Marissa Criswell

Marissa Criswell

Marissa Criswell was a high school biology teacher in Katy ISD when she began collaborating with the school library on projects for her classes. The librarians in her school encouraged her to consider moving into the library, which brought her to UNT’s Master of Library Science program with the school certification focus. After finishing her degree, her husband was transferred to the DFW area, and she decided to take time off to raise her kids. Then a position came open at the Justin Public Library, so she applied and started using her library degree for the first time since she graduated.

After six months at Justin Public Library, her colleague told her about an opening at UNT’s Willis Library. Marissa had been wanting to get back into an academic setting, but she was concerned that six months of experience was too short of a time to be considered, but there is no success without a try. At the time of this interview, she has now been in the interlibrary loan department of UNT’s Willis Library for a few months as the Interlibrary Loan/Borrowing Assistant. When I asked her about how she overcame the gap of twelve years in her resume, she said, “as librarians, we are lifelong learners. I jumped back into professional development opportunities. I knew I needed to update my knowledge in areas such as patron privacy and copywrite, so I used Texas Library Association and Texas State Archives and Library Commissions websites for current information. They offer free professional training with certificates to update your skills.”

About her new job she says, “I love the order of it and the diversity of what the students and faculty are studying. The requests show me what they are studying, everything from cockroaches to trauma nursing to cello accompaniments from 1925. I get to go out into the world to find what the students and faculty need. It is fascinating.”

Marissa says that the College of Information’s library program gave her the skills she needed to be able to do her job. For example, the class in database management taught her not only how to build a database, but also how the search features work and how to decide which databases to use. This class showed her the extent of knowledge of today’s librarians in information retrieval. One other class she remembers taking and enjoying was an elective called The History of Books and Printing, where she got to make her own paper and ink, do the printing typeset, and carve the decorative wooden block to set in the printing press. Another favorite was the graphic novels class because it opened her eyes to how graphic novels encourage reluctant readers to read and taught her about the benefits of processing visuals and text together. Later at the public library, she was emboldened to encourage reluctant readers by taking them to the graphic novel selections and motivate parents who might be doubtful of the genre. 

During her time as a student at UNT, Marissa was awarded a GumDrop Book Scholarship. Julie Andrews presented it to her as one of five winners across the state at the annual TLA Conference! Marissa appreciated that the College of Information shared the opportunities that they came across with students.

Regarding service, Marissa had been involved with the Texas Library Association while in school and jumped back in feet first when she started working at UNT. She attended the annual conference in Austin last spring, where we met. She attended to update both her network and her informational knowledge. She attended the district meeting for our area while there and was elected as the Secretary/Treasurer for District 7. This October, she will host the TLA District 7 fall meeting here at UNT and is preparing guest speakers for the event.

Her advice to students is to prepare for the job market by utilizing the resources at UNT and networking. Even as an alum of many years ago, Marissa found the Career Center’s resources helpful with her cover letter and resume updates. She said, “UNT’s Career Center has outstanding examples of cover letters and resumes. Since most first impressions are digital these days, not in person, it is important to have impressive documents.” For networking, Marissa joined both the Texas and American Library Associations. She says, “TLA and ALA have student rates, and you should join, check job boards, attend an event, or get a single day pass for the conference to network. Working with District 7, I have met many people at area universities who have told me about library openings they have.” Another piece of advice for students she mentioned was, “do not be afraid to take ‘NOT YOUR DREAM JOB’ out the gate. Take a job to make connections and then find out about other openings through those relationships. Also, that library job you took may turn out to be what you love. You must get out and meet people to find out what is available, what you might love, and to get your foot in the door.”