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Jean Song, new library director at UM-Dearborn, explains why libraries still matter – Press and Guide

Jean Song, who started as the Mardigian Library’s new director in March, says her path to becoming a librarian felt like discovering “a calling I didn’t know I had.” After her undergraduate work at Stanford University, Song actually hoped to go to medical school, but it proved financially out of reach. She had enjoyed working in libraries during college, though, and so when a friend’s mother who was a school librarian suggested she check out library science graduate programs, it seemed worth looking into. She found a couple universities that were still accepting late applicants, including the University of Michigan, and when she won a scholarship there and started her program, it felt “like a ray of sunshine through the clouds.” “When I got to library school, and dove into the principles of how people discover and evaluate information, and how it’s disseminated, and how that shapes societies and empowers individuals, it all just really hit home for me. I think it informed this very core value of mine that information is the single most empowering commodity on the planet.”

Song says she really didn’t expect to ever leave her position at UM-Ann Arbor’s Taubman Health Sciences Library. In many ways, supporting the research and curricular needs of U-M’s medical and health disciplines represented the perfect alignment of her interests de ella. But when she was interviewed for the library director position at UM-Dearborn, something clicked. “I think I had only been to the campus once, but I knew UM-Dearborn had this reputation of really being embedded in the community in which it lives,” she says. “Among the faculty, there’s so much community-based scholarship, and the institution is focused on the holistic success of a student, not just academic success. And I love that we’re doing this with a student body that’s made up of so many identity groups that have been historically underrepresented in higher education. That just felt really special to me. Personally, I’m a child of immigrant parents who lost their home when I was in college. At Stanford, I wasn’t even sure I was going to be able to graduate because I wasn’t sure I could afford it. So I was one of those students who needed the kind of wraparound support that went beyond academics, and this is a campus that cares about those things.”

Interestingly, Song sees libraries being a key player in this space. For sure, it will always be a core mission of a university library to support the academic needs of the student and faculty community. But Song says libraries can also play a significant role in students’ personal and professional development. Because they are often the first place many students turn to for help with any number of needs, libraries function as a critical piece of connective tissue that helps someone find, say, an internship opportunity through Career Services, a student organization that feeds their passions, or critical assistance from the Student Food Pantry. Another area that Song says libraries are increasingly investing in: information literacy. “All of us are spending so much more of our time ingesting information, but we don’t spend as much time evaluating it,” Song says. “It’s critical that we develop the skills to understand how the information we’re consuming may be biased, or understand who’s creating that information, so that we can make informed decisions. We’ve seen in the past decade, the damage it can inflict and the inequities it can perpetuate when we’re consuming information without evaluating it.”

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