Spectrum Scholar Spotlight: Janelle Lyons

Janelle Lyons

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 Janelle Lyons earned her BA in French and Francophone studies from the University of Florida and her MA in international affairs from The George Washington University.

Why did you decide to pursue an LIS degree?

Before deciding to pursue a career in librarianship, I knew I wanted to have a career where I could be of service to others. The idea of becoming a librarian came to me when I started an entry-level position at a public library, after leaving my first full-time position out of my first graduate degree program. I have always enjoyed spending time in libraries, but until working in one, the idea never occurred to me that I could have a career in this field. As much as I’ve enjoyed reading and learning new information, I am always taken aback when I learn information that should be widely known but unfortunately is not. I wanted to pursue an LIS degree to serve others and help bring little-known histories to light.

Why did you choose the iSchool at Illinois?

I chose the iSchool at Illinois because of the opportunity to gain experience working at an academic library while receiving tuition assistance through the assistantships available through the University Library. I was also drawn to the program due to the flexibility of the curriculum. Having fewer required classes provides more opportunity to explore different areas of librarianship that are of interest to me.

What particular LIS topics interest you the most?

I am most interested in digital librarianship, specifically metadata and digital collections, however, I am also intrigued by digital humanities. I would also like to broaden my knowledge related to linked data and how different controlled vocabularies can better meet the needs of marginalized communities.

What do you do outside of class?

This year, I have remote positions working as an Ask a Librarian apprentice for the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries and as a cataloging and collection development intern for Candid, a nonprofit based out of New York City. When I’m not working or doing schoolwork, I love reading, going for bike rides when the weather is nice, keeping up with my French language skills, doing yoga, and trying out new recipes.

What does being a Spectrum Scholar mean to you?

I am so honored to have been chosen as a Spectrum Scholar. Beyond my gratitude for the financial benefits of the award, I am excited about connecting with other Spectrum Scholars. I have attended meetings of the iSchool Students of Color organization since my first semester, and with the wonderful camaraderie and support I’ve received from this group, I am even more excited for the opportunities that joining a larger community of BIPOC information professionals will bring.

What career plans or goals do you have?

I would like to become an academic librarian. I hope to work with metadata and digital collections but am also interested in working as a subject specialist. I enjoy doing more technical work, however I also enjoy working with patrons, and so a position that involves both would be ideal.

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