First Northern California cohort students celebrate completion of Master's program

The first class of the Northern California Cohort Program celebrated the completion of their University of North Texas Department of Information Science Master's Degree program on Saturday, January 28, 2017. The Graduation Celebration was held at the Main Library of the San Francisco Public Library in the Koret Auditorium. The “Celebration Speaker” was Luis Herrera, San Francisco Public Library’s (SFPL) City Librarian since 2005. Under his guidance, the city government through the largest capital improvement program in the history of the SFPL, led to the completion of twenty-two new or renovated branch libraries throughout San Francisco. This past year, Luis Herrera and SFPL were awarded the Innovation in Networking Award for Educational Application for The Mix at SFPL. Director Herrera welcomed the graduates to the California library profession and shared his vision for the future of libraries.

Two student speakers were elected by the class - Brian Edwards and Jillian Wilson. They both represented their classmates well as they talked about the profession and their experiences matriculating in the UNT program. Brian Edwards began working at Alameda County Library in 1999 as a Library Page at the Fremont Main Library. After beginning his master’s degree he was appointed Branch Manager of the Albany Branch. He is currently the Interim Principal Librarian of the four Fremont Libraries, overseeing library services for the same libraries he once attended story times at as a child. In Brian's speech, “Responsibility is a Heavy Responsibility” he spoke about the new responsibilities that the graduates would now be undertaking as information professionals. "If you are not versed in media literacy yet, do so immediately. We have a responsibility to point people to the Alternative Facts section, or as libraries call them, the Fiction and Science Fiction collections. Our democracy is built on a foundation of information literacy – people are free to think what they want based on the real facts. Unfortunately, information overload has led to a difficult situation where the person who talks the loudest, or the funniest meme, or the most ‘liked’ article is believed to be the truth.” Edwards said. He concluded that, “We have the responsibility to reinvent the role of libraries in our communities. The choice is now, and the responsibility is ours.” 

Jillian Wilson has been the cataloging specialist at Gavilan College Library in Gilroy, California since 2013. Her future career goals include disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline by working with children and young adults in a public library setting. In her speech, Jillian spoke of her classmates and their academic journey through the master’s degree program. In celebrating her fellow graduates, Jillian said, “Commencement speeches are supposed to inspire the graduates, and I know this because, like any good student, like any good librarian, I did my research. But despite the fantastic information I found on my amazing classmates, instead of trying to do that, I am going to talk about how you have inspired me and how we’ve grown better together.”  Jillian noted that, “we’ve helped each other choose classes, helped each other with assignments, clamored to be in the same groups for projects, we’ve cared for one another through challenges, and cheered each other as we have celebrated major milestones. We’ve learned from one another along the way.”

Among the graduates is Juan Garcia, a recipient of the ALA Spectrum Scholarship, an award that recognizes exceptional students in an effort to 'increase the number of racially and ethnically diverse professionals working as leaders in the field of library and information science to best position libraries and institutions at the core of today’s culturally diverse communities.'  

Dr. Yvonne J. Chandler, Director of the Northern California Cohort presided over the program. Dr. Michele Villagran, Lecturer and Coordinator of the California Cohorts and Sara Jones, Director, Marin County Public Library hooded each graduate before they received their University of North Texas master’s degree folder and pen. 

A reception was held after the program in honor of the graduates and their families.