Testing Myself & Finding My Career with AmeriCorps

aman1This guest blog was written by AmeriCorps alum Amanpreet “Aman” Kaur, who currently serves as the 2015-2017 Eugene Garfield Resident in Science Librarianship at University of Pennsylvania Libraries (full bio below). This was originally published on the AmeriCorps Alums blog.

As a student, I enjoyed learning about pedagogical techniques and education-related issues related to adolescents. I also dabbled in human development and consumer health and fine-tuned my problem- solving skills through engineering studies. However, I never really had the chance to put all of my skills and degree to the test until AmeriCorps.

In 2013, I volunteered with the Literacy AmeriCorps of Palm Beach County. I coordinated Adult Literacy Services at the Boynton Beach City Library, where I taught adult English, Math, and GED courses, coordinated a tutoring program, provided one-on-one walk-in help, and organized enrichment programs such as field trips, guest speaker presentations, and potlucks for adult learners. Like any other AmeriCorps member, I also did service projects outside of my site.

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At school, I had learned a lot about adolescent education, but had very little knowledge or experience on how to teach and tutor adults. I knew I’d need to find some resources quick. I found myself looking online for professional development opportunities and  discovered that there were plenty of librarians discussing literacy issues and initiatives on listservs, conference calls, blogs, and webinars.

I learned that there are many pedagogical approaches to literacy education. Students regardless of age want lessons that are relevant and interesting to their lives. Also, literacy isn’t just about reading books. Literacy is about understanding textual, visual, and auditory information. Literacy also includes understanding nutrition labels on the backs of food packages, writing rent checks, navigating the Internet, and recognizing the bias in a newspaper article. Health literacy, personal financial literacy, computer literacy, and information literacy are branches of literacy. Addressing literacy-related issues through providing services, programs, spaces, and resources is the heart of a librarian’s job.

Health information literacy struck a chord with me, because it crossed over with my love for health and wellness education. Incorporating health-related information such as vocabulary and pictures into my lesson plans was easy. My students genuinely enjoyed these lessons, because everyone wants to either maintain or improve their own and/or their loved ones’ health statuses. Students were particularly engaged with lessons related to food. Adolescent students also joined my classes to improve their academic skills in time for the FCAT, a standardized test for Florida K-12 students.

One day, I realized how popular Adult Literacy Services were at the library I served in; it finally clicked that I should get a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS), a degree required for librarians. I was already doing some of the work that a professional librarian does as far as coordinating and providing programs and services.

By the end of my service, I helped over 200 adolescent and adult students through programs and classes I organized. While taking MLIS courses at Rutgers University, I continued to reflect on my AmeriCorps experiences. With the help of scholarships and the Segal Education Award, I was able to graduate with my MLIS degree in October 2015.

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In November 2015, I started working at the University of Pennsylvania Libraries as the Eugene Garfield Resident in Science Librarianship with the hopes of becoming a consumer health librarian. I often cite my AmeriCorps alum status as the reason why I am the productive and collaborative self-starter that I am today.

Want to learn more about promoting literacy? Talk to teachers and librarians to understand how literacy-related issues affect your neighborhood. You can help out by educating your loved ones on the importance of literacy initiatives and by fundraising, donating, and volunteering at your local schools, libraries, and nonprofit organizations. I encourage you to learn more and get involved! Feel free to email me at akaur@alumni.iastate.edu, follow @akaur0 on Twitter for more information about my AmeriCorps experience and/or librarianship.

Bio: Amanpreet “Aman” Kaur currently serves as the 2015-2017 Eugene Garfield Resident in Science Librarianship at the University of Pennsylvania Libraries. Prior to obtaining her Master of Library and Information Science from Rutgers University, she served in the 2013-2014 Literacy AmeriCorps of Palm Beach County, where she coordinated Adult Literacy Services at the Boynton Beach City Library and participated in service projects around the county. Before joining AmeriCorps, she obtained a B.S. in Family and Consumer Sciences Education and Studies with a minor in Engineering Studies from Iowa State University and had two internships in Ireland and a student teaching experience in Indonesia. She currently holds a Certificate in Family and Consumer Sciences from the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences and teaching licenses in Iowa and New Jersey. To view Aman’s complete career profile, visit http://www.tinyurl.com/amankaur.