Kim Dority: Rethinking Information Work
Graduates of the University of Denver's Library and Information Science (LIS) program are prepared to enter the work force as highly-qualified public, private, or school librarians, but that's not all they can do with their skills, contends Kim Dority, '82, Library and Information Science.
"Most students who enter the program have a fairly clear, and also a fairly narrow, idea of what you can do with that degree," Dority explains. She helps students to reframe how they look at the skill set provided in the LIS program and to consider the much broader set of opportunities available to them than they might otherwise. "They don't have to take a job that has already been defined for them. In the future, I think that people who can create their own jobs will define where the opportunities are and how they can best meet the needs of those opportunities."
Dority believes in "rethinking information work," which happens to be the title of
her new book released last quarter. The book is the result of nearly ten years of
research and student feedback from the University of Denver class she teaches as an
adjunct faculty member, Alternative Careers for Library Science Students.
When Dority began the class in 1998, there was no textbook to use as a resource in teaching, so she made it up as she went along. She says that LIS graduates have historically been limited to careers in librarianship, but she wants students and graduates to realize how much self-direction and independence they can exercise in their careers.
Dority is uniquely suited to provide students with this perspective. Her own experience is littered with opportunities that she created for herself. After graduating with a BA in comparative literature from the University of California at Irvine and a master's from DU's original LIS program, she worked in a variety of information-related careers, including publishing, research, writing, and editing.
Eventually, she was hired by Jones International to take their cable television dictionary to market. This led her to a position in which she served as information assistant to the cable industry's Glenn Jones, CEO of Jones Intercable and Jones International — a position she describes as being an "information scout."
"Up to that point, I'd never heard of such a thing, and it was a lot of fun," she says. From there, it was a natural step to assist with the formation of Jones International University, the first accredited online university. She was faced with the daunting task of compiling and providing the first-ever virtual library. After she accomplished this, she was asked to come on board with the university full time and turn this new virtual library into a product that could be marketed and licensed to other online institutions, which she did. The product, E-Global Library, is still in use today.
When DU began the process of designing its new LIS program in the mid-1990's, Dority helped in an advisory capacity. She eventually served as interim director of the program and designed her class on alternative career paths. Today, she serves on DU's LIS program advisory board and works at her own company, G.K. Dority and Associates. She provides consultation services in information and content development strategies, concepts she learned at DU and developed throughout her career.
"The LIS degree is incredibly diverse," Dority says. "If students are willing to go beyond the expectations set for them and the profession, they can do anything they want to do. I want to give them the confidence and tools to know they can do that."