Jordan Neal (MSLIS '17) enjoys serving her community through her work at the Champaign Public Library. This fall, Neal was named one of Central Illinois Business magazine's 2023 Forty under 40 Award winners. The awards are given to young professionals in recognition of their career achievements, leadership ability, and dedication to community service.
Where do you work and what is your role?
I am the adult services manager at the Champaign Public Library.
What do you like best about your job?
There are so many things! I just celebrated 20 years working at the library. My experiences at the library have provided so many learning and professional opportunities. I am fortunate to work with such great colleagues who truly support each other. I attended graduate school with some of them. Also, working at the service desk at a public library offers a variety of everyday experiences! What I like best is the community I serve and my colleagues.
What do you see as the most important impact of your work?
There are so many areas where I see the impact of my library and the profession itself. At our library, we really focus on ease of access and removing barriers. We continuously assess how we can evolve to better serve and meet the needs of our community members. Public libraries were especially important for my family when they moved to the United States. It warms my heart to share information about our library's resources and services and to see people's faces light up. Every day I get to welcome everyone to the library, just as they are, and that is one of the most important impacts of my work.
How did the iSchool at Illinois help you get to where you are today?
The iSchool provided a great foundation for me to move forward in my career. I had valuable experience in a public library prior to entering the graduate program, but the iSchool took my experience to the next level. It solidified my confidence in this profession, in addition to offering enriching courses. Much of what I've learned still applies to my current approaches and everyday work at my library. I also appreciated that my instructors welcomed and encouraged my insights as an existing library professional.
What advice would you like to share with iSchool students?
You will probably receive this advice frequently: gain as much experience as possible and network. Making connections early will be to your benefit. If you cannot gain experience through an internship or a practicum experience, volunteer if possible. At our library, you can volunteer for a few hours a week and gain a wealth of experience that you can add to your resume or discuss during interviews. It also can help get your foot in the door or create a pathway to your next opportunity. Also, always ask questions! Whether it's in a job interview or you’re a new employee, ask questions and have an open mind.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I enjoy traveling (especially to anywhere near a lake or ocean), kayaking, and spending time with my family.