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Student Success Stories

SLIS Student Gets "Ohio Ready to Read" Through Practicum Experience

By Nicole Gennarelli
Justin Isaac, graduate student in the School of Library and Information Science (SLIS), assisted with many key projects while completing his practicum at the State Library of Ohio in Columbus.

Isaac, originally from Portsmouth, Ohio, has a B.A. in English from Shawnee State University. He worked as a substitute teacher and for the Shawnee State Upward Bound program, which provides academic, social, recreational, cultural and counseling services to high school students to create skills, motivation and the self-confidence necessary to succeed in college.

“Those experiences are what made me realize that I wanted to work in youth services,” Isaac said. “I wanted to do a practicum at the State Library of Ohio. I knew it was an important institution, but honestly didn’t know what it did. When I found out that there was a youth-related practicum at the State Library, I was excited. I really want to be a young adult librarian, and this was an opportunity to see library youth services from another perspective.”

Isaac was selected to work with Ohio Ready to Read, a program created by the State Library of Ohio and the Ohio Library Council to help address early literacy needs of young children in Ohio. During his practicum, Isaac sat in on board meetings, migrated the Ohio Ready to Read wiki page to a better platform to improve access, completed a design update and expansion of the Ohio Ready to Read website, and created a children and teen booklist on Abraham Lincoln to correlate with the recent Forever Free exhibit.

“I also traveled to Westerville Public Library, Columbus Main Library/Center for Discovery, and an outreach location of the CML Ready to Read Corps to observe various ways that children’s service librarians provide early literacy programming to their communities,” Isaac said. “My initial practicum project for the Ohio Ready to Read project fell through because the national standards I was to work with weren’t released in time. However, my advisor taught me that you have to be adaptable in the library world because things like this happen.”

For the project portion of his practicum, Isaac designed a video and table-top gaming program that could be instituted by any library’s youth services department.

“There’s nothing that says you can’t have fun while learning and enriching yourself,” he said. “Many people dismiss games, but they have real value.”

Isaac’s practicum experience has really personalized the State Library for him.

“I’m not the first SLIS-Columbus student to do a practicum at the State Library, and I highly doubt I will be the last,” he said. “I think more students should consider doing their practicum there because it provides valuable knowledge about how Ohio’s libraries work on the government level. Before the practicum I just saw it as this faceless government office. Now I know that there are some really fun and interesting people working there.”

Since 1975, Kent State has offered the M.L.I.S. degree program in Columbus for students in the central region of Ohio. SLIS moved to the State Library of Ohio in 2008. With this relocation, SLIS became the first library science school to be housed within a state library since Melvil Dewey’s School of Library Economy at the State Library of New York opened in 1889.