“Covid made me think about the future and what I wanted to do,” says UNC Greensboro student Katherine “Kat” Robinson. “I know a master’s in Library and Information Science isn’t going to lead to the highest-paying job, but it’s the program I think will allow me to have the biggest impact.”
Currently enrolled in the Integrated Professional Studies (BIPS) online program, Robinson expects to earn her bachelor’s of science in May 2024, at the age of 51. And when the application window opens in the Fall, she plans to apply to the M.L.I.S program.
While she still has a long road ahead of her, she is thrilled to be making her dream a reality. “It’s been my dream since I was a child to be a librarian,” she says.
The Road Back to School
Robinson spent many years as a stay-at-home mom to her two sons, who are enrolled in the North Carolina Virtual Academy and complete schoolwork at home. A suggestion from one of her son’s teachers sent her down a new path.
“She told me I was hovering and helping too much,” she says, “so I started going to the library to get out of the house.”
Robinson quickly realized she enjoyed spending time at the library and began doing some contingency work, which led to a part-time position as a library assistant at the Eden branch in Rockingham County, NC. She continued to work her way up to a full-time position driving the bookmobile, and she has since been promoted to the bookmobile and outreach coordinator.
“Working with the bookmobile prompted me to pursue my degree,” she explains. “I have plenty of work and management experience from before I had my children, but I don’t have a degree to go along with it.”
The BIPS online program was the best – and only – option for Robinson to pursue her undergraduate degree while working her full-time job and taking care of her family. “What’s great about the entire program being online is that I can work in small increments, even 10 minutes here or 20 minutes there,” she says. “I didn’t want school to impact how I show up for my children. My education is important, but it shouldn’t take away from my ability to be there for them.”
Robinson has enjoyed not only the convenience of the coursework but also the professors’ enthusiasm and responsiveness despite distance learning. She’s already using things she’s learned in class on the job. “I had a situation with an employee being on his phone too much. My Integrative Thinking class has given me the ability to think outside the box. We were able to solve the problem in a way that made us both happy.”
The Journey of the Bookmobile
The bookmobile has been in service in Rockingham County since 1937. A mobile mini-branch of the library, this specially designed van is stocked with books, computers, tablets, printers, and WiFi accessibility. Patrons can come to one of the bookmobile’s stops to pick up books or use its resources.
Robinson and her staff have been able to connect with the homeschool community and schools in the county that don’t have their own library or librarian. The outreach program delivers books to nursing homes and individuals who are housebound. A large print collection and some audiobooks are available for patrons, many of whom are elderly.
“We’re a socio-economically depressed county,” says Robinson. “My vision for the bookmobile is to get all library programs integrated, so the farthest reaches of the county have access to materials. I’d love to run classes to teach technology to the elderly and start a Book Club to connect them with one another.”
She describes her job as exciting and new everyday. “You don’t need a master’s degree to work for the library system, but I think the experience of earning a master’s degree in library science will help me to make the bookmobile the best it can be.”
Story by Amanda Saber, AMBCopy
Photography provided by Sean Norona, University Communications
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