Julie Lowe: Why choose one when you can both teach and research as an academic librarian?

By Neil Lamont

Julie's hometown: Toronto, Ontario

Now that she’s finished her PhD, Julie Lowe is bringing her academic expertise back to the library.


When Julie Lowe tells people she’s studying library and information science, she’s prepared for an unusual response: surprise.

“When I tell people I’m in this program, I get some really bizarre reactions,” she says. “They’re like, ‘Why did you do a PhD, and now you’re wasting your time scanning barcodes?’”

But to Julie, nothing about Western’s Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program is a waste of time. Julie, who holds an LLM and a PhD, had initially planned on a career as a professor. But after observing a shortage of teaching positions in Canada, she decided library science was a more reliable path to academic work.

As such, the MLIS program is a perfect fit for Julie. And it’s equipping her to do far more than scan barcodes.

Julie is working toward a career as an academic librarian, a role that lets her continue her scholarly pursuits while helping others do the same. She wrote her PhD thesis on legal conceptions of sexual violation in Islamic jurisprudence and contemporary Jordanian law, and hopes to keep exploring this topic while assisting other researchers. 

"I like the idea of academic librarianship because there’s the concept of serving others. Not just doing your own research all the time, but also helping other people get the information they need."

“A lot of academic librarians actually do research of their own,” she says. “And you can teach and help people with research inquiries. So I think it’s actually quite an interesting field.”

Now in her second term of the program, Julie has gained a mix of theoretical and applied knowledge from the MLIS curriculum. She’s learned the current theories and debates in the field of library science, as well as the ins and outs of different research and cataloguing tools.

The elective courses in MLIS also allow Julie to study topics relevant to her academic background and chosen career path. This term, she’s taking a course on legal issues for information professionals, which covers concepts such as copyright.

“Copyright is not something I really studied in law school,” she says. “There are courses on the topic, but I didn’t take them. So that is something that will be new to me.”

Despite her wealth of academic and research experience, Julie says she is learning new things every day in the MLIS program. “It’s been interesting seeing the library perspective of things that I’ve only seen, in the past, from the researcher’s side.”

Fun Fact

When she’s not hitting the books, Julie is hard at work on her sewing machine. She can make sweaters, dresses and even custom cosmetics bags. “Those sorts of things are actually pretty easy,” she says. “But people think they’re complicated.”

One of those things is the library catalogue itself. “As a researcher, I used library catalogues all the time,” she says. “But I had no idea how they were actually made. What information do you need from the books? How do you put the information in the computer system? So last semester I took a course on descriptive cataloguing. We learned what’s going on in the background of a catalogue and how to make one.”

In addition to the program’s academic components, Julie has enjoyed getting to know her many MLIS classmates. “There’s a huge cross section of students,” she says. “There are people who just finished undergraduate studies, there are people making a career change and there are people who previously worked in libraries. I also have a colleague who finished her PhD as well. Pretty much anything you can imagine, you have in the program.”

With three advanced degrees under her belt, Julie is no stranger to academic research. And thanks to the MLIS program, she’ll soon be back in the library helping others complete their own academic journeys.

Profiles in the Meet Our Students section are written by students in the Master of Media in Journalism & Communication program, who are enrolled in MMJC 9604 - Professional Writing.