From Tehran to Denton: UNT librarian works her way back up the ladder

DENTON (UNT), Texas -- Seti Keshmiripour, the new outreach and engagement librarian at the University of North Texas, faced a tough decision when she and her husband moved from Iran to Denton in 2011.

Even though she had been a head librarian at one of Iran's most prestigious research libraries in Tehran for five years and had earned a master's degree in library studies in Iran, none of her licenses were accredited in the U.S.

She could either go through a master's program again, slowly working her way back up the ladder, or she could direct her energy toward some other, perhaps more satisfying project.

"That was not an easy decision to make," Keshmiripour said. "I had just finished my master's. It hadn't even been a year. That was not easy. And of course, when you change countries, they don't just say 'Okay, this person was a librarian. Let's give her a librarian position.' You need to start from the beginning."

And that's just what she did.

She enrolled at UNT in 2012 to study graduate level library and information science, while her husband, Mahdi Ahmadi, who had already been accepted into the environmental philosophy program at UNT, pursued his doctoral degree.

"I started shelving books, and shelf reading, and checking out books," Keshmiripour. "Every once in a while, I'd think 'What am I doing?' When I was a librarian back in Iran, I was not really shelving books. I had people doing that for me."

She worked as a graduate library assistant while she studied, and after she graduated in May 2014, she was hired to the full-time staff as a service desk specialist. This July she was promoted to her current position, Outreach and Engagement Librarian in the Access Services Department of UNT Libraries.

She has a number of new responsibilities with her new position, and it's hard not to drop your jaw when you listen to her list them. Right now, she's actively collaborating with coordinators of the University Scholars Day, an annual event sponsored by the Honors College, and UNT's McNair Scholars Program. She provides instruction sessions to teach students about library services, citation rules and how to research in general.

She's also the subject librarian for the Honors College. One of the biggest projects she's working on is visiting the two residence halls for Honors students, Rawlins and Honors, on a regular basis so that students have a more readily available guide to the information they need for assignments. She said she'll start visiting Rawlins Hall from 4 – 6 p.m. every Wednesday in less than a month.

Finally, she's in charge of managing UNT Libraries' Ask Us service and all of the graduate library assistants at UNT. When she was hired in July, she had to hire and train a whole new team in a month to get ready for the first day of classes. She said it was a hectic time, but one of her jobs is to prepare the assistants for the job market after graduation, so it's exciting for her.

"She's been amazing," said Emily Strouse, a second-year library and information science graduate student and graduate library assistant at UNT. "I don't think I've seen anyone work so hard to make things comfortable for student assistants."

Strouse said Keshmiripour gives the library assistants big projects and hands-on experience that will look great on her resume.

"She makes an effort to understand what our interests are and apply them within Access Services so we can help the UNT community," Strouse said.

If you asked Keshmiripour about the overwhelming amount of work she does, she would probably make nothing of it. She loves helping people, so her work never seems like a chore to her.

"To me, helping people is the most satisfying thing in life," she said. "I love helping people find the information they are looking for."

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