A different way to make a difference

October 12, 2021

There's an old saying: No one ever graduated from a library. No one ever graduated without one. 

Without conferring any degrees, the library makes its mark on the many students who place it at the center of their academic lives.  

That's especially true of recent graduate Meghan "Meggie" Brody whose experiences with the library's people, services, spaces, and collections profoundly influenced her career path. Now the circulation and user experience manager at Rochester Hills Public Library, Brody, who studied history and writing, reflects on her path to becoming a library professional. 

What first interested you in library work?

When I began at U-M, I was planning to go into public interest law, and I was constantly in the library, exploring the buildings and services. Seeing the power of the community-level assistance and talking to people who worked there about what libraries can be was a turning point for me; I went headfirst into library world at the start of my second semester.

Give us a brief outline of your undergraduate library career.

I started off as a stacks assistant* in Hatcher for a couple of months, and then began a student engagement fellowship. I also worked as a library science intern for an LSA project, designing and maintaining a database, during which I worked closely with the ScholarSpace team and a few librarians. 

Next, I had a Michigan Library Scholars internship, and after that an internship with the Communications and Marketing team. I also volunteered all over the place, most notably in the Manuscript Division at the Clements Library.

How did each of those jobs shape your view of librarianship?

Because the library has so many services and resources, I was able to really understand just how diverse a career librarianship offers. I did everything from program planning to archival processing to database design, because I had support from the fantastic U-M Library staff. 

One of the wonderful things about working in a service profession is that pretty much everyone will go above and beyond to help — the dedication to student success was always very apparent. I tell anyone interested in working in libraries that they shouldn't be nervous about reaching out to library staff with questions: they're always willing to help and connect you with resources.

What did you do after you graduated?

The first thing was a Junior Fellowship at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., in the Manuscript Reading Room. Then, back in Michigan, I worked in discovery services at Michigan State University Libraries, where I really homed in on the intersection of libraries and user experience. And then I was hired into my current job as the Circulation and User Experience Manager at Rochester Hills Public Library. I've also been volunteering with the Michigan Library Association and the American Library Association.

How did your work here help prepare you for all of that?

In a practical sense, the fact that I had some specialized library experience was a big help in landing a library job. And I had a network of former supervisors and colleagues who served as references and helped me navigate job offers.

More importantly, during my time as a student worker I was incredibly empowered by my supervisors and coworkers to try new things, propose my own ideas, and carry out my own projects. Though I was usually an intern, I was given a lot of freedom to discover what I enjoyed within the field. 

I found myself often focusing on how to improve digital and physical library experiences, which was the long ramp to the library user experience path I'm on now. If I hadn't had the opportunity to explore those things as an undergraduate, I'm sure I would be nowhere near as able and confident as I am today.

Given that you're at the beginning of your career, do you envision libraries and librarianship remaining at the center? 

Not necessarily. I can see myself exploring writing, user experience, database management, and other fields in the future. 

The work that libraries do is critical, and there are many ways to accomplish and support that work. One aspect of libraries that I do imagine carrying with me is the service-oriented belief that everyone deserves free, easy-to-access information.

 

*Stacks assistants spend much of their time sorting, shelving, and finding library books

 

by Alan Piñon

Meggie Brody at the Rochester Hills Public Library.

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