Three Alums Pursue “Nontraditional” Careers in Fundraising
Many students in Kent State’s School of Library and Information Science have traditional dreams of working in a library. Some may already be working in libraries, and they’re seeking a degree in order to advance in the profession.
More and more alumni of the Master of Library and Information Science degree program, however, are finding that their skills can be applied very successfully to various nontraditional professions.
One such professional opportunity is in the field of fundraising and nonprofits, as alums Jessica Hudson, M.L.I.S. ’07, Barbara Yeager, M.L.S. ’85, and Laura Dowler, M.L.I.S. ’06, have discovered.
Jessica Hudson is currently the senior director of development at Summa Health System in Akron, Ohio, where she leads fundraising efforts for the Summa Health Cancer Institute and Orthopaedics. Previously, she was an adjunct reference librarian at Malone University. She took to this nontraditional career path by way of a position as a prospect research specialist in Kent State’s Division of Institutional Advancement. Hudson explained that one of the fundraising directors believed she had a lot of personality and would do well in a front-line position.
“This opportunity [to work in a front-line position], coupled with my research background, proved to be a great match,” said Hudson.
Hudson noted that although she chose a nontraditional LIS career path, she still uses the skills she acquired through her M.L.I.S. degree daily.
"Although much of my position is externally facing, I am constantly seeking, analyzing and synthesizing information of all types,” she said.
Barbara Yeager worked in a public library in Marion, Ohio, immediately after getting her M.L.S. She later moved to Indiana for a job as a technical writer and systems analyst for a real estate development company, and then left to work in the nonprofit field. She is currently the director of operations for the Indianapolis-based National Association of Charitable Gift Planners, a professional society for people whose work includes developing charitable planned gifts. With this role, she said she is serving “virtually every” nonprofit organization in the country.
Yeager believes that there are several benefits to using her degree in a nontraditional field. For her current position, she can imagine or predict how people will search for information, which is a huge benefit when evaluating or customizing platforms where resources will be stored. She adds that evaluating sources is critical when trying to curate content for the web.
“I’m happy to bring my whole skill set, including 'librarian' skills, to that mission,” said Yeager.
She adds that while professional associations aren’t thought of as special collections, "there is a whole lot of curating going on in a huge variety of associations.” She encourages LIS grads to consider positions in the association field.
Like Hudson and Yeager, Laura Dowler also took her degree into the nonprofit world; she is currently the Resource Development Manager for the community organizing non-profit Organize Florida. She explained that she mostly does grant writing, research and reporting, but that it is a great fit for her library background. She also said that she gets to work directly with issues related to social justice, which is an added bonus for this SLIS alum.
Dowler explained that, for her, library work is social justice work, and she is constantly inspired by how libraries and librarians work to build a society that is inclusive and diverse. She believes that the core values of librarianship are closely aligned with the ideas of social justice and that there is opportunity for libraries and librarians to contribute to the work of social justice more directly.
“I think the biggest benefit to using the M.L.I.S. degree in a nontraditional job is that it lets people outside of the library world know how versatile people with this degree can be. In a world where we are constantly bombarded with information, being able to organize and synthesize it is a skill that pretty much every workplace needs.”
These three Kent State alumni are examples showing that the doors of opportunity are wide open for SLIS students. Kent State SLIS courses offer a wide range of skills, some of which are typically viewed as best used in a library. As these women have shown, it is important to keep an open mind, realizing that your SLIS degree could lead you to a completely new field that you might not have expected.