Inspiring the Next Generation of Librarians: A Q/A with Jesse Webster, Drexel Libraries Employee & MLIS Student
April 2, 2018
The Drexel University Libraries employs more than 90 student workers in various capacities. From working at the circulation desk to assisting the Libraries’ IT department to joining our Library Explorers Group, students play a key role in the Libraries’ daily operations. We’re fortunate that many of these students continue in their positions over the course of their academic careers at Drexel, and in some cases, their work experience inspire them to pursue professional careers in library and information science. This month, I sat down with Jesse Webster, Specialist I for Online Resources Support, to learn more about his personal journey from undergraduate library student worker to full-time Libraries employee and graduate student.
Q: When did you start working at the Drexel Library?
A: I started working at the W. W. Hagerty Library as a student worker in 2012 while I was earning my undergraduate degree in English and Education. I really enjoyed it, and after about nine months I was asked if I wanted to transition to a part-time position. That’s when I became the late night/evening shift manager at Hagerty and Hahnemann Libraries. I mainly covered the circulation desk and answered questions from other student workers and library patrons, and I became familiar with the Libraries and how they serve the Drexel community. It was inspiring, and it helped me realize this could lead to a fulfilling career. So about four years later, in 2016, a full-time position opened up, and I jumped at the opportunity. Now, I’m the Specialist I for Online Resources Support. I travel between the Hahnemann, Queen Lane and Hagerty Libraries, where I run the circulation desks and manage our team of student workers. I do everything from hire and train student workers to respond to general email queries. It’s a little different every day, which keeps it interesting.
Q: Has taking classes at Drexel while working full-time shaped your professional contribution to the Libraries?
A: First and foremost, it has helped me as a manager. I manage a team of both full-time Libraries staff and student workers, and taking classes while working has helped me maintain perspective. I have first-hand experience and knowledge of Drexel and what’s expected of undergraduate students here – I was in their position not so long ago – and I have a good idea of how much work they can manage and how much we can expect of our student workers throughout the year. I think back to the support I wanted and needed when I was an undergraduate and try to give them that support. I’ve also come to appreciate the value and the importance of networking. Working and taking classes has given me the opportunity to develop some close relationships with Drexel faculty and staff, which helps me, both as a student and as a Drexel employee.
Q: Tell me about how you balance your professional career and your course load.
A: Drexel is so flexible when it comes to finding and taking classes, especially for undergrads, and that’s made my experience here such a positive one. And of course, my supervisors at the Libraries are incredibly supportive, and they’ve allowed me to tailor my work schedule to fit with my class schedule when needed.
Q: Has your work at the Libraries inspired you to join the MLS program?
A: Honestly, I never considered a Master’s in Library and Information Science (MLIS) until I came to Drexel and started working at the Libraries, so yes, you could say that! But working here and seeing what academic libraries do and how they support and foster research and student growth was eye-opening. I quickly realized how important the library is to a university and its community, and I knew that’s where I wanted to be. I recently completed my undergrad degree, and I immediately enrolled in the MLS program through the College of Computing and Informatics, and I’ll start taking classes this fall.
Q: Do you have any advice for people looking to work and go back to school?
A: In general, you need to find that work/life/class balance right off the bat. It sounds like a great idea to take as many credits as possible each term, but I’ve found during my undergraduate coursework that less is more. For anyone considering an MLIS, I can’t recommend it enough. Working in a library – and now earning my Master’s degree in library science – has opened so many doors for me already. I’ve met so many different people across the University just through working in the [Drexel] Libraries, and it has helped me appreciate what libraries do. And I want to use that to help improve library services and resources as much as I can.