Alumni Profile: Tomissa Porath

Feb 2016


What was your career path that led you to becoming a Prospect Research Analyst for the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association?

My job path from SLIS to WFAA was a weird one for sure. For a short while, I was a Youth Services Librarian on a short-term hire. When that position ended, I focused in on working for a non-profit, an area in which I always had a passion. My career took me to Chicago to work for Lincoln Park Zoo as a Database Systems and Records Coordinator. I loved working toward a mission of animal health, sustainability, and education, but I knew I always wanted to come back to Madison. The position I am currently in opened and I applied with strong hopes of coming back to support my alma mater, and here I am.

You have an atypical job for someone with a degree from SLIS--how do you use your degree in the position that you have?

Oddly enough, I use my degree daily even though I do not have a title that reflects being a librarian. I conduct research on potential donors for the University of Wisconsin and help connect donors to an area of interest that would support the campus. I use a lot of the skills I learned in Dorothea Salo’s Digital Tools, Trends, and Debates course. My colleagues and I are concerned with saving files in a way in which we won’t lose the quality of the data and we utilize different research methods depending on which database we are using. Graduate school also taught me to be a better writer, which has helped me in this position. I am constantly writing biographies and dossiers and being a succinct and effective communicator has been critical to my success.

What is the most rewarding aspect of working as a research analyst?

I find my job to be rewarding whenever I can find a detailed piece of information on a constituent that is the “missing piece” to creating a thorough biography. In addition, any time I work with colleagues to finish up a major project and we receive substantial thanks from executives in the office are always great.

Do you have any advice for current or future students?

I would recommend looking for librarian jobs without the term “librarian” in the title, as my job as a Prospect Research Analyst is all about finding information for users in an easy-to-understand way. I really wanted the librarian title after graduating from SLIS, but I have found the most joy from using my skill set in a way outside of a traditional library.

Professor Ethelene Whitmire received a Fulbright Award

Feb 2016

Professor Ethelene Whitmire was awarded a 2016-2017 Fulbright Award in Denmark. She will be affiliated with the University of Copenhagen’s Center for Transnational American Studies during the Fall 2016 semester. Whitmire will conduct research on her new book project, The African American Presence in Denmark in the 20th Century. Educators, painters, social workers, writers, singers, jazz musicians among many others were drawn to this Scandinavian country. She explores two research questions: Why did African Americans go to Denmark? and What were their experiences as African Americans in Denmark?  

Congratulations, Professor Whitmire!

2016 Distinguished Alumna: ALA President Sari Feldman

Jan 2016



SLIS is proud to announce its 2016 Distinguished Alumna as Sari Feldman ('77), executive director of the Cuyahoga County (OH) Public Library and the current ALA President. As ALA President, Sari has initiated the Libraries Transform initiative, an effort to make the public more aware of critical services libraries offer, the value they bring to communities, and the essential role libraries play in the digital age.

Regarding her time in Madison, she writes "My experience at UW–Madison SLIS did more than influence my career—it changed the trajectory of my life." In turn, Sari has undoubtedly touched many lives through her work in libraries and dedication to advancing the profession.

SLIS is grateful Sari will return to Madison this spring to speak at the SLIS Commencement on May 15. Watch for an article in the spring issue of Jottings (the SLIS Alumni newsletter) for an expanded interview with Sari.

Professor Jonathan Senchyne Wins UW Center for the Humanities Award

Dec 2015


Assistant Professor Jonathan Senchyne has been awarded the UW Center for the Humanities' First Book Award, which allows junior faculty to recruit an interdisciplinary group of scholars to review their book manuscript and supports its eventual publication. Learn more in Letters and Science News. Congratulations, Jonathan!

Alumni Profile: Becky Yoose

Dec 2015


Becky Yoose ('08), Library Applications and Systems Manager at Seattle Public Library

1.    Tell us about your career path since leaving SLIS.

When I left SLIS in 2008, I applied for a nontraditional technical services position at Miami University. The title was Bibliographic Systems Librarian. In summary, it’s a half-cataloging, half-programming position responsible for creating and maintaining applications and software for technical services. It wasn’t an ILS administrator position. They had library IT separate from this, so my focus was looking at how programming and software can help with work flows, data management, and metadata curation.  I took what I learned in both Organization of Information [LIS 551] and the technology courses I took--- XML, Database Design—and for three years I worked with data and coding.

Soon afterwards, in 2011, I ended up at Grinnell (IA) College. My job title was Discovery and Integrated Systems Librarian. This was more of a systems position, so I managed the ILS—the Integrated Library System. I started when they had recently signed the papers to migrate to a next-generation ILS, and were also staring their digital repository system, an open source system.  I became project lead or co-lead for both of those projects and was stepping back a little bit, trying to manage these complex projects with applications and the data that’s within these systems.

Having the experience that I had as a Bibliographic Systems Librarian, benefited me greatly at Grinnell, because when you’re a systems librarian, if you don’t know the data in the system, if you don’t know how the data was created, the theory behind how it’s organized, both in its creation and also within the system itself (database design and what not) you’re not going to be a very effective systems librarian. You’re going to frustrate your cataloging/metadata folks to no end. You’re also going to frustrate your reference folks, your public services folks, because you need to make that data accessible, discoverable.

Having the knowledge of metadata, and what technology can do and can’t do—that’s the big thing, what can it do, what can’t it do—in terms of metadata formats and what the systems are built for, and how much you can hack or tweak depending on if your system is open source or not, having all that knowledge for this particular position at Grinnell helped me greatly.

My new position is Library Applications and Systems Manager at Seattle Public Library. From the job description and from what I know from the head of IT, my position is essentially what I’m doing at Grinnell, but I’m overseeing what I do. So it’s another step up. It’s a progression of working the front line, getting the opportunity to apply what I learned on the front line, and then getting experience with project management, more administrative lines, and then now taking the next step and trying to find ways to apply what I’ve learned to make sure that I am successful in managing a library systems IT department. I will oversee the ILS, their BiblioCommons installation, SharePoint, amongst other systems.

But for me, it’s going to be a little bit of a change because I am going from academic to public. There is going to be a change in audience, and a change about how technology is approached in a public library setting compared to an academic setting. One of the things that was said during my interview in Seattle, which was a really good observation is: in an academic setting you know who your audience is: students, faculty, staff, and then you have researchers from other institutions or community researchers. In the public library, it could be anyone. That’s going to be a good challenge, trying to think about how to make data discoverable not only for one particular audience, but trying to find a way where you can either make it discoverable to the broadest range of people at once, or trying to find ways where you can get the technology to easily adapt to different user needs. You have children, the range of teens, college students, first-generation immigrants, ESL folks, people looking for jobs, people who want to learn hobbies, people who are doing research--so you have this wide, exciting range. Some of them do have overlapping technology needs, it’s just you need to identify them and look closely at the patterns.

2.    What do you like most about working in libraries?

Librarianship work for me is to find ways that information can make it to the right person at the right time. Not only connecting the person with the information or knowledge, but also giving them tools to analyze that knowledge—getting into a little bit of information literacy. What I like most about being a librarian is that moment when someone is connected to a piece of information that you can then tell is going to change their life path. And hopefully for the better. I like positive changes. Knowledge is power. Information is power. And I want to give people power. That is my job—to serve in that capacity because librarianship is a service profession.

3.    How has your time at SLIS influenced your career?

It has influenced my career a lot. First off, SLIS made it possible for me to get into the bibliographic systems librarian position, because there are both organization of information courses and technology courses offered. Also, having the support that I had with both professors and my fellow students, and having the resources available outside of the department with DoIT [UW Department of Information Technology] folks, influenced my career a lot.

One of the classes I took which was more of a theoretical, academic venture, was The History of Print Culture with Professor Madge Klais. Approaching the topic of print culture opened up a whole new line of theory for me in terms of information, how it’s produced, distributed, responded to. It gave me a lot of ways to rethink my beliefs and theories about the information cycle. You have print culture, and then you have digital culture, which is a burgeoning scholarship area. And then you have these two cultures sort of coexisting because you have information being distributed in physical material format, and then you have digitally born information. Taking that class influenced my approach to the information cycle, how the information cycle is influenced and how it influences distribution, publishing, and reception.

My time at SLIS was also about the people. I still keep in contact with a lot of my classmates. Sometimes I get to see them at conferences, other times I communicate virtually. SLIS was a mixture of classes, resources, my peers, the professors, and Diana Bobb (former student records manager). A little fun fact—I still have the postcard from her saying that she has received my library school application materials. It’s on my refrigerator door. So she has a permanent place on my fridge.

4.    What do you miss about living in Madison?

My Saturday routine: Farmers market at 7 a.m., seeing Gracie from Gracie’s Cheesecakes, getting my double chocolate oatmeal cookie from her, and then having that cookie subsequently be eaten by my cat. He loved the cookies! If I set them out on the counter, the next morning I would find the bag on the ground with the cookie half eaten. This is a twenty-pound cat who got up to the counter. I’ve lost many cookies.

Professor Emerita Klais extends expertise to Continuing Studies

Nov 2015


Madge Hildebrandt Klais, Assistant Professor Emerita at UW-Madison, continues to teach on-campus and online courses for the SLIS master’s degree program.  In addition, she lectures for the UW-Madison Department of Continuing Studies on a variety of topics related to the history of books and print culture and medieval intellectual history.  Most recently, she presented a three-part public lecture series titled, “’Engendered is the Flower’: Medieval Gardens Past and Present.”  In seeking to answer the question, “What do we know about medieval gardens and how do we know it?” Dr. Klais presented visual and textual evidence that illuminated not only early gardening history but also the evolution of book production from the early to the late Middle Ages.