MSI student profile: Kelly Davenport

Kelly Davenport

Kelly Davenport: from journalist to librarian-in-training

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.”

6 thoughts on “MSI student profile: Kelly Davenport”

  1. I am a UM graduate and reference librarian, and have published four novels about World War II aviation, and I was immediately drawn to reading this article because one of the characters in my book is a bombardier on a B-17 bomber…and his name is Kelly Davenport. Needless to say, when I saw Ms. Davenport’s name, I was greatly surprised. My books are listed on the UM Alumni Association author’s section. You know how I came up with the name? In the 1940’s, Kelly was an unusual name, and when used, it was normally a boy’s name—just like Robin. Now, it’s primarily used for girls, again just like Robin. For the last name, I opened the local telephone book, opened to a random page, and punked my pencil down…It came down on Davenport. Thus, Kelly Davenport. I hear from my readers that he’s one of the two most popular characters in my books. Anyway, when I saw Ms. Davenport’s name, I had to write something as an anecdote.

  2. Mark Knoblauch, AMLS 1970 said:

    As someone who’s worked both in a public library and for a daily newspaper, I think it’s safe to say that a big distinction in how each profession typically seeks answers to questions may be that the librarian consults a published source (book, journal, database, etc.) and the journalist speaks to a person directly.

  3. @Mark — Journalists have also been known to do research.

    • I wholeheartedly agree with Joanna. I believe one of the big differences is that journalists are often trying to gather information that hasn’t been written down yet — say, the scene of a big fire, or a weekly city council meeting — and must therefore talk to people rather than consulting primary sources. After they’ve done that, however, librarians can provide the information gathered by the journalists to patrons via published materials.

  4. malapertgirl said:

    @Mark — Journalists have been known to do research, too.

  5. Mark Knoblauch, AMLS 1970 said:

    I don’t disagree with you; nevertheless, reporters and their editors tend to distrust anything but a primary source. A good librarian always identifies the data’s origin, but I’ve yet to hear at a reference desk: “I don’t know how old Meryl Streep’s kids are. Let me call her.” My editor had a sign over the desk: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” At the same time, I don’t know a good journalist who didn’t ofttimes rely on information gathered by a competent and experienced librarian.

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