When Susan Dingle (MSLIS '75) was researching various career paths in high school, she came across a pamphlet about librarians. The pamphlet's description of reference librarians piqued her interest and set her on a path that eventually led to her enrolling in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (as the iSchool was then known).
"I most liked doing research in the library and writing term papers," Dingle recalled. "A careful reader of all parts of most scholarly works, I read acknowledgments as well as footnotes, and I was enamored of the books whose authors thanked librarians by name who had helped them complete their research."
The thought of one day being named in the acknowledgments of one (or more) books as a "helpful, encouraging librarian" sealed her decision to enter the field. She earned her bachelor's degree in American civilization from the University of Illinois, gaining library experience as a student page in the main library's bookstacks. Dingle also took non-degree courses in children's literature and the history of books and libraries. However, admission into the iSchool was—and still is—very competitive, and Dingle admitted that it took her two attempts before she was successful.
When Dingle started her master's degree coursework, the School was moving away from a "sort of vocational approach to a more social-science-based approach." She was prepared for this shift though, as the child of a research chemist "who had drummed the scientific method into his children."
After completing her master's degree, Dingle worked in government special libraries and academic libraries for the next several years. Later, she went back to school to work on a doctoral degree but left the program before finishing her dissertation. After teaching for several years in a couple of different library schools, she returned to work in government special libraries and occasional work as an office assistant.
"I became good at searching and finding answers, resources, and so on. I even achieved my lifetime goal of being mentioned in the preface or acknowledgments of one or more books as having been helpful to the author(s) in conducting their research," she said.
When Dingle was in her fifties, she decided to return to school for a degree in business with a concentration in human resources. While she was active in her local HR professional association, she found it difficult to find full-time employment at her stage in life and decided to retire.
"Now, I function as a public transportation advocate, anti-book banning advocate, and human rights advocate, and I also volunteer with AARP and attend city government meetings related to public transportation," she said.
Dingle is grateful for the financial support that she received as a graduate student and is "paying it forward" to lessen the financial load of current students. She donates to endowment funds in honor of her favorite instructors, such as Kathie Henderson, Don Krummel, and Linda Smith, as well as to the Curt McKay Student Need Endowment Fund because of the care and concern for students demonstrated by McKay, former assistant dean for student affairs.
"In one of the school's newsletters from the 1970s, I remember reading about a graduate who donated to the school's scholarship and support funds. I used to fantasize about someday doing that, too, myself. So here I am, doing it," said Dingle.
Dingle encourages her fellow alumni to join her in giving back to their School. By donating to endowment funds, alumni can help the next generations of students. This is especially important given the decrease in state and federal support for higher education over the years, she said.
"Already, I'm thinking about which funds I might like to donate to next year," said Dingle.