“What do you want to do when you graduate?” is one of the questions college students are asked the most. As an undergraduate student studying journalism at Salisbury University, Tara Custer, MLS ’15, found herself struggling to answer this. After sharing with a professor that she was unsure of her direction, but enjoyed researching, writing, and helping people, the faculty member suggested that Tara might enjoy being a librarian and encouraged her to apply to a Master of Library Science (MLS) program.
“I went home that day and started researching – and fell in love with the idea that I could get paid to be around information all day and help others,” said Tara.
When looking for an ALA accredited school, Tara came across the University of Maryland’s College of Information Studies (UMD iSchool) and found it to be a perfect fit for her goals. Not only was the UMD iSchool one of the top-ranked library and information science colleges in the country, but it also offered online MLS options – perfect for students like her who planned to simultaneously balance a career.
Soon after starting the MLS program, Tara got her first library job in the Access Services department of a public library in Maryland. She enjoyed working one-on-one with patrons, helping them to find the information they needed. The position reaffirmed her career and education goals in the library and information science field.
Today, with over 11 years of experience in the field and her MLS degree, Tara works as the Evening Circulation/Reserves Supervisor at the prestigious Dartmouth Library at Dartmouth College – an ivy league school. She manages library staff and helps students with their information needs. Although some people assume librarians spend all their time working with books, Tara shares that this is misleading. She spends her days leading staff meetings, conducting collection assessments and planning, troubleshooting databases, finding resources, and more. Tara finds her work as fulfilling as the day she entered the field, saying “I always leave work feeling grateful and knowing I am in the right career.”
Tara shares that she will always be grateful for her education at the UMD iSchool. “In the MLS program, I learned that when we share our creative ideas we can provide better library communities,” says Tara. “Working on a college campus in 2020 requires knowing A LOT about technology, how to use resources, and how to provide a welcoming, inclusive and safe hub on campus. I am lucky to be able to learn from my staff every day and to see their creative ideas come to the light.”
Aside from being an accomplished librarian, Tara is an avid knitter who enjoys hiking, cooking, and spending time with her family and dog, Luna.