Jane and Jessica Kahan

Alumnae Jane (left) and Jessica Kahan

Jane and Jessica Kahan, mother and daughter School of Information graduates, are second and third generation librarians, carrying on a career path forged by Jane’s mother, Marilyn Jawitz. Jane and Jess talked to UMSI Monthly about their love of books and their careers.

“My mom was my role model,” says Jane Kahan (AMLS ’79), a children’s librarian at the Wixom (MI) Public Library, where she’s known as “Miss Jane.”

“Mom attended Palmer Graduate Library School on Long Island while I was growing up,” says Jane. “She worked as the children’s librarian at the Babylon Public Library on Long Island from the time I was approximately eleven years old until I was in my mid-thirties.”

Jane also found other role models at an early age: her local public children’s librarian, Trev Jones; and her elementary school librarian, who read new, cutting edge titles such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Cricket in Times Square aloud to students.

Jane says her greatest joy in her job can also be her greatest challenge. “I love children’s literature as an art form, and so I cherish being the book buyer for the children’s collection at the library. My biggest challenge is finding a brand new book that will mesmerize the entire second grade class from Wixom Elementary on their annual class visit. This fall I read How Big Could Your Pumpkin Grow? by Wendell Minor and the children really loved it.”

In 1997, Jane was awarded the Michigan Library Association Children’s Services Division Award of Merit.

Jessica Kahan (MSI ’12) inherited her mother’s and grandmother’s love of books and reading and attended many local library programs during her youth, but didn’t decide to become a librarian until her twenties. An “aha” moment during a “History of the Book” course at Cornell University inspired her to follow in her mother’s footsteps and attend the School of Information.

Her time at UMSI was marred with sadness, however, as it coincided with her sister’s illness and death. “It was my sister’s dying wish for me that I graduate from SI on time, with my classmates,” says Jess. “I finished the degree on time, but I did not walk at graduation as my sister passed away quite literally at the time of the ceremony.”

Jess was recently appointed Acquisitions Librarian at the Charleston Library Society in South Carolina — the third oldest subscription library in the country and the South’s oldest cultural institution.

After hours, her hobby and passion is still book-related. While an undergraduate at Cornell University, she began collecting 1920s and 1930s romance novels, all in their original dust jackets. Her collection won second place at the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest in 2012.

“My collection focuses on the American women’s experience in the Jazz Age as well as the Great Depression. The romance novels I collect and read dance around issues of social status, working women, money, marriage, infidelity, and much more. These novels aren’t exactly fine literature, but they have striking cover art and chuckle-worthy plotlines.”

In December 2010, just as her first semester at UMSI was coming to a close, Jess was inspired to start a blog about her collection, “thegoodbadbook.” “The blog is in essence a multi-year reading project covering selected highlights from my collection.”

She fondly remembers comparing potential blog host sites with her tech savvy SI 501 classmates during a group meeting.

Jane Kahan also has warm memories of her time at the School of Information. “A group of us took the first nine credits of required courses together with around thirty other students in something called Block 9.” She is still great friends with two of those classmates. “Whenever we are getting silly, we shout stuff like ‘Block 9 Reunion!’ People may think that sounds like a prison cell, but we have fond memories of barely knowing each other then, and somehow managing to become the best of buds, ever after.”