As an undergraduate history major, Makiba Foster assumed that her academic career might be limited to more traditional paths such as law school or a Master’s Degree followed by a PhD. After one unsatisfying year of Law school, Foster believed that the she would continue her graduate studies in American Culture Studies and ultimately pursue a PhD. Unaware of other career options for history majors, Makiba sought the advice of a mentoring professor who introduced her to the idea of librarianship. During her last semester of graduate school, she decided to take a class in SLIS and finally had the ah-ha moment she had been searching for! “I could stay in an academic research environment and contribute to the scholarly community as a librarian. That’s when I decided to forgo the PhD and pursue an MLIS. Best decision ever!” Makiba says. However, after 10 years of experience as a librarian in academic and research environments, Makiba says she has been inspired to finally pursue coursework towards a PhD.
During her career as a researcher and instructor, Foster has combined her passion for teaching information literacy with her instincts as a skilled collaborator to design courses and initiatives that positively impact both students and fellow faculty members. Her research work ranges from social media’s role in the information universe to social justice in collection development and reaches broadly across the field of librarianship. Makiba has also worked with faculty to incorporate Twitter as a classroom tool for information sharing.
While at Washington University, Makiba co-developed a for-credit library class for returning/nontraditional adult students. “These adult learners were eager to understand how libraries had changed since they had last used them. We were excited to teach them new skills of information literacy and how gaining these lifelong skill would aid them in their college career and beyond,” she says. In 2015, Makiba’s innovative courses for adult learners were featured in Library Journal. http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2015/05/opinion/peer-to-peer-review/adult-learners-in-the-library-are-they-being-served-peer-to-peer-review/
Now the Assistant Chief Librarian for the Jean Blackwell Hutson Research and Reference Division at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Makiba Foster, manages a staff of research professionals with responsibility for establishing priorities and procedures for collections access and preservation. The Research and Reference Division contains diverse collections, which include books, periodicals, microforms, maps, and databases that focus on people of African descent throughout the world.
Foster states that the role of libraries stretches beyond books and the walls of the library building, emphasizing instead, that libraries must create opportunities for partnership and collaboration within their service communities. She advises that all types of libraries should highlight their “dynamism and extraordinary work” and become vested stakeholders in efforts to make the community thrive. “Librarians must listen to the needs of the community,” states Makiba, “and then present possibilities where the libraries help to provide practical and innovative services, thereby increasing satisfaction, awareness, and visibility.”
As an MLIS student, Makiba was chosen as an IMLS scholar, a valuable peer mentoring experience that challenged her to contribute positively to the profession. She encourages students to use their time in SLIS to find ways to merge their interests and passions into their careers as librarians. “From hip hop librarian collectives to librarians contributing to awesome digital humanities projects, the field of librarianship has so many possibilities. SLIS allowed me as a student to discover the world of librarianship and for that, I am truly grateful.”