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 Amanda He holds a BA in biology with a minor in chemistry from Kenyon College.
Why did you decide to pursue an LIS degree?
I used to be a microbiology research assistant and wanted to one day work at the CDC, but as time went on, I started to become disenchanted with science. I loved doing research, running experiments, and analyzing data, but something was missing. As an undergraduate student, when I wasn't doing research in the lab, I was working at the reference desk, helping people find resources for their research. While I was trying to figure out a new career path after years of wet lab research, I found myself returning to work in a library, this time in cataloging. It felt right being back in a research facility, except this place was research without micropippetters, corrosive chemicals, fume hoods, and viruses. After working in a library again, I knew I wanted to move forward and pursue an LIS degree.
Why did you choose the iSchool at Illinois?
The short answer is that the iSchool has a great reputation, and I liked the flexibility and customizability of the program. The long answer is a comment about the School that really resonated with me. When I was looking into LIS programs, I spoke to many different librarians about their library school experiences. A librarian who attended another institution said that while many institutions "talk the talk" about their commitment to diversity and supporting BIPOC (Black, indigenous, and people of color) students, the iSchool at Illinois actually seems to "walk the walk." She shared many examples, including when the iSchool put together a cohort of BIPOC students and helped send them to a conference on advancing inclusion, diversity, and accessibility in libraries. With that glowing review, what better program could I choose?
What particular LIS topics interest you the most?
I'm interested in accessibility, information literacy, technical services, and community engagement, particularly with underserved communities.
What do you do outside of class?
I currently work as a copy cataloging and catalog maintenance assistant at the Loyola University Chicago Libraries. Outside of work, I love to test out new cooking and baking recipes (edible science is awesome!), read, play board games with friends, listen to way too many podcasts, and travel. I have a mini goal to do an international trip once a year, which is currently on hold until the pandemic is over.
What does being a Spectrum Scholar mean to you?
It is such an incredible honor to have the privilege of being a Spectrum Scholar. I didn't see many librarians or educators that looked like me growing up or in college. Representation is incredibly important to shaping minds and opinions. I'm so excited to have the chance to meet and learn from other Spectrum Scholars who have been leaders in fostering diversity and inclusivity within their own communities. I know that being a part of the Spectrum community will enable me to become a better librarian and more effective advocate for diversity.
What career plans or goals do you have?
To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure yet. I'm open to any area of librarianship. I've loved my experiences working in reference and technical services and engaging students through programming. So far, I know I want to continue working in academic libraries. It would be cool to be an international librarian for a little while. It would be fun to put my science background to use, so I'm a bit partial to the idea of becoming a health sciences librarian. No matter what area I end up going into, my goals are to ensure libraries are an inclusive safe space for everyone and to provide support to all patrons and help them access resources for their success.