When asked to serve as the iSchool's convocation speaker next month, Yasmeen Shorish (MS/LIS '11) was surprised and honored. "It means a lot to be recognized by my alma mater in this way." Shorish, who holds a BS in biology from Northeastern Illinois University and a BFA in theater from UIUC, is the head of scholarly communications strategies at James Madison University Libraries.
Where do you work and what is your role?
I work at James Madison University, which is a large, public university in Virginia. I am the head of scholarly communications strategies, and I also serve as special advisor to the dean on equity initiatives.
What do you like best about your job?
I really enjoy thinking about complex issues and working with various communities to implement strategies to address them. Issues such as equitable opportunities to contribute to the scholarly landscape, how we value different ways of knowing, economic constraints facing all aspects of scholarly communication are just a few of the challenges that keep me energized in my work.
What do you see as the most important impact of your work?
That's hard to answer! One area of important impact has been my involvement in moving away from publisher "Big Deals" and thinking more holistically about what kind of information resources we support and how we center our values—including equity, inclusion, and openness—in those decisions.
How did the iSchool at Illinois help you get to where you are today?
Librarianship is a second career for me, and I really did not have library experience before starting graduate school, so I learned a lot of the foundations at Illinois: cataloging, reference support, metadata, and so on. The data curation courses that I took at the iSchool really helped position me to engage with that work from day one as a liaison librarian (my first job, post-grad school).
What advice would you like to share with iSchool students?
Building a cohort of peers that you can continue to learn from and network with post-graduation is so valuable. Our profession is changing and evolving at a rapid pace, so finding communities of practice and people you can learn with and from is critical. These could be informal networks or professional associations, like ACRL [Association of College and Research Libraries] or RDAP [Research Data Access and Preservation Association].
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I enjoy hiking and spending time away from technology. I do protect my time outside of work because it would be too easy to email all the time or catch up on work—Twitter 24/7. I feel strongly that falling into the "vocational awe" mindset is destructive and unhelpful.