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Student Spotlight: John Metz, Long-Time Librarian on Why He's Getting His IS Degree

Jason Metz with Hilary DuffStudent Spotlight features one our current School of Information Sciences Master students. Our students come from a variety of backgrounds, careers, locations, and academics, and we want to highlight who they are and why they chose the University of Tennessee, Knoxville SIS program.

Featured student: John Metz

Location: Richmond, Virginia

Current job: State Library and Archives Deputy for Collections and Programs at the Library of Virginia

Past job(s): I think there’s been a pretty logical progression to my career but a lot of people are mystified by my background. I was a historical archaeologist for nearly 10 years and worked for Colonial Williamsburg, Monticello, and the Bermuda National Trust. There was a point at which I was doing a lot of contract work and was looking for something more permanent, but still within the realm of history, so I began working for museums and got more into collection management. First with objects, then with collections large enough to include archives and materials. So, I went back and got a PhD in American Studies, so I’m a historian, archaeologist and architectural historian. I worked for Henry Ford managing their collections, but I wanted to get back to Virginia, and it’s really my history background that got me hired at the Library of Virginia.

Family: I’m married with twin boys who are 20 years old and neither of them is at home right now and my wife works for a contractor for FEMA, so it’s kind of like I’m a bachelor right now. As she said, it’s probably the best thing that no one is at home so I can get back in the swing of things for this first semester.

Why UTK? I looked at several programs, and I work with people who have gone to a number of different programs, and I really like the information sciences focus, and there are faculty there I wanted to work with. It just has a great reputation and for me the reputation of the Distance Education program really clinched it. I was anxious about that, but it has worked so well, and that’s something I don’t think can be underestimated, either. All of my previous experience was on-site and in-person and this is my first distance experience. I was talking with a colleague the other day who is going through a distance program, and with hers, they’re given assignments at the beginning of the week and it’s due Sunday. They never see one another, they never have group projects. It’s these elements that really have set the Tennessee experience apart for me. For example - it’s kind of cool that I’m working on a project right now with a fellow student who lives in Roanoke, Virginia, and another in Arkansas. And every week we meet and it’s like we’re in the same room.

Why SIS? Well, I decided that I’m not close to retirement, I still have many years to work, and it’s building a succession plan for myself. I like archives and libraries so much, particularly those that are special purpose much like ours, if I want to move on into academia, if I want to be a museum director or library director of a large library or state library, I’m really going to need this degree. While I’ve learned a lot through experience in 10 years, I knew I really needed the theoretical underpinnings, I needed to really get that down. It’s the last degree that I hope to go for – my education far exceeds my intellect at this point.

What are you challenges? I think the anxiety about being back in school is much less of an issue than it was when I started my PhD in 2003. I guess the one thing that is a constant about graduate school and working is that you never have enough time, so you have to find a way to make it work. I knew that I would enjoy being back in school, I’ve always loved school and the discussion and debates.

Pathway: I’m looking at library administration as a pathway, but there are certain areas in which I’ve developed an expertise, like digitization and management of e-records. I know it’s not a minor, but I certainly want to look into those areas more intensively.