Interview with INALJ Assistant Anastasia Chiu, INALJ Louisiana Assistant
by Josh Rimmer, Senior Editor
For this month, I wanted to highlight INALJ Louisiana assistant Anastasia Chiu. If you have visited the Louisiana page recently, you will notice a change in the organization and web links provided on the page. Ms. Chiu was instrumental in this change and through her hard work; the page will provide more insight into the opportunities available to information professionals in Louisiana. For this interview, I discovered what motivated Anastasia to pursue librarianship, advice she would share with library students and how she is managing her job search. And she wrote a fantastic piece for INALJ last summer, 5 Ways to Maximize Your Graduate Assistantship Experience.
JR: Why did you want to be a librarian?
AC: Because librarians are basically superheroes, duh! Honestly though, the seeds were probably sown when I was quite young; I was a fairly curious child, but very sheltered and generally only given extremely watered-down doses of information, so I picked up a habit of independent information-seeking pretty early on. For as long as I can remember, I’ve considered information needs to be as primary as physical and financial needs. As an undergrad, I discovered that I identify with a service-oriented career path. And in my last year of undergrad, the specific idea of librarianship really solidified in my mind. I discovered what empowering services my university’s librarians really provide that year, and decided that I wanted to be in their line of work.
JR: What aspects of librarianship interest you?
AC: To some extent, all aspects of librarianship are interesting to me. Every librarian’s work basically boils down to stewardship of one of the most important assets of almost any human society – information. I think that, as such, the work of librarians is powerful and important, even the parts that aren’t necessarily fun activities in and of themselves.
On a more specific level, I’m really interested in blended librarianship. I know that’s getting to be a bit of a yesterday’s-buzzword. But when it comes down to it, I really don’t want to work on only one side of the traditional public-technical divide in libraries. I think that each type of work benefits from imbuing it with the perspective of the other, especially in academic libraries, where librarians are really at the forefront of helping researchers navigate major technology-based shifts in the way reliable information is generated and disseminated.
JR: What were your favorite courses in library school? Why?
AC: Research Methods was probably my favorite course; it was fairly challenging at times, but I came away with a far greater understanding of (and admiration for) what researchers do. I also really enjoyed my metadata courses, not only for their content but for the class experiences as well. Particularly in the intro course to information organization, I was a member of a guinea pig class piloting the incorporation of academic service-learning in the course; I think some of my best relationships in the program came from working on that course’s service-learning project.
JR: Any advice for current library students, or future library students?
AC: For current library students – Sometimes, you might have to choose between professional activities and schoolwork. As a person who regrets the goody-two-shoes approach to being a student, I’d like to advocate for choosing the professional activities sometimes, especially if you’re doing well in school. I wish I had gotten involved with regional associations and student chapters of national associations at my school more; it would have been great to have that early professional involvement, and in retrospect, I think my GPA could have taken the hit.
For future MLIS students – Have some ideas about what you want out of this particular degree, not just about why it seems like a good fit for your personality. Or worse, why going to grad school seems like a good thing to do to fill your time. If you’re considering pursuing a MLIS and want to find out more, you could set up some informational interviews with librarians (or archivists, museum professionals, information analysts, etc.) to talk about what they do, how they got to where they are, what they like/dislike about their work, etc. I had at least 6 informational interviews before I applied to library school. 3 of them were cold calls to librarians (and one library HR professional) whose contact information I found in my undergraduate institution’s alumni network directory; it was scary to cold-contact them, but ultimately worth it.
JR: Favorite book?
AC: My favorite book-object that I own is an old copy of Elizabeth George Speare’s The Witch of Blackbird Pond— I think it belonged to my sister before it belonged to me. Somehow, it managed to accompany me to college, study abroad, and to NY, where I live now. At some point, I started to care more about the sentimentality of the object than about the novel itself; I haven’t read it in awhile, but I keep it on my bookshelf because it doesn’t quite seem like my bookshelf without it. It was a flimsy trade paperback to begin with, and it’s gotten so delicate that I bought another copy for actually reading. Oddly enough, though, I wouldn’t quite call the novel one of my favorite works (although it’s not that far from being one). What are your favorite works, you FRBR-freak, you ask?
- The Flavor Bible (Karen Page & Andrew Dornenburg)
- The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm (translation and introduction by Jack Zipes)
- Unaccustomed Earth (Jhumpa Lahiri)
- Eating Animals (Jonathan Safran Foer)
- The Wednesday Wars (Gary D. Schmidt)
AC: So far, the Harold Washington branch of Chicago Public Library. I visited it last year, and I remember thinking, “Wow, I wish this was MY library.” It has all the perks that I see in other big urban library systems’ central branches (I’m using the 3 public library systems in NYC for comparison). Plus also an indoor garden with olive trees. And a maker space. And a teen media center that does programming with the makerspace. Oh, and music practice rooms that patrons can book. WANT!!
JR: What resources are you using in your job hunt?
AC: For finding open positions, I’m using various INALJ state pages (of course), plus ALA JobList, METRO Job Bank, various listservs (including ALA New Members Round Table’s, Autocat, and OCLC-CJK), my graduate program’s blog & alumni listserv, and whatever I hear about through professional-organization events and contacts made therefrom (most recent example: ALA Midwinter’s JobList Placement Center Open House). For cover letter/resume help, I’ve used Open Cover Letters, ALA New Members Round Table’s Resume Review Service, and my brother with his MBA brain. My mentor from ACRL/NY’s mentoring program has also looked over my resume/CV, and been a general help in considering ways to bolster my technical services experience. For tips specifically on the academic hiring process, I’ve been using Julia Miller Vick’s Academic Job Search Handbook.
JR: Why did you decide to volunteer with INALJ?
AC: I use it all the time, and I wanted to give back a little. Also, I was looking for professional-involvement opportunities when I graduated from my program, and this seemed like a safe one to start with, including opportunities to take on more responsibility if I really got into it. My experience with INALJ LA has been awesome (big thanks to you, Josh!), and I enjoy feeling like I have a small connection to Louisiana, even though I haven’t visited since the 1990’s.