In this month's myMETRO spotlight, we interview Kai Alexis Smith, a 2014 ALA Emerging Leader and a recent recipient of ARLIS/NA's Wolfgang Freitag Award. Keep up the great work, Kai!
Kai Alexis Smith is an Adjunct Reference Librarian at the City University of New York (CUNY)’s Graduate Center. She is a member of the 2014 class of the American Library Association’s Emerging Leaders program. Kai graduated from Pratt Institute’s School of Information and Library Science program in May 2013.
This past summer, she was an intern at the National Gallery of Art through the Art Library Society of North America (ARLIS/NA) Wolfgang Freitag Award and worked as a Fellow at the University of Michigan’s Fine Arts Library and Art, Architecture and Engineering Library as part of the Association of Research Libraries Career Enhancement Program. Kai has also held internships in institutions such as the Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library at Columbia University, Barnard College BLAIS Library, American Museum of Natural History Library, Smithsonian’s Biodiversity Heritage Library, and The Frances Mulhall Achilles Library at the Whitney Museum.
Kai was recently nominated to the ARLIS/NY Executive Board as Treasurer for 2014-2016; she is a member of the ARLIS/NA Diversity Committee. Kai also volunteered on the ACRL/NY 2013 Symposium Selection Committee.
Kai's interest in the arts and humanities stem from her undergraduate degree in writing (also from Pratt Institute) and her previous career as a researcher and writer for magazines and websites. She started a second masters in Art History and plans to finish it in the near future.
1. When did you first join myMETRO?
I first joined myMETRO in March 2012. I learned about the organization when I was an intern at the American Museum of Natural History. Tom Baione, the Harold Boeschenstein Library Director, was the first person to suggest joining. Once I learned about the diverse classes, special interest groups, and events METRO has to offer, I immediately signed up.
2. Describe your work experience prior to joining the profession. What has been your most rewarding experience as a professional so far?
Before I decided to become a librarian, I was a writer and researcher for lifestyle and entertainment magazines and websites. The skills I've learned through research, writing, and working with different technologies have proved advantageous in my career in libraries.
As a library school student, I worked at a public library. However, I knew that there were other types of libraries where one could work, and skills and experiences that I wanted that would make me a stronger candidate for my job search. I was eager to expand my skills beyond what I was learning in library school or at my job, so I sacrificed in order to continue to work, attend school, and do an internship or two each semester, all while commuting from Connecticut. The sacrifice was significant, but certainly worth it.
I would say the most reward came from assisting students and other library patrons in their pursuit of scholarship in all of the fellowships, internships, and adjunct positions I have had. Currently, I get to provide reference help to students at the CUNY’s Graduate Center.
3. What drew you to your particular line of work?
Several years after graduating with my undergraduate degree, I came to a crossroads in my life. I was the Research Editor at a website and I truly enjoyed supporting the editorial staff’s research needs. However, it didn’t feel like a perfect fit. I was considering a Ph.D. in Art History, but wasn’t sure I wanted to pursue that path. At Hunter College, where I was taking a few classes, a professor suggested that I consider librarianship. After talking with librarians at various institutions, I learned about their profession. Their passion was contagious and I immediately changed course.
Before enrolling in library school, I started working at a public library to get first hand experience about what it is like to work in a library. While I was a student, I had the opportunity to directly apply much of what I learned. Also, I developed and refined my public service, instruction, technology, community relations, and project management skills.
4. Tell us a little about the projects that capture your interests these days (either for yourself or an organization).
My group mates in the Emerging Leaders program and I have been tasked with working on a project for the Association for Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS), a division of ALA. We are going to develop a template for a virtual version of ALCTS 101, which is an orientation to this division held annually at ALA. While not meant to replace the annual conference, the virtual orientation will be available for those who cannot attend the conference in person. We will also develop social media strategies to promote the project.
5. What are your favorite ways to stay on top of industry trends?
I make an effort to stay current with trends by staying active in several professional organizations like myMETRO, pursuing professional development opportunities, and attending conferences. In addition, I regularly read library and technology blogs. I also find podcasts a resourceful way to get library and technology related and unrelated information.
6. What do you find most valuable about your myMETRO membership?
As a recent graduate, I find myMETRO events a great way to meet and stay in touch with other librarians. They are also a great resource to learn and/or brush up on skills at an affordable price.