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Photo of Stephen Leist Stephen Leist ’85

We’re halfway through our series featuring Furman University alumni who work as library and information science professionals. Click here to see the previous posts in this series.

Today our featured alumni is Stephen Leist from the class of 1985. Leist graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history. After graduating from Furman he completed two advanced degrees: a master’s in history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s in library science from the University of Kentucky. He currently serves as a research and instruction librarian, as well as the interlibrary loan coordinator, at Virginia Weslyn University.

Tell us a little bit about how you chose to work as a library and information professional?

“Teaching was a natural thing for me, so research instruction was a good fit.  I like working with college students on their research and helping them to locate materials.”

What has been your professional path to your current position?

“I spent several years working in a paraprofessional position at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, before deciding to pursue an MLS degree.  I was already doing research instruction due to staff shortage and providing advanced reference service.”

What is the most interesting library in which you’ve worked?

“The Transylvania Library was the most interesting place that I worked because it is an institution over 200 years old. My current institution is 50-60 years old, by comparison.  Transylvania has a substantial archive and special collections department, in which I sometimes provided research assistance to the special collections librarian.  Transylvania also had a medical school between about 1810-1860, and the old medical library collection was still intact.  It contained a number of rare items, purchased on faculty buying trips to Europe in the 1830’s.”

What is something you have been surprised by during your career?

“How quickly a job can change.  In my current position, I was hired to be a Research & Instruction Librarian and liaison to the social sciences.  Because I knew something about interlibrary loan, a year later that was added to my position when the ILL specialist relocated to New Mexico, and there was an opportunity to add an additional librarian.  Since then, I have managed a system migration from ILLiad to Tipasa and made presentations on the intersection of research instruction and interlibrary loan.  ILL has become as much a part of my job as anything else, and I regard it as an extension of the research assistance I already provide.”