What do journalists and reference librarians have in common? As it turns out, quite a lot, according to master’s student Kelly Davenport. Both professions involve connecting people with the information they are seeking, whether it’s learning where candidates stand on an issue or finding sources for a term paper on the Underground Railroad. At least, that’s how former journalist Kelly sees it, as she draws parallels between her past career as a copy editor at the Tacoma (WA) News Tribune and her current role as “librarian-in-training.”
After earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia, Kelly worked in the newspaper industry for several years before enrolling in the MFA program at the University of Idaho, where she taught rhetoric and composition. But it was a part-time position as reference assistant at the public library in Pullman, Washington, that convinced Kelly her future lay in the library profession.
She began to research schools that would allow her to work in the library field while pursuing her master’s degree and found the University Library Associates program at the University of Michigan. “It’s the only program like it in the country,” she says. Associates study full-time for a master’s degree while working a 50% appointment in the university library and receive free tuition and a salary. She applied, was accepted, moved to Ann Arbor in the winter of 2010, and entered UMSI in fall 2011.
Now in her final semester of the MSI program, she has multiple projects to her credit. As a University Library Associate at the Hatcher Graduate Library, she conducts a variety of technology workshops on subjects like WordPress and research skills for first-year composition students.
In January 2012 she co-chaired the steering committee for the first Quasi-con, a UMSI student-led “un-conference” on the future of libraries. This year, she heads the planning committee for Quasi-con, which will be held on February 2 in North Quad.
She is social media coordinator of the ALA student chapter at UMSI. She taught a faculty-staff workshop on digital sign solutions during the 2012 Enriching Scholarship week and revised the library’s user services staff wiki to improve its search functionality. She’s also completed a project with the Academic Projects Center of Eastern Michigan University library, to help them assess their student learning outcomes.
At present, with a grant from the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, she is working with the English subject specialist at MLibrary to study the unspoken information literacy expectations among students and instructors in the English department writing program and at the library.
“As a reference and instruction librarian, I am always seeking the best balance among these roles in order to meet the needs of a unique user within a specific context,” she says. “Underlying my work is a belief that librarianship is fundamentally about facilitating the production of knowledge – a lifelong pursuit that I hope will energize students, faculty, and community members alike.”