A record fifteen iSchool master's students were named 2020-2021 Spectrum Scholars by the American Library Association (ALA) Office for Diversity, Literacy, and Outreach Services. This “Spectrum Scholar Spotlight” series highlights the School’s scholars. MS/LIS student Ashley Mitchell holds a BS in psychology from Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland.
Why did you decide to pursue an LIS degree?
After working in public libraries for over 19 years, I finally decided to pursue a degree in LIS to further my career. I've worked in many different capacities, mostly in circulation services and periodically as a paraprofessional/library associate when librarian coverage was needed. I currently work in technical services (acquisitions). I really enjoy working in libraries, and one of my goals is to eventually move into library management. I also want to inspire other people of color to pursue a career in LIS by becoming a librarian myself.
Why did you choose the iSchool at Illinois?
From the beginning, I noticed that the iSchool at Illinois values diversity, equity, and inclusion. This was very important to me because I wanted to feel comfortable and valued at the institution that I chose to pursue my LIS degree. I also love the flexibility of the MS/LIS program, which allows students to pick courses that are useful and relevant to their career path. There are only two required courses for the MS/LIS, and they both provide a strong foundation for the other courses offered in the program. Also, the courses offered in the program are interesting and innovative!
What particular LIS topics interest you the most?
I'm very much interested in anything related to DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) in LIS, serving vulnerable and underserved populations effectively, and creating partnerships with community organizations that can strengthen the relationship between the library and the community. I will probably add more topics to this list as I continue on my MS/LIS journey!
What do you do outside of class?
I enjoy going to museums, traveling to new places, and eating new foods. I also try to read one book a week for leisure.
What does being a Spectrum Scholar mean to you?
I am extremely honored and excited to be a 2020-2021 Spectrum Scholar! Being a Spectrum Scholar will provide me with a strong network of people who are of color (or are advocates of people of color) in the LIS field to glean advice and mentorship from. I REALLY wanted to be a part of the Spectrum Scholarship program after learning about it at last year's ALA Annual conference. The Spectrum Scholarship program’s goals align perfectly with my future goals in librarianship regarding DEI, and I’m so grateful to have been chosen as a scholar. I look forward to gaining new relationships with others in the program and learning from their unique experiences!
What career plans or goals do you have?
I plan on going into library management after gaining experience as a reference librarian. I enjoy working in public libraries, but I'm open to working in an academic library as well. I want to be in a position where I can advocate for DEI and create library spaces that are welcoming and comfortable for everyone, including people of color—customers and library workers alike.