From Books to Browsers
Techno-savvy librarians are diverse in background, united in purpose
Never judge a book by its cover...or a librarian, for that matter.
Back-to-back Hawaiʻi State Library honorees, both graduates of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Library and Information Science Program, represent the surprisingly diverse image of today’s librarian.
The state library system’s 2005 Employee of the Year, Linnel Yamashita, is McCully-Mō’ili’ili Public Library’s adult reference librarian and can recall the plots of all the mysteries she’s read. The techno-savvy Pearl City High School graduate and mother of two sons has mentored many UH LIS students and is impressed by the "high caliber of these interns."
Graduates of Mānoa’s library master’s program, like Wendi Woodstrup, left, and Linnel Yamashita, love reading and helping people
Wendi Woodstrup was selected the 2004 Public Librarian of the Year by the Hawaiʻi Library Foundation, an honor based on nominations by library patrons. In her fifth year as Mililani Public Library’s manager, the Illinois native and 22-year Hawaiʻi resident is an ocean sports enthusiast—"kayaking, paddling, surfing, you name it," she says. She has found new challenges learning to be a manager, but "as a librarian at heart," still finds helping patrons at the reference desk "the highlight of my day."
"The reasons why our students are attracted to the field remain unchanged. They love reading, love books and love working with people," says Diane Nahl, UH Mānoa Information and Computer Sciences Department associate professor and incoming chair of the LIS Program.
LIS celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2005.
LIS began as the Graduate School of Library Studies and became the School of Library and Information Studies by the 1980s. Its curriculum evolved dramatically, beginning in the 1960s, as information and communication technology was integrated into library work and the individual freedoms movement pushed to open library collections and expand services to users. In 1997, LIS became part of the Department of Information and Computer Sciences.
"Since antiquity, libraries have been at the forefront of the application of new information technologies," explains Nahl. "Librarians were pioneers in creating Web access to their collections. They created the phenomenon of online searching and introduced it to academia and the public."
New technologies bring questions of responsible use.
"Librarians educate the public in finding and evaluating information to make informed decisions," says Nahl. New Western Association of Schools and Colleges accreditation guidelines call for all undergraduates to master information literacy skills long taught to future librarians by LIS.
As a graduate program, LIS offers a master’s degree in library and information sciences and a doctoral degree in communications and information sciences. Most of its student body are from Hawaiʻi, with 10 percent from the neighbor islands. Another 10 percent comes from Asia and 10-20 percent from other foreign countries and the U.S. mainland.
While 40 percent of the annual enrollment of 150 students represents public school teachers seeking certification as school library media specialists, graduates from English, history, social sciences and even law enter the program. And for a profession that began as a male-only occupation, a steady 20 percent of students are men.
The program boasts a 97 percent completion rate.
Nearly 80 percent of its graduates take positions in a variety of libraries in the state. Several LIS graduates from Asia are national librarians in their native countries, including R. Ramachandran, the national librarian of Singapore.
Recent graduates Kendra Morgan and Elenita Tapawan worked for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation implementing the technology in its public libraries program. Graduate Shari Tamashiro, Kapi’olani Community College’s, self-described "cybrarian," is a Web design guru responsible for online sites for Farm Fresh Hawaiʻi (connecting local farmers and restaurant chefs) and the Nisei Veteran Project.
"Our students understand the content of information, as well as the technical tools to access it well," says Nahl. "They know that reading is a major skill for success in society, not just for economic success, but to live a healthy and full life."