Shaula Stephenson …In Six

My interview with success story Shaula


Naomi: How did you find your current job?
Shaula: I found my current job, appropriately enough, on the INALJ.com daily digest. I remember vividly sitting on my couch on a Saturday morning reading the job description and thinking, “this includes pieces of almost every job I’ve ever had. I guess I should apply.”

Naomi: Favorite library you have been to?
Shaula: The Library of Congress, no question. It has the double appeal of being a beautiful building and holding enormous amounts of information. Also, they have a copy of a Gutenberg Bible.

Naomi: Favorite book?
Shaula: It depends on my mood. If I am feeling optimistic, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen; if I am feeling pessimistic, The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood or Foxfire by Joyce Carol Oates.

Naomi: Favorite thing about libraries/ library technology?
Shaula: I go back and forth between the amazing collaborative nature of the profession and the fact that our profession has the opportunity to impact the world in unexpectedly positive ways.

I love that I can call colleagues and ask questions about the work they are doing and expect generosity with time and knowledge. I did that yesterday; I called a colleague whom I had never met to ask her questions. She had no idea who I was until I introduced myself, but she still spent 15 minutes on the telephone with me talking about her project in order to help me move forward with mine. Similarly, I found my classmates/colleagues an invaluable source of support and information while I was completing the culminating project for my MLIS. It’s hard to find that spirit of collaboration in many other fields.

We, as a profession, make information findable and keep it extant for as long as possible. In my mind that gives us great power: we have the skill and opportunity to ensure that the public record is as complete and unbiased as possible, which will hopefully help prevent the repeat of terrible injustices. For example, I have joined a group of archivists who are working to establish a U.S. chapter of Archives Without Borders, which would apply the skills of archivists to saving endangered archives and including underrepresented communities in the public record in the United States. I admire efforts like The Guatemala Documentation Project and hope that our profession continues to use our skills for such laudable causes.

Naomi: Any websites or feeds or blogs we should be following?
Shaula: I am a big fan of Rebecca Goldman’s Derangement and Description, which discusses facets of the profession very funny ways, and Kate Theimer’s ArchivesNext for more serious discussions.

Naomi: Best piece of job hunting advice?
Shaula: Talk to people in person, if you can manage it. Like many in this profession I am an introvert, but I have learned to store up my energy and then spend it talking to other librarians and archivists. Every opportunity that has come my way has been a direct result of meeting people in person. It may seem odd to emphasize in person, but with an online program it is an important distinction.

Be flexible about job titles. Look at the job descriptions instead of the titles to see if your skills are applicable. Just because your business card (if you get one) doesn’t say “librarian” doesn’t mean you aren’t one.

Diversify. Though I found my current job on INALJ I also see a lot of promising listings on aggregate sites like SimplyHired.com and Indeed.com. Don’t feel like you can only search in industry-specific listings because you might be missing something very special.

I am the digital project archivist at the Hammer Museum and a recent graduate of the San José State University School of Library and Information Science with a specialization in Archival Studies. My work history has been diverse: immediately after receiving Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and European Studies at Pitzer College I promptly began working in a museum, where I remained for six years. Then I spent seven years as a patent secretary in a law firm before embarking on my career as an archivist. This is the first career path I have chosen consciously. I live in Los Angeles with my wonderful husband. In my free time I devour historical romance novels, bake, and watch terrible movies.