Librarians: mastering the art of research

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The Spectrum

After two-and-a-half years of labor and education law, Tiffany Walsh realized it wasn't the career for her.

She needed to start over and find her passion.

Walsh remembered what an old college professor once told her, "If you know you're not happy [with your profession] then what you should do is just put out a lot of different feelers ... try four or five different avenues and set that out as different options, and then when you get some information back, see which one of those will actually lead to something."

Eager to stay local, the Western New Yorker returned to UB, after attending Columbia University, for a more cost-efficient education. When she came to UB, the Master's of Library Science program caught her attention.

"I had an epiphany - why didn't I think of that before," Walsh said.

Walsh has been a librarian at UB for nine years and maintains it was the right decision. She now provides in-person and online reference and instruction services for undergraduates. Walsh is also in charge of administering and maintaining the Library Skills Workbook, which every student at UB has to complete in order to graduate.

Walsh said applying to UB was the right decision. The timing was right and the content was right in terms of her personality and interests. Walsh loved the program.

"I have always been a person that enjoys reading," Walsh said. "I very much like working one on one with people and I get a lot of fulfillment out of helping somebody find something and being able to have that personal contact with them."

Walsh applied and was accepted into the Master's of Library Science program for spring of 2003 and was excited to return back to school.

"I was still in my 20s so I was pretty young and I knew I had lots of time if I wasn't really happy," Walsh said. "I thought that at this point in my life I can really go back to school and it wont be a hardship."

Walsh's next move scared her the most - leaving her job as an established attorney. She still had student loans to pay back and gave up her salary to go back to school.

During her time as a full-time student at UB, she was able to get a job at the Law Library making minimum wage. She loved it.

Walsh finished the program in three semesters and kept her job at the library to make sure she was financially stable until graduation.

"I think something people don't know about librarians is that many of them have backgrounds in topics you may not imagine," Walsh said. "All of them have a extremely wide-ranging bachelor's degrees and even master's degrees, as well."

According to Walsh, academic librarians already have master's and a background in various subject areas. Walsh believed this program was right for her because she was in the same place as her peers.

"They weren't just out of college, and many were even teachers who were working during the day and taking classes in the evening," Walsh said. "It was really an eclectic mix of people and backgrounds and it was a very warm and welcoming environment."

Walsh happily followed the general library track within the master's program to become a reference librarian, a career that better suited her than being an attorney. During her time as a master's student at UB, Walsh enjoyed classes involving reference services, where her passion for researched thrived.

"I enjoyed learning about all these different things out there that I didn't know about," Walsh said. "Places you could go to find information about these little facts and questions somebody might have."

She was introduced to a new side of being a librarian during her library instruction course. She believes many people have this idea people become librarians because they don't want to speak in front of people and enjoy working behind the scenes. This course brought a new insight to this old idea, and she discovered librarians aren't as behind the scenes as some people think.

"This was a wonderful, wonderful class," Walsh said. "You're in a small environment and it's not intimidating because you're amongst friends."

Walsh, along with the rest of her peers, had to prepare a 20-minute presentation, where her peers acted as a class of students. It was intimidating, but it was the best thing she had ever done, Walsh said.

She was able to use the 20-minute presentation for interviews and job opportunities for future academic positions. Now, as a full-time librarian, Walsh uses lessons similar to the ones she executed during her time as a student.

Walsh still spends a lot of time doing public speaking, especially when it comes to teaching classrooms full of students, but now she is in a much more comfortable role. Walsh enjoys the personal and one-on-one attention her career provides, and she finds a lot of joy in helping students.

Email: features@ubspectrum.com