Interview with a future librarian: Karen Carter

Karen Carter is an MLIS student at Rutgers University. For the past eight years she worked for the American Psychological Association (APA) doing bibliographic productions and quality assurance for the PsycINFO database. Before that she worked as a professional researcher for a variety of organizations including a crime database, a suicide prevention association, a law firm, and the Department of Education.

Why did you decide to become a librarian? 
I’ve always been interested in librarianship, having actually been accepted to this LIS program the first time 15 years ago. My passion has always been research and librarianship seemed like a terrific field for someone with a constant thirst for knowledge. I took a detour back then and pursued another field, but when I came to APA, I found myself re-exposed to many areas of librarianship – user services, bibliographic production, database and systems management and more — and I actually think that all of that additional exposure served to solidify a foundation for entry into the field at this time. Now, I can combine my earlier passion for research and information with all of the new professional knowledge I have, and I actually think this is an amazing time to enter the field.


What area of librarianship are you most interested in? 
I am most interested in digital libraries and digital archives. Over the last few years I’ve really fallen in love with technology and I think that digital preservation of our resources is one of the most important initiatives we have right now. Also, creating the opportunity for more people to access more information via digital collections is so critical, and I like the idea of being involved with that. I’ve recently started volunteering on a public library digitization project, focusing on the state’s history, and I really enjoy learning the nuts and bolts of what goes in to creating a digital archive.


How do you feel technology has changed the field of librarianship?
Well, certainly technology has been responsible for an exponential growth in access to information. Anyone can get just about anything at the fingertips now, so librarians have to adjust to having changed roles in the lives of users, perhaps changing from the go-to person for information to being a teacher/guide to help people both navigate information sources and use current tools to maximize their information-seeking. This requires librarians to be skilled in technical areas they may not have had to have been before.


How do you think the field of librarianship is changing? How is it staying the same?
Since I’m new to the field, my observations are certainly basic, but it seems that the field is becoming more driven by user needs and preferences that are influenced by technology shifts. And there is greater focus on delivery of services and design of systems that meet those needs. Perhaps there is also more focus on community and collaborative environments, with all of the social media influence on the way we communicate. I would think that the way that it stays the same is that it remains a field focused on service. Whether that service is providing tangible resources to a local community in a bricks-and-mortar location or providing access to information in a virtual environment for scholars scattered across the globe, the profession always remains vital to meeting our knowledge needs in constantly changing times.


What would your dream job be?
My approach to starting my program has been that I’m going to get as much exposure to as many areas as possible to actually discover where my skills are, and then come up with a dream job. But I do dream sometimes of working in a large repository like the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, which has such a diverse and interesting set of collections. Honestly, my dream job is anywhere that provides intellectual stimulation on a daily basis and gives me a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.

Recently, I heard someone suggest that you should recall what you used to answer as a child when someone asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?”, and if you end up going into that field, you’ll probably be happy. Until I heard this, I’d forgotten that sure enough, starting from 7 years old, I used to say I wanted to be a librarian when I grew up. I may have taken a circuitous route to get here,, but when I reflect on that today, I think…”well, how about that?” It feels like I’ve made the right choice.

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