An Inside Look at the Computer Science and LIS Dual Degree

May 12, 2017

Vicky Steeves

Vicky Steeves '13LS, the first graduate of our 3+1 program, shares her experience

What were your favorite courses in your studies at Simmons?

The coursework and lessons from Systems Analysis, taught by Associate Professor Gerry Benoît, have been integral to my professional career. Everything I learned in that class I have directly applied to each job I've had— including waitressing! Understanding the relationship and workflows between humans and technology is absolutely key to making any meaningful change and providing a useful service for patrons. Organization and Management of Corporate Libraries, taught by Professor James Matarazzo, taught me the value of making a business case for libraries and librarians, regardless of the setting. Libraries are usually on the bottom of the budget and first to get downsized in times of economic distress. To survive, librarians need to be able to defend and advocate for themselves to people who only look at spreadsheets and numbers. 

Operating Systems, taught by Associate Professor Bruce Tis, was just plain fun for me, honestly. It's a great class, lots of fun activities, and it feels old school to be programming in x86! Just pure enjoyment. Programming Languages pushed me out of my comfort zone. Up until that point, I'd mainly worked in Java and Python. I had to learn languages on the fly, and it improved my ability to learn new technologies—a skill more important than which technologies we actually covered. 

Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues in Information Technology taught by Senior Lecturer Jo Trigilio presented challenging and interesting questions about privacy, sharing, and privilege that are  important for any IT or library/information professional. We need to ask ourselves: how are our systems privileging some users over the others? How are we protecting user/patron data? These questions are especially poignant now, with Net Neutrality coming under fire. 

What unique benefits did you get from the Computer Science/Library and Information Science: 3+1 Program?

You get two degrees that would normally take six years in four years. It forces you to learn time management and working with deadlines, vital skills for working in fast-paced environments. 

Despite learning computer science and library science in such close proximity, the emphasis is rightfully placed on learning how to learn technology instead of focusing on a few specific tools or programming languages. Technological obsolescence is a prominent challenge, whether working in a library or in IT. Learning how to learn technology makes for an adaptable, well-versed professional. It also helps students deal with the variety of coursework they'll encounter: Intro to Python Monday, Intro to XML/XSLT Tuesday, etc. 

3+1 uniquely prepares students for working in a variety of environments, with a number of technologies. Marrying computer science and library science opens up a range of doors for students who can choose their ideal career and, chances are, end up there. 

Where are you working now?

I'm the Librarian for Research Data Management and Reproducibility at New York University, a dual hire between the Division of Libraries and the Center for Data Science. Before that, I was a resident at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City as part of the National Digital Stewardship Residency (NDSR) program. 

Upon graduation I thought I would enter corporate librarianship doing digital preservation. I enjoyed my internship at Sasaki Associates, an architecture firm, digitizing their legacy collections, and wanted to continue that work. I saw the NDSR as a program that could bolster my skills in digital preservation, and help me get a good job. What I didn't expect was how much I would fall in love with research librarianship. I love working with scientists and humanists, seeing their research and processes, and helping preserve and manage it for the future. This changed my career trajectory. Now, I do data management and reproducibility full-time, and I couldn't be happier. I use the skills from my computer science degree, working with engineers at the Center for Data Science, and from my library science program, working with patrons on their data management, data reference, and building up library services. 

What would you say to someone considering the 3+1 program?

DO IT. It's game changing, and you will be extremely marketable after the fact. I won't lie and say it's all roses—it's stressful to do six years of education in four, especially if (like me) you have to work during that time. You have to put in a lot of hours, you have to be motivated, and you have to have serious time management skills. 

You will be given the tools to succeed in this program. All of my professors, in Computer Science and LIS, wanted me to succeed and they put in the hours to help me do it. When I felt overwhelmed, they brought me back from the brink. When I felt like giving up, they motivated me to continue.

In a time when libraries have to fight harder for patron privacy and rights, the best thing you can do is learn how to build and support technologies that promotes knowledge equality, informed citizenry, and confidentiality. By pursuing coursework in computer science and library science, you will be empowered to do this.