When her IT job got outsourced, Vanessa Villarreal, MMLIS ‘22, got serious about her dreams of becoming a librarian — specifically a library director. She landed a library role while pursuing her Master of Management in Library and Information Sciences degree, and set her sights on growing into a leadership position. Today she works as a youth and school services librarian at Vernon Area Public Library in Illinois and serves as a board member for the Lake Villa District Library and Reaching Across Illinois Library System. Learn more about her academic journey in this Q&A.
I am passionate about assisting people in finding resources or materials they need to succeed in their life, career or hobbies. It fills me with a lot of joy when I am able to help someone. It also stems from my own experience at my local library when I received the assistance I needed. Growing up with limited resources made going to the library special for me. There was an unlimited amount of resources available at my fingertips and all I needed was a library card.
I was looking for something to make me stand out from others that are looking for similar roles as me. I noticed while scrolling through Facebook back in 2016, that USC had a new program available for people who wanted a management and library degree. This just felt right to me after I read about the Master of Management in Library and Information Science program. I knew that was where I wanted to continue my education. I would like to be a manager within the next 5 years of a children’s department in a public library and eventually move up to be a director of a public library. With this specific degree from USC I feel like I will be able to achieve my dreams and more.
USC assisted by hiring the best student support team. My first year, Alexis was such a great help. She made sure we had everything we needed to be successful. I was going through some personal things and she was such a great person for me to reach out to and let know what was going on. She never made me feel bad for calling or emailing her and she helped me come up with a plan to overcome my obstacles and be successful. I will be forever grateful to Alexis and Ashley for sticking by and ensuring my success at USC. It was me who had to do the work but they gave me the tools to be successful.
The most memorable experience I have at USC is the community that we ended up building together. It is hard to get to know people virtually but we made it work. When we finally met up I felt like I'd known my cohort for a long time. My memorable learning moment was honestly the whole program. I was able to join the SLA+USC Chapter group as a treasurer with my original cohort members. I was also able to get a virtual internship at California Institute of Technology which was a great experience. And the biggest thing is taking everything I have learned and adapting it to my everyday life and work life.
But the single most memorable experience for me would be working with student services. I cannot stress enough how thankful I am to them. Without them cheering me on or helping me get back into this program, I do not think I would be as successful as I am today without them.
Before I started this program, I had applied to many library positions but no one would give me a chance since I wasn't in library school and didn’t have prior experience. It was when my IT job got outsourced that I took becoming a librarian more seriously. I applied to the MMLIS program and got accepted. With just a few classes under my belt, I was able to get a job in a library. It was part time at first, but totally worth getting my foot in the door. From there, I steadily moved up and the more experience I received, I was offered better positions and more responsibilities. I felt confident enough, before I graduated, to run for my local library board and even run for the RAILS (Reaching Across Illinois Library Systems) board as well.
Never give up! It is so easy to throw in the towel but you have to keep moving. Having student support is the smartest and greatest thing the MMLIS program offers. They picked the best, dedicated people for it and again, I am forever grateful to them for helping me get through the program with their encouragement, wisdom, and support. Any issue you have whether it is academic, personal, financial or career-related, they are here to listen and help you achieve your goals. Fight On!