ALPINE Sul Ross State University has met the challenge of attracting library professionals by growing its own. During the past few years, the GOAL has been reached.
Presently, three librarians at the Bryan Wildenthal Library, Lori Schreiber, Amanda Gomez and Jacob Galindo, are products of the Grow our Own Area Librarians (GOAL) Program, coordinated by the El Paso Area Libraries consortium. Also, library assistant Nora Ohnishi is enrolled in a master of library science program at the University of North Texas.
The Library Leadership Development Institute and the GOAL Program serves the nine-county Trans-Pecos area of Texas and three counties in Southern New Mexico. The intent of the project is to increase the number of qualified librarians in the designated areas. The programs are partially funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program.
“It can be difficult to hire (librarians) in rural areas,” said Don Dowdey, Sul Ross Dean of Library and Information Technology. “The idea (of GOAL) is to get people who are already here to get interested in becoming librarians.”
Among GOAL incentives are three $2,500 scholarships available for full-time participants and 12 $1,500 tuition and book scholarships for part-time students who agree to complete university courses leading toward a Library and Information Science (LIS) degree. A participant may receive more than one scholarship but must reapply each time. Coursework may be completed on-campus or by distance education.
Participants must agree to serve for three years in the LIS field in the Trans-Pecos area and Southern New Mexico after graduation or pay back one-half the funds received through the grant. Participants are encouraged, but not required to volunteer time in a nearby library.
Dowdey has been a proponent of the program since its inception in 2007 and of 76 total participants, six have Sul Ross connections. In addition to the Sul Ross staff members, former Sul Ross student David Howard and his wife, Valerie, are currently enrolled in the GOAL Program at the University of North Texas. David Howard worked in the Wildenthal Library as an undergraduate, while Valerie (Richard) Howard interned at the Archives of the Big Bend and now works as a senior library assistant at University of North Texas Health Science Center while finishing her degree this year.
Schreiber, who graduated from the University of Texas-San Antonio, came to Sul Ross in 2000, working in Admissions and Records. Two years later, she moved to the Wildenthal Library as a cataloguing assistant. She enrolled at Texas Women’s University, Denton, in 2007 and graduated in 2010. She was named Inter-Library Loan librarian this past January.
“I really liked cataloguing a lot,” Schreiber said. “The material is constantly changing and there is always something new to learn.” She added that she enjoys working in an academic environment and gets great satisfaction from helping students to learn and succeed.
“I also love living in this area and I want to stay,” she said. “Doing something you like in an area you want to live in is the best of both worlds.”
Ohnishi, an Alpine native and Sul Ross graduate, began working at the Alpine Public Library in 2009 as a part-time bookkeeper and circulation assistant. She started work at the Wildenthal Library this past February as a library assistant in cataloguing. She enrolled in the MLS program at the University of North Texas, taking online courses. Her expected graduation date is 2014.
“Being in an academic environment really pushed me to go on to earn an MLS,” she said. Galindo is serving as her mentor for the GOAL Program.
Gomez, an El Paso native with Bachelor’s (Communication) and Master’s (English) degrees from University of Texas El Paso, began work during the summer as Collection Development librarian. She called her path to the library “kind of a happy accident.”
“After getting my Master’s, I was looking for a job. I volunteered at the El Paso Public Library to get some experience,” she said. She also worked in cataloguing at El Paso Community College, then in special collections at the UTEP Library and spent a summer working at the El Paso Holocaust Museum.
Gomez applied and was accepted into the MLS program at Texas Woman’s University, graduating in 2011. She was hired as a digital librarian at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy, Fort Bliss, before coming to Sul Ross.
As for life without a Walmart? “I haven’t even noticed,” Gomez smiled.
Galindo, the Education Coordination librarian, is also from El Paso and a UTEP graduate. He graduated from North Texas with his MLS degree in 2011 and worked as a part-time reference librarian at New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, prior to coming to Sul Ross.
Galindo said he had never really considered the library profession as a career, but his mother, who is a librarian, provided some encouragement. He investigated GOAL and volunteered in the UTEP Library during the final semester as an undergraduate.
“I learned a lot and the experience got me more interested and vested in what library science could offer,” he said. He called his work at New Mexico State his “first real experience as a librarian....It helped me decide on being an academic librarian.
Dowdey said that to date, the GOAL results have been impressive. All 40 college-bound participants in the first grant cycle who graduated were employed.
All three graduating students in the current grant cycle were employed, as well as all but two of the 33 participants who have not completed their studies.
“I don’t think a lot of people realize when they are getting their bachelor’s degrees, that there are careers in library science,” Gomez said, and Dowdey agreed.