African American Studies department, or they're helping the Asian American Studies Department, and they're that librarian for those departments. They specialize, they definitely learn how to develop the collection. They're always looking for books to add, not only recommendations from staff and faculty, but also using the resources that are out there. Like always being in the know of what's been published out there. They end up becoming experts in their departments, in their field. But through time, they pick up those skills.

Jeffrey Merino

As far as becoming tenure track, or if you're on a tenure track as a librarian, it was interesting for me to find out that there's some similar expectations placed on them, as you would probably place on a professor. They would mention like, they would sometimes have to teach a section, or they would have to present at conferences. They would have to continuously also put out research as well, and they mentioned they would have to do this because if they wanted to be promoted, they had to do this. They had to win these, get these points on their CV, or all these listings so that they could be promoted.

Jeffrey Merino

If not, then they could receive a terminal contract, and then have to find something else, either find another institution or find another line of library work. That was interesting to see. So that was something that this individual was saying, that's different from her job, which is now working in a hospital, in a medical institution. It's different, she just can focus on the needs of the people that come to see her, instead of always focusing on like, well, now I have to do research, or now I have to go present at a conference. Just a lot of stuff was expected from her.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

That's fascinating, to hear the parallels between academic librarians who are on the tenure track, and librarians in special libraries who are not necessarily on that same track. Also, I appreciate how much you're demystifying the field for us in that I will be the first to say that I have had friends tell me, oh, I would love to be a librarian. Every time I go to the library, the librarian is just sitting there reading. It makes it sound like it's such a luxurious and slow paced position. Like oh, it must be so nice to just be sitting around bookshelves all day, and get to read whatever you want, and help people when they need your assistance.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

But in actuality, there's a lot more that happens behind the scenes that we don't know about. And then also, I appreciate you sharing that actually, there's no one track per se. There are multiple things you can do with that degree, without necessarily being a school librarian or a university librarian. I had not thought about wow, you could work for a museum. You could work at a hospital. That's great.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

I would love for you to tell us a little bit more now, for those individuals that are really interested in this as a potential career path. What advice do you have to offer to them if they are current undergraduates, or early college graduates who are bookworms, or they find this topic of librarianship, but also information science and digital forms of literacy, and even everything else you said about learning about STEM and crafting and all these things. What advice would you have to offer to them?

Jeffrey Merino

Yeah, I think if you're currently an undergrad, or if you are in a job that you're like, I'd like to explore something else. If you have the skills- if you're someone that your friends come to all the time, that they're like, you know, you're really good at finding information for me. If you're really good at planning in advance. You really pay attention to a lot of details, or you really have a knack of just making lots of complicated information understandable for someone.

Jeffrey Merino

Then I think, yeah, you're someone that could be a really, really good librarian. Of course, if you enjoy reading, even better, because you'll do well in your coursework, because there's a lot of reading that you have to do. But it's something that you enjoy- and me, being a librarian, I don't think I've met any librarian that once they become a librarian, that they just stopped enjoying reading. I mean, maybe for their jobs- it depends, again, what kind of library work that they do. But that passion is still always there for them. Even so, it probably even grows even more.

Jeffrey Merino

But yeah, if you have those skills, where you want to always help individuals, because working as a librarian, usually, most lines of library work, you're working with individuals. You're working with people. Maybe not the public, but you're working with staff. The role of librarianship is, you know, making the library for all and making information accessible to your audience, whatever audience that can be. So if you're not a people person, then maybe no. Library science, library work is not working for you.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

Wait, you can't be an introverted bookworm who just hangs out by themselves in the corner of the library?

Jeffrey Merino

No, because you definitely have to deal with your audience. So if you're an introvert, you'd still be a good librarian. But you're gonna be put in situations where- libarians are definitely leaders in their profession. You're going to have to do anything from programming, like putting on programs, adult programs, youth programs, maybe in a school or public library sector, to putting on presentations. Again, you hold a lot of knowledge in whatever library field that you're in, and you're not just there- librarians aren't gatekeepers. If anything, they're tearing down the walls.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

Gate shattering.

Jeffrey Merino

They're gate shattering. They're not keeping the information for themselves. They want it accessible for the public, for their audience, for the faculty, staff. Whoever they're working for, that's part of their ethics that we develop. You're not hoarding this information. You want people to access it, and then you're always looking for gaps, and how to fill those gaps and connecting people.

Jeffrey Merino

If you check all those boxes, then yeah, looking into- again, like I mentioned- going through the American Library Association to find an accredited program. Some of them are even online. I did mine online. My practicum, where I was actually learning a lot of the skills was in person, but a lot of the coursework out there, depending on your program, they could be online or even hybrid, where some of your courses online, and some of them are in person. So yeah, looking to see that, and maybe there isn't a library science program near you physically where you can go for in person classes, but there can be definitely one online. You still learn lots of great skills, whether it be online. I think online education, you know, definitely with the pandemic we've seen that it's beneficial to different types of students.

Jeffrey Merino

And my professors, they were always accessible, like if I needed to meet with them in office hours, they definitely had them online. We would meet through video. I definitely received- especially towards the last semester of my program, I was meeting with professors two, three times a week. They were constantly checking in on me, because they're like, you're about to go into- and we want to make sure that you're successful. As you touched on earlier about finding a job, they're like, we want to make sure that you find a job, because this is a very specialized degree. We want you to find a job that you're comfortable in. For me, again, it was a school librarianship, so working in a school. But I imagine that any other library school, they are definitely looking to get their graduates into the library field.

Jeffrey Merino

Then from there, you know, you take it upon yourself to grow and meet and connect with people. And then people will shift, like I said, from different types of library systems, library fields. They take on different opportunities, and some move into management. Some move into executive director positions. Maybe they're not working or using the skills that they learned in library school, but they definitely start working on leading large projects, leading extensive research projects, moving into the directing position, management position, where they're supervising large groups of other librarians.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

I'm glad that you mentioned that, because you're telling us that there's room for advancement. It's not like you become a librarian, and then you stay in one place forever. I guess I'm noticing this across so many industries, that it's becoming harder to see that nowadays, of individuals working in one place and just staying there until they retire. I think that may still be true for some, but it's becoming less and less common. I'm not sure if that's true for librarians in general, but I'm seeing that in other industries.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

Well, I think that is really helpful advice. Hopefully, the job market isn't so bad for librarians, or as bad as it is for the tenure track job market in higher ed. Because it sounds like there are multiple options once you get the degree, especially like you said, if it's accredited by the ALA, so that's great.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

Now, for folks who really resonated with what you said, maybe want to follow up- because I can't imagine, like you said, that there are a lot of queer, Latinx, bilingual librarians out there. So if someone's like, oh, I need to connect with Jeffrey. How can they reach you?

Jeffrey Merino

They can definitely look me up through my Twitter account. I haven't been too active right now, but I usually do postings on there, definitely related to anything and everything about libraries. And it's just J, my last name, @JMerinoedu. I started that off when I was in my classroom. Then of course, through LinkedIn, if they want to connect through there. We can connect with other librarians or connect with aspiring librarians. And even my Instagram as well, I'll give you. It's just @makingthesebookstacks. You'll put that in the show notes, if they want to connect either way, or all the ways.

Jeffrey Merino

And if they wanna talk about- there is definitely funding. That's definitely something- well, sometimes hard for master's program. Usually when you move into doctoral studies, not that it's easier, but the funds are out there or more noticeable. But sometimes with master's programs, you don't always find that. But I was able to come through my master's program with almost 70% of it funded.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

That's really great.

Jeffrey Merino

So I don't have any debt, which is amazing.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

Wow, congratulations.

Jeffrey Merino

Thank you. I don't have any debt, but a lot of it was me having to find scholarships through my graduate school, but also external scholarships. The Texas Library Association, they have lots of great scholarships, because again, they want to advance the field and that's part of one of their tenements, is advancing the library science field. So they have scholarships for incoming or current students, and actually, the American Library Association, they also, like I mentioned, they want to work. Librarians, right now, it's a great place to be. Even with all the book bans, and the censoring that's going on in the United States right now. That's a whole different topic that could take a whole different episode.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

Yes.

Jeffrey Merino

But the American Library Association, they know that the field- for many years, the library science field has been very white. They actually have a program called Spectrum Scholars, where they are very generous to the individuals that become a spectrum scholar. You can actually apply before you even get admitted, or that you have been admitted to a library science program, where almost your whole library science degree could be well funded, and they would give you opportunities to attend the American Library Association Conference, which is always held every year, either in Chicago or in Washington, DC. Then they give you lots of advice and support on how to navigate looking for your first job and connecting. And that program is specifically meant for underrepresented, marginalized communities.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

I'm excited. I'm gonna add that to the show notes as well.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

It's the spectrum scholars, and usually people- it's a very small class every year. But the spectrum scholars, they're kind of like the people to watch, because within the few years of them coming in the library, they're the ones that are at the forefront in their programs. They win lots of awards. Just I think it really begins from that initiative that they take to apply to this program, all the mentorship that they receive, and even all the connections that they make. They do really well. The people that I've met that are a spectrum scholar, you'll meet them later on and they're like, librarian of the year in their department. They're movers and shakers. They're doing lots of different, great things.

Jeffrey Merino

So yeah, there's definitely funding out there. And even- like I once received a scholarship that was meant for individuals that are interested in records and information management. That's what I was- well, not necessarily records, but I was dealing with a lot of information, you know, managing lots of information, potentially in the school library, and I was able to win that scholarship. So there's money out there. It's just like any other graduate program, it's just spending time looking for one. It was almost like another class that I was doing. I would spend time looking for that money.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

I always tell people, treat it like another class or a part time job, and just include it as part of your curriculum and your ongoing deadlines. It really is necessary to minimize or hopefully, completely avoid having to take on any loans.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

I think you mentioned that, maybe you might have mentioned that in previous podcasts. I definitely saw it as an investment. Something that I would notice- with each application, if I would be rejected, it would be fine. But with each application, my writing got better because I would have to craft my narrative. Then when I would win the money, I was like, well, all the hours spent on it, it was worth it. It was like, I'm getting paid back for all the hours that I spent on navigating, trying to get the letters of recommendation, and applying. It was well worth it.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

I'm so glad to hear that. Well, it's been such a privilege and honor having you on the show. I'm just so happy that you were even willing to come, and to share about your experience, your wealth of knowledge, your wisdom. You know so much about this field. Don't be surprised if folks reach out to you. Thank you so much Jeffrey. It's been so nice having you.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

Thank you, thank you for having me. And definitely looking to connect with people, so don't feel shy. Even if it's a hi, or a hello, or you enjoyed it. Whatever it is, I'm willing to help.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

Yes, reach out to Jeffrey. Thank you.

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