Government Information and Social Sciences Research Librarian Julia Stewart started her path to librarianship with a unique first step.
Stewart worked in the publishing industry at Harcourt Brace College Publishing where she first got interested in working with a subject. “From working with college texts, books, I knew it would be interesting to read, to work with a subject in depth, so I like the idea of being a subject specialist,” she said.
Stewart also has a background in teaching. She was a language arts teacher at R.L. Paschal High School in the Fort Worth Independent School District.
The transition between working with high school and college-age students has been interesting for Stewart. At her high school, she had a busy schedule dealing with students all day.
“You’re taking role, going to faculty meetings for your campus policy, trying to enforce dress code, trying to teach whatever’s needed for the state test at the time, and working more with a giant class. You’re with seven classes of 30 every day for five days a week,” she said. “It’s a really hectic pace. You’re also working with their parents. It was very people intensive.”
Comparatively at in a college library, students are more hands-on in their own learning. “With college, [the students] have so much more freedom, and they’re organizing their time, trying to be cognizant of that. They’re still trying to fulfill goals and look at the future,” she said. “You’re dealing with them more directly; they’re taking more interest. In the high school, it seems like the parents are more involved. [In college,] it’s [the students] you’re working with.”
Now that Stewart is at Southern Methodist University something that she enjoys about working in college is that it is never boring. “Especially in the library, there’s been so many changes. The library was renovated a few years ago, so the building is a whole different building to me than when I started. [It is] much more useful and gets more usage from students. It’s very interesting to see [that change].”
Part of the appeal for SMU for Stewart is the location. Located in the heart of Dallas, SMU offers access to everything from Mockingbird Station to the Farmer’s Market. “I like Dallas. It’s nice to be at one of the main universities in Dallas as the city’s been changing so much, so I guess it’s just it’s a good fit for me,” she said. “There’s always something to do. There’s always something happening.”
At SMU, Stewart is in charge of the government documents collection. As the librarian in charge of that collection, Stewart has had the opportunity to expose herself to many different rare U.S. documents. One of her favorites is the World War II collection of documents on creating victory gardens. “There are pamphlets for how you can plant your Victory Garden,” she said. “[Back then,] you’re trying to save food and trying to be supportive of the war effort. It seems like you can see a window into a different world of people trying to come together during the war to be sufficient and plant a garden on their own.”
One of the political science projects she has worked on involved collaborating with the Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School and one of the political science professors at SMU. “[At Irma Lerma Rangel, the professor] was able to start an internship for some students at that school, some of the seniors, and it was a research internship. I was able to provide some of the research instruction and the information literacy instruction for them on their project. Their project had to do with the Center for presidential history, and I was the one who helped them use the library resources to do the project. It went back to having worked in high school. I felt like this is really perfect, because it’s got library stuff; it’s got students involved; it’s something with Dallas.”
Interview conducted by Author Wren Lee, SMU ’22 Creative Computation and Film and Media Arts Pre-Major and Fondren Library Marketing Department Student Assistant