USC Online Graduate Student Looks to Make National Impact at Library of Congress

Jessica Castelo, a student in the online Master of Management in Library and Information Science program, hopes to “make a difference” in children’s lives with her degree.

For Jessica Castelo, it was a passion for history — coupled with a fortuitous lecture at her alma mater — that led her to a world of cataloging, organizing and curating information in the online Master of Management in Library and Information Science (MMLIS) program at USC.

While earning her bachelor’s degree in history from California State University Channel Islands, a guest speaker influenced Castelo to advance her education in library and information science.

“During my capstone project, we had a librarian come and visit us, and he had also gotten his bachelor’s degree in history,” she told USC Online.

Unsure about her next steps following graduation, Castelo began researching opportunities in the field, landing on the USC Marshall School of Business MMLIS program (which is now offered by USC Bovard College). As she was already taking classes online due to the pandemic, the remote program was a convenient and flexible way to earn her master’s degree.

“I’m so glad I did it because it’s one of the best fields that I could have possibly gone into. I had thought about teaching, but with my librarianship, I get the best of both worlds, where I do get to interact with the public, especially with kids, but then also I get to make a difference with libraries,” she explained.

After graduating from CSU Channel Islands, Castelo began working with two after-school programs, which gave her experience with students of all ages, especially those in elementary and middle school.

Around the same time, she started her studies at USC, and the program is already paying off: Castelo is currently interning as a visitor engagement specialist at the Library of Congress, one of the top institutions of its kind in the entire country.

“It’s one of the most welcoming places I’ve ever worked at, and I really love the work that I do,” she said.

The Business of Library and Information Science

The online MMLIS program can be completed in 20 months, but because Castelo’s track ran right through the summer, it will only take her a year and a half to complete — the speed of the program being another reason why she was specifically drawn to USC.

The classes and coursework, Castelo noted, have also made an immediate impact on her career path. As the MMLIS has a strong emphasis on leadership, it blends traditional LIS-based curriculum with management and other business fundamentals to prepare students for influential positions.

“In the long run, classes about accounting and marketing have been the most beneficial for me and the type of library work that I want to do, especially what I’m doing right now at the Library of Congress,” explained Castelo, whose office works to help visitors become lifelong users of the library’s services and resources through engaging learning experiences and programs.

In addition to the revered program structure, real-world coursework learnings and emerging career opportunities, Castelo was also impressed by the support and guidance she’s received from faculty, staff and the wider Trojan community.

“It’s a small program, and there are only seven of us [in my cohort]. We get a lot of attention from the professors, and we’ve been able to connect with each other [and others] outside of the program because USC offers a wide range of networking opportunities both online and in person. Before I moved to D.C. for this internship, I was living in Los Angeles, and I was able to go to campus quite a bit,” she said.

As for what the not-so-distant future holds once she obtains her MMLIS, Castelo has no plans to leave the Library of Congress and hopes to continue her work with the Visitor Engagement Office.

If that isn’t in the cards, however, she envisions herself at a different academic library — hopefully in the D.C. area or back in California, the two places she feels comfortable calling home.

“If I had to give advice to anybody considering the program … I’d say think ahead,” Castelo shared. “Consider the endgame, especially with your internships and your capstone. It’s five semesters, yes, but it’s only a year and a half, and it really does fly by.”

Learn more about the online Master of Management in Library and Information Science (MMLIS) program today.