The 21st-Century Librarian

Denise McIver (Photo by Kevin Foley)

Denise McIver (Photo by Kevin Foley)

Name: Denise L. McIver

Job: Special Librarian (a librarian not working in a public or community library)

Last Position: Entertainment publicist with a specialty in music

Education: Master of Library Science, St. John’s University. In 2009, McIver was awarded a Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian full-tuition scholarship sponsored by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, an independent federal agency and the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums.After working for more than 15 years in public relations in the entertainment industry, Denise McIver’s passion for research made her long for a career in a field that honors scholarship. In 2009 she pursued a graduate degree in library science at St. John’s University in New York City. As a special librarian, McIver helps people and businesses become familiar with the vast stores of information now available through technology so they can make better informed decisions. Librarians help those who are looking for information about marketing research, health or employment, or ways for Medicare recipients to avoid hospital readmissions in light of the 2012 Obama healthcare plan. The new information professional understands how to “capture” knowledge, leverage it, and then make it actionable.

Opportunities: As an information professional, McIver has worked on research projects in a range of industries. Because of how technology is changing how we access information—digitizing books, for example—opportunities have opened up for information professionals to assist in downloading eBooks; accessing study guides, employment or tax forms; as well as navigating apps and tablets. In conducting research for a client, McIver may delve into issues such as “smart aging”—ways to mitigate the effects of chronic conditions, or research ways to manage a hospital more efficiently.  Special librarians are becoming an important resource in a variety of industries, and opportunities abound in museums, international organizations such as the United Nations, various federal agencies, academia, hospitals, medical institutions, and many corporations and nonprofit organizations. Positions include research economist, curator, and director of research for organizations such as the Getty Research Institute. A Ph.D. paves the way to greater career advancement and mobility.

Clients: Curatorial internship at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York;
Phelps Memorial Hospital, Sleepy Hollow, New York; Neal-Schuman, a publisher of library textbooks and reference works; Jack Grapes, writer and publisher of Onthebus, a literary journal

Training: In addition to earning a graduate degree in library science, McIver took a class in digital preservation and website development to enhance her skill set. She’s currently taking an online course entitled Copyright for Librarians, offered through Harvard’s Berkman Center. Post-master’s certificates are offered by a number of institutions in specialties such as archiving.

Talents: As a new professional in the field and a confessed bibliophile, McIver considers her greatest talent to be her passion for sharing information. “I focus on understanding the needs of the user. My PR expertise has helped me promote the many assets of research services and given me an excellent grounding in customer service.”

Learning curve: The detailed specifics and analytics of scholarly research, including finding gaps and offering recommendations, were a challenge for McIver as a student. “In PR you focus on the five ‘W’s’! In graduate school, I learned how to navigate the research process, go deep, and then understand how everything interconnected. I also learned how to do more active critical thinking.”

Advice for aspiring librarians: “You must understand that your education doesn’t end the day you graduate. There is always more to know—you can never know it all. But as 21st century information professionals, we are committed to lifelong learning within the field. Remain current in best practices and emerging trends to stay relevant.”

Best lesson learned: “My graduate studies were grueling. I learned that no one holds your hand in graduate school or in life. The challenge reinforced my commitment and I graduated with a GPA of 3.97. Hard work, diligence, and discipline are the most important ingredients to any endeavor.”

For more information on library science, visit the website of the Institute of Museum and Library Services: www.imls.gov.

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