If you’ve spent time in Sexton Library, you’re already familiar with Jason Lee’s friendly smile and impeccable service. What you might not know is that for the last three years, he has been working towards his Master of Library and Information Studies degree (MLIS) at Dal.
Earlier this month, Jason completed his journey as part of the graduating class of 2020. With the advent of his MLIS degree (recently renamed Master of information, MI), Jason has expanded his depth of knowledge and opened new horizons.
“I’ve learned more on the management side now,” says Jason, reflecting on how his studies have complemented both his hands-on experience and extensive education. “I’ve had an opportunity to gain various perspectives. I’ve also learned to use a lot of applications, such as Github, Protégé (an ontology editor and knowledge management system) and ArcGIS (GIS software). I feel that these tools can be used to provide new services alongside traditional library services, and we’re already doing a lot of this at the Dalhousie Libraries.”
Balancing it all
The task of achieving a master’s degree while working full-time as an evening and weekend supervisor in the Sexton Library has been an arduous one. What makes it even more amazing is that Jason is also a dad. His son is four years old, and in February he and his wife welcomed a baby girl into the world.
“The last semester was a big challenge for me,” says Jason. “In addition to working, I was taking two courses and was a finance co-chair of the Information Without Borders (IWB) conference. My baby girl was born just one day before the conference, so I had to arrange financial details in advance. None of my immediate family could come to help with the baby due to COVID-19 in Korea at that time.”
Jason adapted by using vacation time so he could help with the new baby while working on his courses. He also credits Dalhousie Libraries with allowing for great flexibility while doing his degree. “My evening and weekend hours made it easier to take classes, and my supervisor was very accommodating with my schedule,” he says. “I also have to thank my wife for taking care of things when I wasn’t able to.”
Jason capped off his degree with a special honour, too, as recipient of the Anne Galler Award — awarded annually by Special Libraries Association to a student from each of the three graduate library schools within the Eastern Canada Chapter region in recognition of their high achievements in a special library-related course or activity. He was nominated by the MI Awards & Scholarships Committee at School of Information Management.
An evolving field
This isn’t Jason’s first time through a graduate program, either. In 2007, he completed his master’s in Library Science degree in Korea. However, because that program isn’t accredited by the American Library Association (ALA) — a requisite for working as a librarian in North America — he realized he’d have to do a degree in Canada, too. Instead of feeling frustrated at having to do a degree again, Jason sees the process as an opportunity, especially in the constantly evolving field of librarianship.
“This has been a great refresher for what I know already, and on top of that, I’ve learned so many new things. It was an excellent opportunity to learn about new trends and technology related to the information management fields,” he says.
Having international experience has given him insight into different management philosophies and has allowed him to hone additional skills. Whereas academic librarians in North America tend to specialize in specific tasks and research fields, in Korea, they are more well-rounded. “Librarians in Korea tend to do all the jobs in a library, whereas these jobs are divided between librarians and support staff in North America,” he says. Working in a university library in Korea, he was able to master some of the skills that have made him so valuable to the Sexton Library.
While most patrons only see him behind the Service Desk, Jason spends his days filling many vital roles in the library. When he’s not providing front-line circulation and research service, he can be found cataloguing new resources, end-processing new books (and sometimes repairing old ones), filling document delivery requests, assisting with 3D printing, and more. One of his pivotal tasks is training and supervising the Sexton Library’s student assistants. This, he says, along with serving the Dalhousie community, is his favourite part of the job.
“Whether I’m working with patrons, other library staff or student assistants, the variety of people is the greatest advantage of this job,” he says.
Now that he’s completed his MLIS at Dalhousie, Jason has opened a door to even more opportunity and variety.
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