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Sarah Bratt


I was not your traditional library student. Coming from an undergraduate career in philosophy and off a plane from Model European Union in the UK, I had a talk with my mom that changed the next few years of my life. Mom told me she had found the “soul mate” Master’s degree for me: new librarianship! I knew I loved the idea of promoting literacy, life-long learning, and language, but little did I know I would be at the cross section of the humanities and technology learning not the romance language of Italian but the programming language of python when I signed up for LIS.

Attending the iSchool was like discovering a new world, with new species of plant and animal life that I didn’t even SUSPECT existed. I had committed a horrible mistake—I pigeon-holed myself. “I’m not a math brain,” I told myself—my strengths are in the humanities and ‘soft skills’ alone. And I was strong there. But the thought: “I’m not a techie—I don’t even have a smart phone!” was proven false. My time at the iSchool equipped to understand that tech means tools—tools to solve problems, to explore, to bring people together. So I mashed the world I knew and the new world together—created a database for Syracuse University Women’s Choir, text mined Jane Austen in Natural Language Processing class, and found insights into employment patterns of LIS librarians in NY libraries--and to my surprise, an MS in Library & Information Science and CAS in data science and my undergraduate degree got along. I now graduate uniquely prepared to connect with data, with the tech skills and analytic thinking necessary to ask the right questions and get answers, not to mention an immense international network of friends and professionals.

As two years went by, I discovered more and more about this new world of tech and creative problem-solving. My role as a GA for Employer Relations & Career Services was one of the greatest iSchool experiences. Becoming the resident expert in Qualtrics survey software (after having tech support on speed dial and much frustrated head-to-wall banging) helped me meet new people at the iSchool and taught me that if you throw enough resources at a challenge, it can be overcome. I also had the privilege of working as an FA for Scott Nicholson’s MIT augmented reality gaming project and as teaching assistant for Bei Yu for her Data Mining class.

My iSchool experience began in the classroom but went far beyond. I also got to help catalogue the Syracuse Italian department’s book collection, cheer at many SU basketball games, create a Pinterest subject guide for Historic Architecture in Syracuse, and visit NPR alumni in Washington, DC. With Hinds Hall as my HQ, I was able to launch from the iSchool to the community and back again. Professional conferences and challenges kept me on the edge of my comfort zone, and expanded my worldview. I co-organized “Spaces +Places: an unconference” and presented in exciting local conferences such as Imagining America’s 2013 National Conference, NY3R’s “Big Data in Libraries,” and Upstate New York Special Library Association’s (UNYSLA) “The Librarian’s Toolbox Re-opened.” Among these accomplishments, I was honored to sing “Proud Mary” with the iBand.

Job Title: 
Past Graduate Student
Syracuse University School of Information Studies

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