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Lisa Ladd Heads to ALA with Marcellus Turner Student Travel Scholarship

MSIS student Lisa Ladd is the 2019 Marcellus Turner Student Travel Scholarship Award winner, and she’s thrilled that it will fund her trip to the American Library Association Conference in Washington, D.C. this June.

Though she has attended the ALA conference in the past in her capacity as a library professional, she has never gone as a student. After completing one semester in the SIS program, Ladd knew she wanted to attend the conference and learn more about her pathway, youth informatics. But without a scholarship, she said it wasn’t going to happen. It’s been a long journey for her to get to where she is, and she said she’s thrilled to have received this award.

Ladd’s library career was serendipitous and fortuitous. After a cross-country move, she had initially landed in a temporary position at the Dartmouth College athletics department.

“I went from working in downtown San Francisco to photocopying football playbooks. I was not happy,” Ladd recounted.

Yet it was an errand for one of the coaches that took her to the library, where she met a librarian who shared Ladd’s California hometown. As they chatted, she opened up about her dissatisfaction with her job, and he suggested she apply for a position at the main library.

“I did, and I never looked back,” she said.

That was 30 years ago. She started in technical services, where she helped to convert the card catalogue system into the library information system hosted by Innovative Interfaces. She then became a library collections and resource-sharing specialist. She currently works at the Kresge Physical Sciences Library, conducting all the day-to-day access services and collections work there. “I wear so many hats, but it’s very rewarding work,” she said.

Ladd extends her library involvement beyond her routine job to include chairing the First Year Open House Committee, which runs a library orientation for incoming freshmen. The entire main library on campus is turned into a Seussical world – an homage to the children’s author who was a Dartmouth alum. It’s this type of fun event, as well as a widening gap between her own generation and younger ones, that pushed Ladd to pursue youth informatics as her pathway.

“The older I get, I’m feeling less connected to our undergraduate population. It’s hard to know what they’re interested in, what ignites them,” she said. “In addition to that, I’m just trying to diversify my skillset so, as I start to look for work post-graduation, I can go either way, public or academic.”

Ladd knew she needed a degree to move forward in her career, but life got in the way of her pursuit and stalled it for a few years. Her interest in the program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, was sparked while attending an ALA conference a few years ago, where she spoke with someone at the UT booth and found the program appealing. She finally took the plunge in 2018, and has been enjoying it ever since.

“For somebody who lives in Vermont and spent less than 24 hours in Knoxville for orientation, it’s really an amazingly tight and warm community. I’ve made connections with classmates already just because so much of it is team-based learning, even when you’re all dialing in, so to speak,” Ladd said. “I think it’s a far richer program than others that people in my community have attended.”

Ladd is looking forward to attending several Young Adult Library Services Association-sponsored sessions at ALA to continue to flesh out her knowledge in that area. She will also attend one session as a representative from the Dartmouth libraries, which is a screening of “Change the Subject,” a documentary about Dartmouth students and librarians who pushed to get the “illegal alien” tag changed in libraries.

As an added bonus, while on the trip in D.C., Ladd and her husband will get to celebrate 20 years of marriage. After all, she wouldn’t even be attending if it weren’t for him.

“When I was thinking about getting my master’s, my partner, who is really supportive, said, ‘You should do this!’”