He landed a job as a library director for Kaplan University in Cedar Rapids after graduating from the School of Library and Information Science at the University of Iowa, but Jason Bengston says he never expected to be in management.
The 2008 grad spoke for just over 30 minutes to Professor Patricia Katopol’s Organizational Management class on Monday, Sept. 14.
“It’s all about marketing”
Bengston said one of his biggest challenges is convincing the administration at Kaplan of the value of the library.
“The other departments in that organization will be marketing themselves and they will be vying for resources,” he said. “If they don’t know what you are adding to their value, they’re going to cut it.”
When Bengston first started, he said most students did not see the library as a place to go for help. In fact some were looking for medical advice from websites built by people who believe lizardmen are taking over the government.
“That’s not an exaggeration,” he said.
His marketing strategies included expanded the “library lecture” held at the beginning of the semester to include more in depth search tutorials. Bengston negotiated new interlibrary loan agreements to expand that program, since Kaplan’s collection only takes up about seven shelves. He also began working one-on-one with students to evaluate sources. For that, he relies heavily on word of mouth advertising.
“Whether that’s what your title says or not, you’re going to be managing people,” Bengston said.
Several Organizational Management students had questions about what it was like to step directly into a management role. Bengston said he didn’t enjoy learning management concepts while doing his masters but now is glad he had the theory to fall back on.
The technical skills will change, but core skills like managing people, marketing yourselves and having the right mindset will carry over, he said.
Some of the challenges he has faced in his time at Kaplan include dealing with truant work study students, trying to establish the library website and update the catalogue, and developing systems for inventory.
Bengston is the only degreed librarian at his institution; something he said is common in smaller places.
“Your first job out of grad school isn’t going to be your dream job. I’ve learned a lot at Kaplan so it’s been a good experience,” he said.
2011 note: Following his work at Kaplan, Bengston received a job at the University of New Mexico. The photo has been updated from there.