Check out this MAPH Alumni Interview with Harriett Green, AM ’07, English and Digital Humanities Library at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign for reflections on library science and life after MAPH.
What was your favorite thing about your MAPH year?
My MAPH year was actually two years: I worked full time at the University of Chicago Press and took classes part-time over the course of the two years. And one unique thing about going through MAPH that way was that I had two cohorts during my time in MAPH. So I’d say that my favorite thing was that I made a host of great new friends each year, many of whom I still stay in touch with today.
What are you currently doing (work, writing, etc)?
I am currently the English and Digital Humanities Librarian at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. A couple years after I graduated from MAPH, I decided to make the jump from publishing to libraries, so I applied to the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois (in-state tuition + Number one ranking = decision made). I decided to go all in and move from Chicago to Champaign to be an on-campus student, and worked in the University Library as a graduate assistant. A librarian position opened up in the library just when I was graduating, and it happened to be my dream job of being the English literature subject specialist. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity, and four years later, I’ve begun to build an exciting career in academic librarianship, digital humanities, and information science.
How has MAPH impacted your career choices? What has your career trajectory been like since graduating and how did your experience in MAPH affect this?
MAPH directly influenced the type of work I do as a librarian: I doubt I could have gotten my job as a subject specialist for English literature without my MAPH degree, and the coursework I did in MAPH prepared me well to work closely with humanities faculty and students on their research, teaching, and learning. As I noted, I’ve been working as a librarian for over four years now, but my work has always involved an orientation toward the humanities—I routinely assist faculty and students with their literary research and more recently, I’ve been collaborating on research projects with scholars and students in English, German, history, and media studies.
Also, there are exciting new changes occurring in humanities scholarship such as the methodologies of digital humanities and new forms of publishing/scholarly communication. These changes, especially in digital humanities, have increased interdisciplinary collaboration across departments and disciplines, and MAPH’s interdisciplinary core prepared me extremely well for this mindset as I increasingly work with scholars from a range of fields and on research topics beyond my central focus.
What drew you to library science and what do you find most rewarding about your work?
Beyond the love of books that we all have, I’ve always been interested in how people connect to knowledge: when I worked in publishing, my work was closer on the creation end of the spectrum, as we helped scholars produce and disseminate their work. And now as a librarian, I teach students how to do research, help scholars discover new sources of material, and help all types of patrons expand their knowledge through the millions of resources we have. And I do mean millions: the University of Illinois Library is largest public university library system with 13 million volumes and 24 million items (behind only the Library of Congress and Harvard in overall size), so it’s such a pleasure to work with an immense repository of resources. And I’d say that thus far, the most rewarding thing about my work is interacting with patrons and teaching students: Helping a patron find a archived digital newspaper that mentions their great-great-grandmother, or seeing a student transform into an enthusiastic researcher when I show them that’s it’s not impossible to find poetry criticism—those moments are when I feel most strongly how my work is fulfilling.
What advice would you give to MAPH students who are interested in Library Science?
Library and information science (LIS) is a wonderful field that enables people to make use of every experience they’ve had: from being in customer service as a cashier at The Gap to sitting in a biology lab for 8 hours a day, there are library and information professional positions that value all those work experiences. Moreover, LIS jobs aren’t just about working in a library anymore: there are information professionals at museums, non-profits, law firms, business corporations, tech companies, the entertainment industry, and almost any other place you might think of—companies have archives and/or data, and that content needs to be organized!
There are great LIS schools in every region of the U.S. (including 3 good ones in/near Chicago) and it’s a fairly quick degree—not quite as turbo as MAPH, but about 1.5 years on average. I’d say to dive in and do it, and I’d be happy to talk to anyone who’s interested in pursuing a LIS degree.
MAPH alumni have really varied work when they leave the program. What surprised you most about the work you have done since MAPH?
What has surprised me is how it all eventually synced together: My final years in publishing built upon my creative writing work in MAPH, and my work in libraries has definitely drawn upon both my publishing experience and time in MAPH as a humanities scholar in dialogue with other scholars. So for those of you who think your work and life look a bit haphazard, don’t fear—it will all work out!