Posted October 9, 2019
Jason Broughton (MLIS, 2014) made headlines last spring when he was named Vermont’s first African American state librarian and commissioner of libraries. How did SLIS prepare him for the post and what advice does he have for students hoping to follow in his footsteps? Read our spotlight on Broughton to learn more.
How did your degree in librarianship from the University of South Carolina lead you
to your job as the state librarian of Vermont?
Obtaining my library degree from USC assisted me in examining career options across a variety of levels within county, state and federal governments. Coursework within library administration along with a master’s in public administration offered a robust experience in public service.
What’s the most interesting or significant thing you’ve done since graduating?
The most interesting thing I have done is to serve as the Fairy King for the Vermont Fairy Tale Festival. I knighted over 80 children who discussed books they enjoyed reading. In the area of significance, it would be my time with the Live Oak Public Library System in Savannah, Georgia, as the interim library director. The experience was one I never dared dream could ever happen to a neophyte library graduate. A humbling growth experience, it allowed me to become a better director, facilitator and citizen of my community.
What are a few goals that you still have for your future career?
One of my biggest goals I am forever working on is choosing my focus of either being good or getting better. Being good has always assisted me in showcasing my work and worth. Getting better, however, has allowed me to advance beyond what I thought possible in my career path. As I aim to achieve, getting better has allowed me to keep trying, enjoy the journey with good humor and understand that failure is an option but an option that is not for me!
What are you passionate about in your work?
I appreciate how citizens view libraries of all calibers. This allows me to approach the conversation on how libraries are evolving while retaining their original missions. Access, equity, democracy, information and literacy are what libraries provide to all levels of society. I love helping libraries explore the questions of “what if” or learning from library directors how patrons were amazed their library is doing something that is unexpectedly thrilling within their community. I am passionate about libraries being informational hubs that transform our dreams, thoughts and desires to achieve new ways of thinking!
What did you learn while in school at the College of Information and Communications
that still resonates today?
One of the things I keep with me is the experience and engagement of the staff and professors who wanted to ensure a well-rounded experience of librarianship. Understanding the foundations of libraries and how they interact with society allowed me to begin examining the internal/external infrastructures that foster stellar library services at almost any level of librarianship. Gene Brown, American author and editor said, “Today’s opportunities erase yesterday’s failures.” I keep this sentiment in the back of my mind when evaluating presentations, gaps in action planning, or listening to the newest trends in libraries.
Do you have a favorite professor or a favorite memory from your time with the CIC?
One memory that stands out from my time at SLIS was being asked to conduct a career exploration, resume and job search workshop for a variety of students. This was unique as it allowed me to be in two of my favorite worlds — career planning and what actions work best to be considered a candidate. It was one of the most impactful sessions that I conducted as a global career development facilitator while at the South Carolina State Library as the outreach librarian. It allowed those in attendance to see how to best craft a great resume, cover letter and insightful job application.
Many MLIS students aspire to hold positions such as yours in the future. What advice
do you have for them?
In embarking on positions within state and federal government, it is important to understand the skill sets needed to be considered a candidate. My advice for any student wanting to run a library — small or large, county, state or federal — should understand they are a library administrator. Having coursework in budgeting and fiscal forecasting, project management, evaluation, diversity and inclusion, and grants management will assist you in a variety of areas as a director, commissioner or agency secretary.