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Alum Q&A: Jenny Moore Turned Her Love of Research into Librarianship

Featured Alum: Jenny Moore

Location: Maryville, Tennessee

What is your education background and how did you end up in East Tennessee?

I went to Berry College in Rome, Georgia, and was a biology major – it’s a small school as far as students, but I think it’s the largest acreage campus in the world. I moved to Knoxville in ’95 to go to grad school at UT and got my master’s in plant science doing research on drought stress in trees. I did plant physiology research for several years. I took some time off when I had my kids and we moved to Maryville and I’ve lived here for about 15 years.

What was your career path like before you decided to get your MSIS degree?

When I was in high school, I thought I wanted to be a librarian. Then I got to college and everything seemed so interesting. I had a different idea of what I wanted to do every day. I sort of followed my nose and ended up doing plant research and enjoyed that for a long time.

After I had my children, I taught preschool for about three years – I always liked working with children. After teaching preschool – which takes a lot of patience, it’s rewarding but it’s hard work – I started to miss research, so I ended up coming back to UT and doing sustainable agriculture extension and research.

Agriculture research involves a lot of physical labor and I started to think, I can’t keep doing this until I’m 65. It’s hard physical work and a lot of time out in the field in the 90-degree heat; and what I liked best about the research work was looking for information and analyzing data. Whenever we started a new project, we’d do a literature search, and I loved that part of it. The lightbulb came on when I thought, maybe I needed to change my career. I was working at UT and I knew UT had an information science department. I met with Dr. [Cindy] Welch because I was thinking I wanted to be a school librarian. She was very encouraging and got me excited about going back to school; she was just great. I told her that I had all these different interests pulling me in different directions and she said, “Sounds like you’re one of us!”

How was your experience in the MSIS program?

It’s just a great experience. I’ve enjoyed the classes. I did only online courses, even though I’m not that far away. With having kids, and working full-time, the online classes really, really helped with that. I could be at home, log in for  class, and then when class was over, I was already at home. I could tell my kids goodnight and help them with homework, instead of driving 40 minutes home. I don’t think I could have done it without the online classes.

How did you choose your pathway?

I started out thinking I wanted to be a K-12 librarian.  But then I thought about how much I enjoy research, and began to think that maybe the academic librarian route would be a better fit for me. Then I got a part-time job at Pellissippi State as a reference librarian and I have really enjoyed it.

What’s next for you?

Because I have kids who are in school here and we have a lot of family in this area, I feel like I have to expand my idea of what I want to do, but if I were younger and could go anywhere I wanted, I’d definitely want to be a science librarian. I think to be a science librarian, the most important thing is that you know how to find information and understand the science sources, but I think it would help to have a science background and language to connect with researchers. I would love to be a science librarian or possibly work at Pendergrass Library, getting back into agriculture again. I think I would enjoy technical services librarianship, as well.

When the position is right and the time is right, it will work out. I’m working at Pellissippi right now as a part-time reference librarian and that’s been a really great experience.