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Future Librarians: ScienceLinks Student Profiles

School of Information Sciences students Sonia Sarangthem and Monica Colón-Aguirre discuss their experiences at UT, as part of the IMLS grant-funded ScienceLinks program

Science Links is a two-year scholarship funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services and the University of Tennessee, awarded to students from underrepresented groups interested in a career in science librarianship. In addition to earning a Master’s degree, Science Links scholars will gain practical professional experience by working at the Science Links partner institutions: the University of Tennessee Libraries; the Oak Ridge National Laboratory; the Office of Scientific and Technical Information at the Department of Energy; and Information International Associates. Monica Colón-Aguirre and Sonia Sarangthem have focused their first work practicums at the University of Tennessee Libraries.

Monica Colón-Aguirre
Perhaps Monica Colón-Aguirre was destined to work in a library. As a child, she spent her summers helping her mother, who works in a library. After she finished college, she took a job in the acquisitions department at the Interamerican University in Puerto Rico. It was this job that inspired her to pursue a graduate degree in information sciences.

Colón was pleased to discover the University of Tennessee and Science Links, as the program fits well with her educational background in pharmacy and business.

“I love studying–that’s my favorite part,” Colón said. “I look forward to class every day,” she says, although she is feeling a bit squeezed, taking an ambitious four courses along with her 20-hour work practicum. “Never register for classes when you’re feeling optimistic,” she said with a smile.

So far, Colón’s favorite courses have been Information Access and Retrieval and Information Representation and Organization, what she calls “a little taste of cataloging.”

Colón finds that her information sciences coursework is helping to put her library work experience in perspective. “I have a lot of a-ha moments,” she said. “I like learning the theory behind the work we do, after having a bit of library work experience. It puts everything in context. It’s kind of like ‘oh, so that’s why we do it that way …”

Colón is completing her work practicum at UT’s Pendergrass Agriculture Veterinary Medicine Library. Her work there includes reference, acquisitions, resource searching, and helping translate PetHealth into Spanish. She admits that adjusting to the reference interview has been a great learning experience.

“At first, I go into panic mode. I wonder, ‘how do I look for that?’ But then I remember that this isn’t a yes or no question that needs to be answered right away. There is time to do research and ask more questions.” She especially enjoyed helping a PhD student research diversity in veterinary school programs throughout history.

Colón admits she likes to “think big” when considering her career goals. She hopes to work towards a PhD in information sciences. “I’d like to continue my studies in Knoxville,” she said. “I feel comfortable here. I come from a small town, and Knoxville reminds me of that. People here are polite and relaxed.”

Sonia Sarangthem
Sonia Sarangthem believes that the future lies in information. This along with her interest in technology led her to pursue a degree in library science.

Sarangthem has a background in math and physics and an undergraduate degree in architecture. With these strengths in hand, UT’s ScienceLinks program fit perfectly with her background and professional goals.

She is interested in exploring the challenges posed to digital libraries as well as working in libraries with a science focus. So far, her coursework includes information retrieval, ethics, and science reference, as well as a Web design course. In addition to classes she has completed her practicum assignment working in Reference at Hodges Library and also in the Map Library, where she has worked on projects involving geo-referencing and ArcMap, collection development, and metadata entry.

Sarangthem, who hails from a small town in India, appreciates the calm pace of life in Knoxville and enjoys working in an academic library. She hopes to focus her career working in a digital library.

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