Spectrum Scholar Spotlight: Andrea Serna

Andrea Serna

Seventeen iSchool master's students have been named 2023-2024 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. MSLIS student Andrea Serna earned her bachelor's degree in history from DePaul University in Chicago.

Why did you decide to pursue an LIS degree?

I chose to pursue an LIS degree after interning at the Chicago History Museum (CHM) during my time at DePaul. Before this internship, I didn't even know that library school or librarianship was an option. At CHM, I had the opportunity to work with the American Medina exhibit, which included oral histories of Muslim Americans living in Chicago. This experience was so powerful and showed me that I can highlight the stories and experiences of people from marginalized communities in information centers like museums and libraries. After I graduated from DePaul, I wanted to further explore working in information centers, so I worked at my local public library for a year before starting my MLIS. My experience working in a public library taught me a lot about the services and resources people need and how important libraries are to communities.

Why did you choose the iSchool at Illinois?

I chose the iSchool because of the graduate assistantships that provide hands-on experience, distinguished faculty, and competitive edge that comes with graduating from the number-one-ranked LIS program in the country. I have learned a lot through my graduate assistantship, and I have been fortunate to have supportive supervisors and mentors who work in the library field. In addition, I've had the opportunity to take classes with really knowledgeable professors who are distinguished in their field, including Emily Knox and Melissa Wong. 

What particular LIS topics interest you the most?

I am most interested in LIS topics in the areas of student success and outreach librarianship, information literacy, and accessibility. I'm also interested in exploring how to work with students with non-traditional sources such as zines and oral histories in academic libraries.

What do you do outside of class?

I have a graduate assistantship with the Teaching, Learning, and Academic Support department of the Main Library and a graduate hourly position with Student Success Librarian Maria Emerson. I'm the vice president of our ALA Student Chapter, where I started our first-ever Banned Book Club, and a member of the Progressive Librarians Guild. I volunteer at the Independent Media Center's Zine Library and at my former public library as an ESL tutor. I also enjoy climbing and taking care of my many plants! 

What does being a Spectrum Scholar mean to you?

Being a Spectrum Scholar means so much to me, especially as a Latina in the library field. There aren't a lot of us, and it can feel really isolating sometimes. Spectrum not only offers the funds that I need as a first-generation student to get through my program but also the opportunity to meet other emerging and established library professionals from marginalized communities, who understand what it's like to navigate these spaces where we aren't highly represented. I'm honored and grateful to have been chosen!

What career plans or goals do you have?

I hope to work in an academic library as a student success librarian or outreach and instruction librarian. I love working with undergraduate students, not just in a formal research and instruction setting, and I'm also passionate about fostering meaningful relationships with campus groups to boost library resources and services. I hope to make the library more accessible to groups not traditionally represented in higher education.

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