Library Staff Members Receive Scholarship Support for Professional Development

Posted on October 27, 2021

We are excited to announce the winners of the Natasha McFarland Staff Scholarship. The scholarship was named after former librarian Natasha McFarland, who retired in December 2020. McFarland worked for W&M Libraries for 37 years and left behind a legacy after becoming the first employee to progress from a typist to a research librarian over the course of a well-decorated career. The scholarship provides financial assistance for library employees pursuing education to advance their library career. Meet the four recipients for this year.

Abbey Childs
Student Supervisor & Reserves Coordinator 


What does your job entail?
At the beginning of each semester, my job is really busy working with faculty to get their course reserves processed. That can mean pulling books from the collection to put on reserve behind the desk, scanning chapters for e-reserves on Blackboard, or working with my colleagues in Acquisitions to order new materials that are needed for classes. The other part of my job is supervising a team of student employees in the Circulation Department. I have 22 students this semester, so that means a lot of hiring, scheduling, training, and day-to-day management! Working with my team is hands-down the best part of my job, but serving the W&M community is a close second. 

Where are you studying? 
University of South Carolina

What inspired you to pursue an MLIS degree?
I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life until I got a job working at Swem as an undergraduate student. I fell in love with public service and realized that the major values of library work (equity, access, service to the community) are very much aligned with my own values. I've been fortunate to work in several different libraries since graduation before eventually returning to Swem. I have learned so much about the field and my own professional interests, and I've gained great experience along the way. I decided to pursue my MLIS after deciding on library work as my career path by learning about all that the field has to offer and many conversations with my very patient and encouraging colleagues! I'm so grateful to everyone at Swem for the guidance, and for the support the Natasha McFarland Staff Scholarship provides that will allow me to continue to pursue my degree.

Jennifer Forbes
Jennifer ForbesAcquisitions Assistant


What does your job entail? 
I am responsible for purchasing items to be added to our collection.

Where are you studying?
Clarion University, Receiving my MSLS in Information and Library Science. Graduating Spring 2022!

What inspired you to pursue an MLIS degree?
When I was young I had a difficult time with my family. The simplest things were a struggle and I always ran away to the Library. A safe place where everyone was welcome and I didn’t need to be afraid. As I grew up I found myself at college pursing a degree I was told to pursue. Still struggling to find myself and deal with death and depression without a support system. Even in college I found myself running away to work at the Library for three years. A place where I could be myself and I was unafraid. Graduation came and went. I started my first marketing job, that I was told to take, and I hated it. So I ran away, 7,577 miles, to China. To build a digital Library and provide education and resources to people who didn’t have access like I did growing up and needed a place to escape. A fanciful book to read or a luminous article that took me a world away from my current situation. This is when I started to discover myself. Started to understand the complexities of self, my past, and my present. I found the space to finally fathom my experiences and accept the intricacies of culture, religion, anthropology, and sociology. I finally had the understanding that while we are all different, we all deserve love, support, and the understanding that we are all valued. With this, I flew back to the states and came home, to the Library. Where I continue to find the true meaning of family and support. Taking the time to understand my journey led me to starting my MSLS, so I can continue to work in libraries and make it a safe place for others to discover and grow.

Brionna Atkins
Digitization Specialist


What does your job entail?
To keep it simple – I manage the day-to-day digitization workflow for rare and unique materials from Special Collections. I also supervise a team of five awesome students (shout-out to Brianne, Nasya, Cassidy, Cecelia and Luke!).  

Where are you studying
I’m in the Masters of Science in Information program at Florida State University’s iSchool. I will graduate in Spring 2022.

What inspired you to pursue an MLIS degree?
My personal mission is to create open, equitable, and accountable virtual environments where all are included, valued, and respected. That is to say, I care deeply about equity, access, and memory. My goal is to use my own positionality to leverage the power of information and technology for public good. For this reason, I am drawn to the work we do in libraries, especially in the back-end efforts for digitization and open access. I enjoy the ways I am able to support these aims in my work at Swem and wanted to expand on it through my education.

Tami Back
Director of Communications & Strategic Planning


What does your job entail? 
I manage media relations, marketing, outreach, and strategic planning for William & Mary Libraries.

Where are you studying for your MLIS Degree?
University of Kentucky

What inspired you to pursue an MLIS degree? 
My love of storytelling drew me to the communications field, but my first love is undoubtedly libraries, having been raised by a book-loving mother who planned frequent family outings to our local public library. Since joining the university nine years ago, I have discovered that I thrive in the type of workplaces libraries provide, where curiosity and lifelong learning are encouraged and celebrated. I strive to be an effective, valuable leader and contributor to the fields of librarianship and communications, and obtaining a master’s in library science is crucial to achieving this goal.