Thirteen iSchool master's students were named 2022-2023 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. Faria Zafer earned her bachelor's degree in Teaching of English from the University of Illinois Chicago.
Why did you decide to pursue an LIS degree?
The library has been a safe space for me, and I've always felt at home when I'm in one. I was a teacher for several years and wanted to make a career change after having my baby. When I started working at my local library, I saw the important work that my coworkers were doing for youth and the community. I was also starting to see a lot of representation in children's literature that I wish I had when I was growing up. As a librarian, I realized I'd have the responsibility of making sure these materials are available for everyone to check out. Through my work, I saw that I can use my educator experience to enhance my work at the library. Before working at a library, I would think long and hard about my higher education plans. However, once I saw the work library and information professionals do, I knew it had to be an LIS degree.
Why did you choose the iSchool at Illinois?
Several librarians I work with have great things to say about their experience at the U of I. One iSchool alum told me that after completing the program, she felt fully prepared for a career in librarianship. I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to do an MLIS with a toddler at home, but she assured me that the fully online program is totally accessible and doable. Then I did a little more research about this program, and I saw that the School is ranked number one in the areas of information systems, digital librarianship, and services for children and youth—how could I say no?
What particular LIS topics interest you the most?
I am most interested in youth services, information access, and digital librarianship.
What do you do outside of class?
Outside of class, I'm either working or being a mom. I wish I had more time to ride my bicycle along our beautiful bike paths with my group of biking buddies. However, realistically I'm doing crafts, coloring, reading, playing make-believe with my toddler.
What does being a Spectrum Scholar mean to you?
To me, being a Spectrum Scholar means being a part of a movement where I can take part in creating more inclusive spaces for our community. It means making the library a safe space for people of all backgrounds and needs. I look forward to doing community outreach to make resources and services accessible to diverse communities. In my experiences, minority members of communities do not look out for these services because they believe no one understands their plight. I would change that perception and work to provide programming relevant to historically marginalized people such as immigrants, refugees, and people of color.
What career plans or goals do you have?
I currently work with youth services and love it. However, since information science is such a colorful field, I plan to explore a few options before I make plans. Whatever my career plans are, my goal will always be to make educational programs and information accessible to all.