April 15, 2019 (Vol. 26, No. 7): PEOPLE

New Member Profile: Kathryn McDonald

Hello!  My name is Kathryn McDonald, and this is my first year as a graduate student pursuing an online MS/LIS from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.  My journey to this degree has been an interesting one. For my undergraduate work, I double-majored in Anthropology and Computer Science at Oregon State University.  I knew that they fit together, but I couldn’t articulate exactly how at the time, so I took a job on the computer science side of things as a data analyst.

When the news broke last summer about US agencies separating migrant children from their families at the border, I stumbled across a Wired article about academics from Columbia University who were building a map of every ICE facility in the country based on open data.  Their goal was to show that the scope of the separation crisis extended far past our southern border. The article called their work “Digital Humanities”, and I finally realized how to fit my degrees together. I was put in touch with the Oregon State University Rare Books and History of Science Librarian, who suggested that a Library and Information Science degree would put me in the best position to leverage my technical and academic knowledge in ways that benefit my community.

I live on the coast near Astoria, so I am familiar with the challenges rural communities face and would like to use the knowledge and skills I gain to benefit my community.  Recently, I have become rather involved with Astoria’s Q Center. They have been strategizing about ways to expand and become a community resource center, and my dream is to help them offer an array of LGBTQ books and articles.  I am also volunteering with the Gay and Lesbian Archives of the Pacific Northwest (based in Portland) to help connect rural Q Centers to share resources. The coast has some fascinating LGBTQ history, and I would love to collect and share oral histories from elders to help young rural LGBTQ folks see themselves represented.

My favorite book is “Alamut” by Vladimir Bartol, which I learned about while playing the Assassin’s Creed video game series.  Quite apart from rotting your brain, when done well, video games can actually provide immersive history lessons. When I find spare time, I enjoy playing the baritone ukulele, conducting “mad science” experiments, and trying to grow herbs and vegetables in sandy soil.

I have a passion for bringing suppressed or marginalized histories and folklore to the public, and books are a wonderful way to do that.  I am hoping to meet everyone in OLA and find out how everything works and how librarians are serving their communities around the state. In addition, I was delighted to be accepted to serve on the ALA’s Over the Rainbow Book List Committee this year, so I am looking forward to reading lots of books.  I’m interested to learn about the relationship between ALA and OLA and how I can harness my experience to benefit both.