Snapshot: Mariah Manley, outgoing LISSA President

April 14, 2014

"I gained a great deal of experience learning how to build bridges, balance a budget, partner with executive management, and successfully implement a vision, which are all marketable skills that I can apply to my career."

Mariah Manley shares what she has learned about building bridges, working with executive management, balancing budgets, and other skills as the outgoing Library and Information Science Student Association (LISSA) president. Read how Manley is building her career by taking advantage of GSLIS opportunities to develop her talents and networks.

Why did you run for LISSA president?

When I moved to Massachusetts from Utah, I didn't know many people. I saw LISSA as an opportunity to get involved and make friends quickly. Thankfully, it worked.

I also knew serving in LISSA would diversify my resume and demonstrate leadership.

What were your accomplishments as LISSA president?

Beyond planning and communicating about events, I addressed specific challenges during my tenure: financial issues, public relations, and partnerships. I also developed a new vision for the organization and implemented it.

When I entered the position, the student groups were unsure about how to communicate events to GSLIS. Over-scheduling was common. Although a Google calendar was created for everyone to use, there was no process to add events to it. By partnering with LISSA webmaster Julia Hayton, we updated the LISSA blog with a form to add events to the calendar. Although it was easy to fix technically, it took longer to increase awareness that it existed and that members should remember to use it.

I also worked to make LISSA financially responsible. When we came into office, our account had no money in it. The Vice President of Finance, Richelle Buoy, worked with Em Claire Knowles to obtain emergency funds and requested a new budget for the next year. When the budget was approved, I created a system to balance the budget.

In addition, how LISSA was going to integrate into the Center for the Study of Children's Literature's (CHL) community involved a team effort at GSLIS's leadership levels. I worked with Dr. Knowles, Interim Dean Sullivan, and Dean Abels to discuss how the inclusion of new CHL students under the college umbrella would affect the LISSA organization. While LISSA is for library and archive students, we thought it was appropriate to invite the CHL students to activities to integrate them into the GSLIS community. The result was positive and built bridges between CHL and library and information science students.

We also reworked LISSA events. In the past, the main goal of LISSA events was to enhance education. I believe that other student groups, such as special interest groups, can fill the educational responsibilities of student associations better than LISSA, which includes a diverse group of students with a variety of different interests. My vision was to create events that would emphasize community building among students.

As a result, we hosted trivia nights, outdoor movies, brunches, pizza and karaoke parties, and Thanksgiving potlucks. We created pop culture and Boston dining pamphlets for incoming students. We put treats in the lounge on holidays and put poems in the lounge during April. Attendance at our events increased 20% from the previous year.

Through all of the challenges, I gained a great deal of experience learning how to build bridges, balance a budget, partner with executive management, and successfully implement a vision, which are all marketable skills that I can apply to my career.

Please describe the benefits and drawbacks of a LISSA presidency.

The LISSA presidency plays an important role in building community among the GSLIS student body. We worked hard to be creative and to develop events that would build community.

The one drawback of a LISSA presidency is it adds another level of bureaucracy for students when they want to implement new programs or ideas. I often had students approach me with wonderful ideas and I had to slow them down because of policies. Yet it gave me the opportunity to guide and lead the programming process.

What advice do you have for the incoming LISSA president?

The incoming president, Lindsey Clarke, is a capable person and she probably doesn't need my advice. I suggest following protocols and establishing precedents of behavior, specifically when partnering with other student leaders.

I suggest having fun, being creative, and not letting the responsibilities of the position stress you out too much. LISSA can be a ton of work, but it is worth it.

Why did you decide to become a children's librarian?

I chose to become a children's librarian because I love working with youth and I love youth materials. Building a community should start with the youngest people. I believe children's and teen services are where we can make significant contributions to a community at large.

As a children's librarian, I am creative, solve problems, do graphic design, plan events, collaborate in teams, and work solo every day. I fangirl One Direction with fourteen-year-olds. I discuss dragons with ten-year-olds. I laugh about interrupting chickens with three-year-olds. I consider education theories with homeschooling moms. I teach science, writing, art, and cooking. In my spare time, I read Harry Potter or watch Veronica Mars for research. Being a children's librarian is a fun and rewarding career.

How have your experiences in different library settings, such as the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences University Libraries (MCPHS), shaped your career path? What lessons learned would you like to share with Simmons GSLIS students?

Get work experience in the library field while you are in school, even if it does not match your planned career path or you feel stretched thin with classes. Once you are in any library, it is much easier to transfer to another branch of librarianship.

Working at MCPHS, which is an academic medical library, helped me realize my strengths and weaknesses. I enjoyed interacting with students and was praised for my customer service skills. Yet I am not as great at participating in long research projects. A varied resume can show future employers that you are flexible and can excel in different areas. You never know what will impress future employers, but diverse work experience that allows you to develop a variety of skills will always be an advantage.

What do you plan to do after graduation in August?

I will be staying in Boston after graduation. I recently started a part-time position as a Children's and Teen Librarian at Medway Public Library. It's a lovely library in a friendly and welcoming community. I also hope to continue my studies in Children's Literature and look forward to attending children's literature conferences.

One of my dreams is to publish an academic paper, yet I haven't had the guts or the time to commit to a project. Maybe after school I will.

By Dean's Editorial Fellow Jennifer Moyer