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MLIS student picks international focus at St. Kate’s

Candice LaPlante ’11 has this view of Mt. Fuji from her library in Atsugi, Japan.
Candice LaPlante ’11 has this view of Mt. Fuji from her library in Atsugi, Japan.
Candice LaPlante.

Candice LaPlante was on a naval base in Japan when she heard the good news: the Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) at St. Catherine University had received accreditation from the American Library Association (ALA). That night, the MLIS student jumped online and signed up for an ALA membership — with additional student memberships on the International Relations Round Table and the Social Responsibilities Round Table.

“The program’s accreditation is exciting for many reasons,” LaPlante says. “For students, it opens up many more professional opportunities. For the program, it means more visibility, more support and more enrollees. For the community, it means there will be more St. Kate’s-educated librarians in our information centers — both locally, and, I hope, globally.”

The accreditation, approved in early January 2011, makes St. Kate’s the only library and information science program in Minnesota — and one of only 57 in North America, to achieve the coveted recognition.

Back on the American naval base, LaPlante is a volunteer librarian at the NAF Atsugi Base Library, where she serves a unique community of both Americans and Japanese. She is receiving academic credit for the three-month position (through April 2011), using the experience as an MLIS Practicum.

“The internship I am currently fulfilling has done nothing but made me fall deeper in love with international librarianship,” says LaPlante, who found the federal volunteer opportunity online.

International librarianship is a field in which library and information structures and services are studied with a global lens. Those who choose this path typically find themselves working in international settings, or libraries outside their home country.

Finding her passion
LaPlante was born and raised in the village of Howard in northeast Wisconsin. Her maiden trip outside the United States came as a Peace Corps public health volunteer in 2007, after graduating with bachelor’s degrees in social work and women’s studies.

“My family comes from a very small town, and for financial reasons, we weren’t privileged to travel when I was young,” she says. “My introduction to life outside our town really came in college, where I focused on global studies. I loved reading and theorizing about it, but my real global education came when I had the opportunity to volunteer in Kenya.”

It was in this east African nation that LaPlante first heard about St. Kate’s MLIS program — another Peace Corp volunteer and aspiring librarian had mentioned it.

Once she got back to the United States, LaPlante started learning all she could about the program.

“I’m in library science because I love people, and I realized that the shortest distance between their needs and meeting them is accurate information,” she says. “Sure, the Internet has almost anything you can possibly want on it, but you still need to figure out and effectively find what’s meaningful for your situation. Furthermore, many people worldwide don’t have access to the Internet — not to mention electricity, clean water or food security. Those are needs that can be helped via information provision, as well.”

Support from St. Kate's
LaPlante started at St. Kate’s in fall 2008, and by spring 2009, she was organizing a book drive on campus for a new library in Nazareth, Lesotho. A few months later, she was off to serve as a volunteer librarian at the Southern African Wildlife College in South Africa’s Kruger National Park. In summer 2010, she had a fellowship at the Library of Congress, in Washington, D.C. There she helped develop best practices in digital preservation for the United States and other countries.

“The MLIS faculty and staff have been open to every crazy idea I’ve had,” she says. “And my experiences abroad have enriched my education at St. Kate’s immeasurably. My papers are more meaningful because I have more perspectives. I’m able to educate other students when I come back and show them what’s possible out there. I hope others will find and fulfill similar opportunities.”

To date, her work abroad has been purely on a volunteer basis. She pays her own way, including airfare and lodging.

“I haven't done it entirely alone, though,” says LaPlante, an executive and faculty liaison on the MLIS Student Governance Organization (SGO). “I have received Professional Development Grants from the SGO, and I'm really thankful for that."

So, what do her parents think of her sojourns abroad?

“They’re both very supportive — but in their own unique ways,” LaPlante says. “My mum is pleased as punch and wants to follow me wherever I go. Whereas my dad wants to build me a house across the street so I never move again.”

Feb. 9, 2011 by Pauline Oo

See also: Leadership, Students