Michelle Chesner – 2006

Norman E. Alexander Librarian for Jewish Studies at Columbia University
Member of the 2006 Dual Degree Cohort

20140409-102110.jpg“I was one of the students in the first cohort of the Masters’ and Mentors’ program between LIU and NYU, and I have to say, it had a direct impact on my career as an academic librarian.  Having the training in academic research in addition to my library training, and especially the hands-on experience that my mentor, Evelyn Ehrlich, provided me with, allowed me to show prospective employers that although I was a “newbie,” I had the skills, the know-how, and the ability to learn and ultimately be a productive academic librarian.  As with many fields in the Area Studies, a major survey of the Association of Jewish Libraries (of which I am a member) showed that nearly 75% of librarians are planning to retire within the next 15 years (and the study was almost five years ago!), and so there is a great need for librarians with subject expertise who can replace these individuals.

“The Dual Degree program,of course, is the perfect training ground for these librarians.  In fact, I have been asked by many of my colleagues whether there are additional students “in that program that you did” who are focusing on Jewish Studies, since the need in the field is so great. “I cannot overemphasize the importance of the mentorship aspect of the program.  While Evelyn and I are now officially colleagues and we work together on many projects, I still (and will always) consider her my ongoing mentor, and her advice has proven (and continues to be) invaluable to me as I make decisions in my job (and sometimes in my life!).  Additionally, some of the internships that I did (especially in the field of rare books) gave me incredible contacts to whom I still turn for advice – I now purchase rare manuscripts from an auctioneer that I worked for when I was in the program, and I’m working on a joint exhibit with a library where I did another one of my internships. “I would be happy to be in touch with potential students who are interested in the field of Jewish Studies Librarianship, and I hope that they could gain as much from the Dual Degree program as I did.”

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