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Kelly Leonard
Kelly Leonard ’11

How an MLIS Can Lead To Jobs Other Than Librarianship

Kelly Leonard is an organized young woman who belies any image you might have of an English major who dreamily reads novels and doesn’t know the first thing about numbers. Kelly is an Excel pro (she made spreadsheets to help her sister plan her wedding), a data feed manager and an organizational ninja! The career path of this Furman grad (’11) and MLIS holder (USC ’13) may surprise you.

Kelly, a native of Florence, SC, became an English major at Furman with thoughts of a career in journalism. She loves the major she chose, but it started becoming clear that journalism might be a less than wide open career path.  So she started considering what an English major could do after college. Meanwhile, starting in freshman year, Kelly got a job in the James B. Duke Library as a student assistant in the Circulation Department. She kept that job for four years. Besides making a little money and having a lot of friends “behind the desk”, a realization started that she could work in a library as a career and could enjoy it.

Kelly, planning on going into traditional librarianship, applied to the University of South Carolina School of Library Science. She also applied for, and was awarded, an Ethel Charlisle Southern Scholarship, which is given annually to Furman students or alumni who want to continue their education in the field of library science. At USC, Kelly took a metadata class and never looked back at traditional library work again. She found that she loved organizing information, applying metadata, solving the problems of making information accessible and all the “nerdy database stuff” that goes with that. Encouraged by her advisor, Dr. Susan Rathbun-Grubb, she looked outside the library building for jobs that made use of the “I” in a Masters of Library and Information Science.

Her first job was at a software start-up in Charleston. They were creating a product that digitized library resources and then made them available to tablets via an app. It seems that Charleston is experiencing a bit of a boom in software companies (“Silicon Harbor” Kelly calls it) and before two years were up another opportunity arose for Kelly. Her present job is with Boomtown, a company that develops real estate software. The person who advertised Kelly’s job at Boomtown holds an MLIS herself, and placed the ad on library school listservs, knowing she would find people with the skill sets needed to work with metadata.

Kelly works with multiple listing service (MLS) data feeds from all over the country. These are updated every hour. Branded websites are created for Boomtown’s clients and Kelly helps them get and maintain the information they need on their sites. She does troubleshooting and problem solving with clients to make sure things run smoothly. Fortunately, she has the personality and training for this attention to detail. Although she never would have predicted this would be her career path as an English major, she loves it!

Your librarians at Furman welcome your questions about the field of librarianship. And the Ethel C. Southern Scholarship might help you finance your graduate study. It’s something to consider! 

2016 application deadline:  Friday, March 4, 2016

The scholarship is given annually to a senior or a Furman graduate who has been accepted into, or is enrolled in, an American Library Association accredited graduate program.

The Ethel Carlisle Southern ’27 Scholarship was established in 1985 by her husband, J. Albert Southern ’27, and their children, Tom and Janet Southern ’62 Huskey and John L. Southern, in recognition of her service as a librarian at Greenville Woman’s College.

Mrs. Southern received her B.A. degree from Greenville Woman’s College and an M.S. in Library Science from Pratt School of Library Science in New York. She worked at a number of libraries including the New York Public Library, Samford University, Greenville Woman’s College and Furman. She also served as an elementary school librarian for the Greenville County School District.