iSchool alumna Soraya Silverman-Montano (MS '11) is the 2018 president of the Nevada Library Association (NLA). In this role, one of her goals is to work with library organizations across the state to get their staff involved and active in the organization. Silverman-Montano, head of Youth Services at the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District’s Spring Valley branch, was named the NLA's Librarian of the Year in 2016 and an ALA Emerging Leader in 2014.
Where do you work and what is your role?
I have worked for the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District for thirteen years and currently serve as department head for Youth Services for the Spring Valley branch. It's a dream job because I have an amazing, passionate staff; our community is extremely diverse and involved in our library; and it is unbelievably fulfilling work to be able to serve our youth and their families and build lifelong learners.
What do you like best about your job?
Honestly, being a manager and leader. As a department head, I'm able to work with and support my staff to help make their goals come to fruition. In the six months I've been in my position, we've completely transformed our department. My first priority was to understand what was and wasn't working and what my staff hoped to see changed. This resulted in consolidating our collections, rearranging shelving, and creating spaces to better serve our community—including an expanded tutoring area, play area, teen zone, and story room as well as a new STEAM Wall for passive educational discovery. All of this could not have been accomplished without staff being able to candidly express their ideas and concerns, and all of us coming together as a fabulous team to make it happen. We are now looking for ways to further grow our services and space to meet the needs of our community.
Why did you decide to pursue a degree in LIS?
Libraries have been a part of my identity my entire life. My mom was a single mother of five, working multiple part-time jobs to make ends meet, so we grew up with very little means. The one consistent and infinitely reliable form of entertainment and education in our lives, outside of school, was the library. My mom would take us to every program and storytime she could in her time off, and at minimum, we would go to our local branch at least once a week to check out new books. The library was my solace and favorite place to be.
When I turned fourteen, my mom forced me to become a teen volunteer, which I hated at first because volunteering didn't entail reading. But, because my mom was brilliant and endeavored to give us the best life possible, she said that I didn't have a choice and that it would be an incredibly beneficial experience. Little did I know, it would shape my entire career. Because the librarian knew me, she invested more time than expected to make my volunteer experience an incredibly rewarding one. I quickly grew to love it and strived to accomplish as much as I could to help the library. At sixteen, I was hired as a page, and after graduating from high school, I was promoted to a circulation assistant. After I received my undergraduate degree, I was hired as a youth services assistant; by that point I knew I would work for libraries for the rest of my life. I went straight into grad school and finished my MS/LIS in one and a half years, as I was eager to become a librarian and did so shortly after graduating.
How did the iSchool help you get to where you are today?
Attending the U of I was such a fabulous experience. I was determined to find a graduate school that not only had a great program but was also a place where students genuinely enjoyed their education. A friend of mine who was already obtaining her MS/LIS at the iSchool raved about her experience, and after talking to other colleagues about their experiences elsewhere, I knew where I wanted to go. Through the School, I have made lifelong friends and connections to professionals all over the country. I loved how much versatility I had in choosing my courses, all of which challenged me to think about new concepts and situations.
What advice would you like to share with iSchool students?
Take a well-rounded selection of courses, especially those that support your career goals, but keep in mind the generalities that might be valuable to employers. It's of course impossible to predict what skills you may or may not need, or what job might come around that requires a particular skill set. Try your best to take a good mix of courses that interest you and that you can foresee as providing useful skills in your area(s) of professional interest.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I am a pretty big geek inside and outside of my career. I love gaming in all forms: video, board, and card games. My husband is a graphic designer and actually designs board games for fun, which we test with our friends. I am also an avid collector of all things: it’s the strongest trait in my Gallup Strength Finder, and I have a massive book and collectibles library. Outside of gaming, reading, and the time I spend on my professional development responsibilities, the rest of my time is spent with my husband, cuddling our four wild but sweet dog fur babies. I am incredibly grateful for the life and career I have and wouldn’t trade them for the world.