University of Wisconsin–Madison

Who inspired you to attend the iSchool?

Often, our alumni inspire others to join the library and information profession. Read the stories of who inspired whom below!

Name and graduation year: Emily Scharf, MA’08

Who inspired you? Katie Binsfeld Scharf, MA’90

How were you inspired to attend the iSchool?

My inspiration to go to library school were the Madison Public Library librarians, including my mom and fellow Information School graduate Katie Scharf.

My mom worked at Madison Public Library’s Lakeview branch and suggested I try to get a job at the public library when I was in college. Even though she had been a librarian for many years, I never considered it for myself. I took the test, interviewed, and got a job as a page at the Meadowridge branch working with wonderful Information School alumni like Robin Krueger, Kathy Wolkoff, Heidi Marzen, Madeleine Diemer Kain, and many others.

I fell in love with library service, helping patrons, learning new things, and working with kind and curious people. My mom has retired after a twenty-year career at Lakeview, and I’ve never been prouder of her than at her retirement party. She greeted patrons in a line so long it went out the door to see her off and gave a stirring speech about the importance of public libraries.

As for me, I’m happily close to home working in Minnesota after 10 years as a librarian at two universities in Missouri.


Name and graduation year: Spencer Brayton, MA’11

Who inspired you? Jenica Rogers, MA’01

How were you inspired to attend the iSchool?

While pursuing my library degree, I researched the careers of some alumni and got interested in library leadership – specifically for academic libraries. I made up my mind as graduation neared that I indeed wanted to have a leadership position in an academic library. In my first position full time position I started reading Jenica’s blog, and continued to do so as I changed positions and institutions.

So much about leadership, from my perspective, seemed to discuss skills and abilities in a chronological order (do X to obtain y). Jenica’s blog and writing showed me that it can be messy and the difficulties (and joys) of library leadership that one experiences are normal. I appreciated her straight-forward approach and ability to share her experiences. It gave me comfort as I started my career. Because her writing had helped me process my early career, I emailed her a couple of times to get her perspective in other areas of librarianship, and she was also willing to take the time to respond.

Recently, I learned that Jenica will be taking a position at her current institution leading a different department outside of the library. To me this shows the value of the MLS in other areas of higher education, and that librarians can support and lead in different ways not directly related to the profession.

Jenica has inspired me through her writing and willingness to open up about her career in her blog. Her honesty and perspective have benefited me numerous times over. Writing about your work can lead to connections as I’ve tried to do the same. I’ve been lucky to connect with amazing librarians and educators by work openly and sharing that work and ideas.