Alison Cody '08LS Takes Her Degree Outside of the Library

April 24, 2018

Alison Cody

Alison tells us about her position as Manager of Customer Relations at the American Psychological Association.

Alison Cody focused on the generalist track in 2008. While here, she worked in the Tech Lab and was involved with the ASIS&T Student Chapter.

What was your favorite School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) course?

It's a tie between indexing with Candy Schwartz and the database management class with Sheila Denn. I loved getting so deep into the nitty gritty in the indexing course, and getting to work on a real-world collection was great. While I don't create databases myself, database management gave me a solid understanding of what's under the hood, so to speak. 

Tell us about your current position. 

I'm the manager of the Customer Relations department at the American Psychological Association (APA), where I've been for almost 7 years. We provide training and customer support for APA Style CENTRAL® and for the APA databases, like PsycINFO®. Academic librarians know us from our webinars as well as lunch and learn presentations at conferences, but we also assist with technical problems, such as if proxy access to APA PsycNET® isn't working, or if you have a question about a field in PsycINFO. We work with APA's members, providing training and support for them as well, as APA has a couple of different ways for members to gain access to our research databases—this is especially important for those who are outside of academia.

How did you find this position?  

I was a reference and instruction librarian at a small university and realized that I enjoyed training and working with other librarians more than students. Plus, I burned out on the reference desk—we were a small group covering a lot of hours. I started looking for something where I could be in more of a train-the-trainer role (or at least a similar position on a bigger staff) and saw a posting for a training and support specialist at APA. I already knew and loved PsycINFO, so I applied and was thrilled when the job proved to be exactly what I was looking for. 

Now I'm the manager of the department. I sometimes miss doing a training session or making a video tutorial, but I enjoy coaching and mentoring my newer colleagues who came to their jobs with less experience in instruction. 

What's it like working for a vendor? 

Probably a little different than what most people think. For one, APA is a nonprofit. While we're absolutely a vendor within the library world, APA is also a scientific and professional organization for psychologists, researchers, clinicians and educators. The mission of the organization as a whole—advancing psychology to benefit society and improve people's lives—drives the publishing division. I think that's easy to forget when your primary exposure to APA is as a publisher of scholarly journals. For example, we have an imprint of children's books called Magination Press, which publishes books for kids and teens designed to help them deal with challenges like anxiety, a death in the family or even potty training! 

My team also contributes to this mission in our work. It may mean working with a hospital librarian who's fine-tuning search terms for a systematic review, or helping a student understand how to use the tools in APA Style CENTRAL to write a term paper. I worked in a social justice nonprofit before I became a librarian, so for me the combination of being a librarian inside a mission-driven nonprofit organization is the best of both worlds. 

How did SLIS prepare you for your current position?

It's a little roundabout for me. The roles on my team don't require an MS in library science, but a background in librarianship makes it easier to understand the products we're supporting. If you already understand what a research database like PsycINFO is for, and why/how people might use it, you're that much farther ahead when you get a call for help with a systematic review. Those of us with reference and instruction backgrounds also have a basic understanding of information literacy instruction, issues around remote access and the difficulties of getting the attention of your faculty, which is valuable insight for my team. 

Advice for current students?

There are a lot of librarians working on the vendor side and vendors are very open to hiring librarians, particularly those who have some experience working in a library. But these positions may not always come up on the usual library job listservs. If you're interested in working for a vendor or publisher, think about the products you regularly use. Is there a database you find particularly robust and useful? An interface you think is a masterpiece of user interface design? Check the websites for those providers and see what's open. An MS in library science might not be required for the position, but in many cases it will make you a more attractive candidate.

Photo courtesy of Alison Cody.