Miriam Heard works for the Pritzker Legal Research Center at Northwestern University, and is enrolled in the MLIS program at the University of Washington Information School. I recently had a chat with Miriam for the Chicago Association of Law Libraries (CALL) Bulletin, so we could all get to know her a little better.
Kara Dunn (KD): Welcome to CALL, Miriam! Are you from Chicago? If not, what brought you here?
Miriam Heard (MH): Since I was three, I lived near Tacoma in Washington State. Then I took a chance on a small art school in the loop, the American Academy of Art, to be exact, and the rest is history. I majored in illustration there, and earned a Bachelor of Fine Art.
KD: How long have you worked at Northwestern, and what kind of work do you do there?
MH: I have been happily employed at Northwestern for two years (January 22 was my anniversary). My primary title is Print and Electronic Support Assistant, but really I do so many things within my position.
My primary job is to process materials to send to an outside vendor to bind, check them for quality control when they come back, and mark them ready for use. But I am also the back-up opener and materials router for an Access Services staff member, and the back-up serials check-in assistant when the primary staff member is out. I spend at least an hour at the circulation desk each day. I help our looseleaf filer hunt down materials that he needs to update. I print national and international government publications, if they’re available online. I sort mail. I repair books. Annnnd, on top of all of that, we’ve been working on a withdrawal and off-site storage project that a few staffers devote a generous portion of our time to. Whew!
KD: What first drew you to working in a library?
MH: While completing my undergraduate program, I had an opportunity to work in my school’s library. I give Lindsay Harmon, my mentor and friend, all of the credit for giving me the chance to really explore library science and encourage my development in the field (Lindsay was a librarian at the American Academy of Art before becoming a reference librarian for the School of the Art Institute).
KD: Why did you decide to pursue an MLIS degree, and how do you plan on using the degree after you graduate?
MH: Right before I graduated from college, I made a goal for myself. I said, “I’m going to work in the library field for a few years first, and if I find that I love this, I’ll apply to grad school.” Three days after graduation, I started working full-time at Chicago-Kent’s law library. I spent almost three years working in libraries in order to have that experience on my resume before applying to library school. I’m glad that I waited, because the classes make so much more sense now that I know how libraries function on a day-to-day basis.
I’m really interested in the technology that is involved in library management. If I enjoy the classes as much as I hope to, I’d like to either stay in academia as a systems librarian, or perhaps join the corporate sector in website development, marketing, user experience, or analytics.
KD: What has been your favorite class so far? What classes are you excited about taking in the future?
MH: It may sound lame, but my favorite class so far was my introductory Microsoft Access class. I learned so much—I even made a database with linked tables to organize my make-up and nail polishes at home! I use Access to run queries at work, but until taking the class, I had never created tables or reports from scratch. Now when I use a form online that was created in Access, I can point out what functions the developer used. It’s fascinating. I’d love to be a part of a large-scale project that uses programs like Access.
I am also looking forward to taking an introductory course to coding in the spring, and a web design class in the fall.
KD: What has been the most surprising or challenging thing about your program so far?
MH: The most challenging aspect of the MLIS program is time management. The subjects are challenging enough on their own, and if I don’t take enough time out of my week to fully grasp the concepts that go along with information literacy, behavior, and assessment, it’s easy to fall behind very quickly. Working full-time and trying to fit school and daily errands into your life is a skill. I’m still working out the kinks for sure, but I have been pleasantly surprised by the epic amount of support my cohort and iSchool advisors have given me. We’re a small family, and the 2nd and 3rd years’ advice is gold! I’ve never felt so welcomed into a program before, and I was not expecting that. I assumed everyone would be very strict and uptight, so I was relieved to discover that everyone is really friendly and eager to help each other out.
KD: We’re so glad you decided to join CALL! What made you decide to join?
MH: I thought about joining CALL when I started working at Northwestern. As I got closer to applying to school, it seemed like a great way to become involved in the local library community. My work time is divided between many different projects, and my free time is now school time, but I hope that, as I settle into the program, I will be able to become more involved in CALL.
KD: It certainly sounds like you are keeping busy! What do you enjoy doing in the little free time you have left?
MH: I love baking sweets, like cakes and cookies, cuddling with my two cats, or having a nice dinner out with my boyfriend or close pals. I also enjoy sleep—lots and lots of sleep!
KD: Mmmm, sleep. I am totally with you there! Thanks so much, Miriam, and good luck with school and work in the coming year.