Mia has always had a wide range of interests, and it was a winding road that brought her to Collection Development at Ingram. She studied dance from elementary school through her early twenties and participated one summer in an engineering technology program. She also had a civics teacher in high school whose lessons taught Mia the need for diversity of thought – and for an active commitment to that diversity -- in an examination of any subject. “What I learned then has stuck with me all these years, and I apply it to many scenarios,” she says. “Actions often say more than words.”
Mia's sense of adventure took her from home in Michigan to college in New York City, where she lived for the next ten years. As an undergraduate of Africana studies, Mia worked for her college’s student publication and, for a while, considered a career in journalism. In a data entry position after college, however, she became fascinated with what the analysts in the company were doing. This, in turn, led to an interest in librarianship, which led to enrolling in a master’s program, with an emphasis on records management. A few years later, Mia joined Ingram Library Services.
As Data Analyst for the Collection Development team, Mia believes three top skills essential to her role are:
- Strong knowledge of querying SQL and relational databases
- Creating effective data visualizations
- Proficiency in Microsoft Office Suite
How would you explain your processes to someone unfamiliar with the work of a Data Analyst?
I would tell them that I look for and find data wherever it lives and then use that data to tell stories. In other words, I manipulate the data, look at it from different angles, and then extract other data points to fill out the stories.
What aspect of your job do you most enjoy?
I like almost every part of my job, but my favorites are tied between creating data visualization and solving problems. I derive a great sense of accomplishment by making systems better.
Why do you think data helps make stories more powerful?
I think data offers one set of perspectives, and we can learn many things from a story told from different standpoints. In terms of the data itself, different data provide different outlooks. Telling a story with quantitative data, for example, gives insights different from those of qualitative data. Both can be powerful, but quantitative data can resonate more strongly for listeners or readers whose brains are more oriented that way.
Can you talk about one of the more challenging data analysis projects you’ve completed in Collection Development?
In my first year at Ingram, I was tasked with updating one of our older databases. Three librarians used this database, but in different ways, so I had to identify the improvements they each required, and then determine if those improvements were, a) possible, and b) compatible. I had to increase my knowledge and skills with the database before I could even begin to implement the changes. In the end, I was able to reach a consensus with all three librarians regarding the changes, I made the backend and frontend improvements successfully, and all three librarians were happy with the results.
Having said that, iCurate inClusive has been one of the more challenging projects to date, because I needed to do in-depth analysis to create a point of comparison for our customers’ data. I had never done that for other projects.
What are some common problems you encounter when working on Collection Development projects?
Tech failure. We often connect data and build upon it for our regular services and special projects. We also use lots of software and shared drives, so anything can go wrong.
If something DOES go wrong with any piece of a complex web of data, I play detective to figure out which piece has an issue.
For example, it could be a customer converting from one file type to another and losing part of their data in the process. Or there might be a hiccup on just one step of a multi-part daily update to one of our systems, which can then create a data issue in another part of our system. There can be a domino effect. Whatever the situation, I find X and then solve for X.
Are there any books, websites, or YouTube channels you would recommend to someone who wants to learn about data analysis?
When there is a tool or topic I want to learn more about, I tend to search everywhere for information. Can’t say I’ve leaned on any one source, but I have saved a playlist of WiseOwlTutorials channel on YouTube. I watched it to learn about a specific tool and really like their instruction style.
What’s your favorite book, and why is it your favorite?
I have two favorites: Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi, about the African diaspora, and Orange Mint and Honey by Carlene Brice, about a mother-daughter relationship. I can relate to both books, and Homegoing has an evocative way to describe histories of related peoples across many years.
What have you learned in the last year, and why is that significant?
I have learned more about my cooking and my palette. This is significant because I really enjoy good food.
What book are you currently reading, and what typically attracts you to a book? Reviews? Book covers?
Right now, I’m reading M. Archive by Alexis Pauline Gumbs, because someone recommended it to me. Personal recommendations are how I become interested in most books I read or add to my TBR list. Though I do appreciate a good cover, when I go seeking a book, I usually want something that will feed a specific mood. I want to be excited by a thriller or to learn something new from a nonfiction title.
What would you like our customers to know about Collection Development and Ingram?
That the people here are highly competent, they really know their stuff, and they are invested in libraries.