Work, family obligations, and a busy life are reasons more and more students are looking to online learning to help them conquer their goals. Eryn Duffee is no different! As a graduate of our fully online Library and Information Studies MLIS, we caught up with Eryn to ask her about her time with Southern Miss. From part-time substitute teacher to policy advocate to award winner, read how Eryn Duffee launched her career with a Library MLIS!
Eryn Duffee graduated with her MLIS in 2019. Immediately after graduation, she worked as the teacher-librarian at Neely’s Bend Middle School in Madison, TN. In early 2021, she moved from Tennessee to Edmonds, Washington. Eryn is currently the teacher-librarian at a Homeschool ALE school for k-12 students.
Her work on the statewide school system entailed advocating against censorship in Tennessee school libraries, building an advocacy ecosystem among the state library organizations, and participating as a member of the ALA Committee on Library Advocacy. Eryn also became active in the Washington Library Association (WLA) and serves as co-chair of the WLA advocacy committee and as a legislative committee member. Eryn worked within WLA to get a bill 9/10’s of the way through the WA legislature in 22-23. This bill would have required a school librarian per 1,000 students in most Washington schools and created a state school library director position within the Office of the Superintendent of Public Education. The bill will have another chance in the 2024 legislative session. This effort led Eryn to be nominated for and win the Library Journal Movers & Shakers award for advocacy in May of 2023.
Eryn is also a longtime member of ALA’s Ecosystem Committee which supports coalition building for advocacy efforts. She is co-authoring and co-editing a book on the topic that ALA will publish in 2024. Eryn recently submitted her application for the National Board of Certified Teachers.
Q. Out of all the schools that you could have chosen for your field of study, what made you choose Southern Miss?
A. I chose USM’s online MLIS program because it was affordable, ALA-accredited, and all online. A librarian I admired was also a graduate and I followed in her footsteps after she recommended the program to me.
Q. Why did you choose online learning instead of attending a traditional classroom to earn your degree?
A. I was living in Tennessee at the time, and as a single mom, the flexibility of online learning was essential to my success. I was thrilled when I learned I would receive in-state tuition as an online student!
Q. For someone that is considering online learning, but is a little apprehensive, what advice would you give them?
A. Now that I am in the field and working alongside librarians with degrees from institutions that are far more expensive, I see that my education was not only affordable and flexible; it was also very practical. I learned the nuts and bolts of the profession in a way that my peers missed out on. I feel like I entered the field much more prepared for the actual work than I would have had I not gone to USM.
Q. If you were going to earn another degree, would you choose to earn it online? Why or why not?
A. I would definitely consider earning another degree online. As a mid-career adult learner, I can’t imagine doing it any other way.
Q. Do you feel like earning your degree online at Southern Miss helped – and will continue to help – advance yourself in your career?
A. Absolutely. I am constantly telling people how proud I am to be a graduate of USM’s MLIS program. I owe so much of my success to the professors who taught, mentored, and encouraged me.
Q. What do you feel made your Library and Information Science program unique?
A. It is uncommon to find an MLIS program that grants you your master’s in library science and your teaching license upon graduation. The fact that I could complete both requirements in one fell swoop allowed me to start my career years sooner than I would have otherwise.
It is uncommon to find an MLIS program that grants you your master’s in library science and your teaching license upon graduation. The fact that I could complete both requirements in one fell swoop allowed me to start my career years sooner than I would have otherwise.
Q. What do you feel were the strengths of your program?
A. I learned the practical aspects of the job and positioned myself as a leader in my school and state-wide library organization through the skills I learned at USM. The MLIS program gave me my first opportunity to attend the American Library Association’s national conference, which got me into the advocacy work for which I would eventually win the Library Journal Movers and Shakers award in 2023.
Q. What was one of your favorite aspects of the program?
A. I loved that I got to know the members of my cohort as we learned alongside and from each other in synchronous classes and online discussion boards.
Q. How was juggling working full-time and earning your degree online?
A. I worked part-time as a substitute teacher while getting my degree.
Q. What is a fun fact about yourself?
A. I ride a Triumph Bonneville motorcycle and hope to one day take it from my new hometown in Seattle to San Francisco via the Pacific Coast Highway.
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