Alumni in Action
Alumni Spotlight: Emily Zerrenner
Describe your current position.
I am a research and instructional services librarian at Salisbury University in Maryland. All of us have different departments around the university that we are responsible for, so mine include Exercise Science, Health Science, Mathematics, Data Science, and Environmental Studies. I regularly communicate with faculty about doing library instruction sessions for their classes, help students with their research, and keep LibGuides up to date. I also do collection development for these particular subjects.
In addition to my role as a librarian, I am also the Research Help Desk Coordinator. I create the schedule for the desk every semester in addition to as hiring and supporting undergraduate workers that cover evenings and weekends.
To what extent does writing relate to your current position?/What type of writing/design do you do for work?
I am writing so many emails, all of the time! Communication really is key to being in this sort of academic librarian position. I'm in a critical period as a new librarian where I am building relationships with faculty members that will hopefully lead to more meaningful, lasting partnerships with their departments and classes. I have to be able to clearly articulate library resources and services, and in that vein, tailor them to my audience. Someone teaching research methods in Environmental Studies needs something quite different from me than a capstone class in Data Science.
I have some other miscellaneous writing I do in my position as well. I write out every lesson plan and script for said lesson whenever I teach, as well as write reflectively on how my instruction went. I'm also on the library's social media committee, which involves writing posts for various platforms and collaborating with that team. Finally, I write for the Association of College & Research Libraries' blog, ACRLog.
Briefly describe your path from graduation at GVSU to your current position.
I graduated from GVSU in April 2019, which in hindsight was really good timing. I had applied and been accepted to the MS/LIS program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign during my final semester, but I ultimately decided to take a gap year between undergrad and grad school. During this year, I held two jobs - I was a copywriter intern (and later operations assistant) at an advertising agency called Aisle Rocket, as well as a library page at my hometown library. I was very glad I deferred my acceptance; I cannot imagine going through the stress of the pandemic in my second semester of grad school.
I did begin my studies at UIUC in Fall 2020, and I was also a Research and Information Services graduate assistant. I set foot in my place of work exactly once during that first year; I answered reference questions, taught library workshops, and wrote social media posts all from home. In the summer between, I interned (albeit remotely) at the Library of Congress as a junior fellow. I was able to work in-person at the library during my second year, and I landed this job at Salisbury just a week before graduation.
What parts of the writing major had the strongest impact on you as a professional?
Definitely the Document Design core class, as well as the Writing with Technologies module. I did not intend originally to take these classes, but I enjoyed my time in WRT 253 so much that I changed my module plans. I love talking and doing design, and I try to take that opportunity every chance I get. While I was a graduate assistant, I taught workshops like Designing Infographics and Using Multimedia in Your Research. I also created an Adobe InDesign lesson plan from scratch during my second year and was able to actually teach it. I hope to eventually bring these types of workshops to Salisbury.
What advice would you offer to current/future writing majors at Grand Valley?
It's okay to say "no" to opportunities sometimes. I know, you might be thinking: wait, what? But when I look back at my undergraduate schedule, I wonder how I managed at all. As I'm sure my former professors and classmates would attest, I was the "yes" person involved in all things Grand Valley and the Writing Department. Burnout was a big factor in my decision for that gap year in between degrees.
In the same vein though, don't be afraid to try something new. I did not go into my writing degree thinking I'd be the president for the Organization for Professional Writers - but it turned out to be a great experience overall. You may also change your mind about your future career, and that's okay. I thought I wanted to be a book editor, but after taking the Editing and Publishing class, I learned that pathway was not for me. Through the combination of working as a writing consultant and at the library, I discovered that what I really wanted was to be working directly with students in higher ed. My advisor helped me figure out what that career might look like, and here I am - a faculty librarian at a university!
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