Arika Dickens earned her MLIS in 2000 and has supported the iSchool nearly every year since. She now works as a K5 teacher librarian at Sunset Elementary School in Washington’s Issaquah School District.
What’s the most interesting or significant thing you’ve done since graduating?
The most significant thing overall has been learning to look at the library as a whole and thinking about how the actual physical space can best meet the needs of the user, no matter who that user is or what accessibility needs they have.
What are a few goals that you still have for your future career?
Dickens’ accomplishments already include a position on the 2021 ALA Newbery Award committee and a stint teaching overseas at an international school in London. Looking ahead, her short-term goals are to make the space at her school as accessible and inclusive to her students as possible. She would also like to pursue more leadership and mentorship opportunities in the future and continue to give back.
What are you passionate about in your work?
In addition to building relationships with students and colleagues, she is passionate about building and sharing an inclusive and representative collection in her library with students, staff and families. She also believes that the library isn’t just for reading books — it’s an incredible place made for managing information and taking in, finding and analyzing that information, which can come from a plethora of sources.
What did you learn while in school at the CIC that still resonates today?
Dan Barron instilled in Dickens that librarianship is a service profession. Pat Feehan taught her how to interact with people and the value of learning through observation.
What advice do you have for MLIS students hoping to follow in your footsteps?
First, Dickens advises students to join the ALA and stick with it. The resources and the conferences (once available again) are absolutely invaluable in the long run. Second, social media is great, but temper it. Third, everyone has something amazing that they’re doing, but don’t be afraid to share when you’ve done something that’s really impactful because that matters too.