Jana Gowan graduated from The University of Tulsa in 2003 with a double major in English and film studies. She earned her master’s degree in gender studies and literature at The University of Warwick, then worked at Cameron University for several years as a researcher and writer in the Office of the President. She also worked at the Bishop John T. Walker School for Boys in Washington, D.C., for several years, first as an AmeriCorps volunteer and then as a teacher and development professional. In 2015, she decided to pursue a master’s in library and information studies, earning her degree in 2019.
Gowan returned to Cameron to work as the electronic resources and systems librarian/university archivist, but a homecoming to TU soon followed. In 2021, she returned to Tulsa, working first at the Tulsa City-County Library as the local history research librarian, and then in 2022 became the reference and outreach librarian at TU’s Helmerich Center for American Research at Gilcrease Museum.
We were able to chat with Gowan about her joyful return to TU:
How does it feel to be back at TU after all these years? How are you liking your new position?
It was an unexpected full-circle moment to return to TU, and I am delighted. During my time as an undergraduate at TU, there were many faculty and staff who mentored me and helped shape the course of my future. I hope to be able to give back to the TU community by serving in the library at the Helmerich Center. My new position is the ideal mix of tasks that all support access, one of my core professional values. I feel very fortunate to do work that I enjoy with people I enjoy.
Was there a particular moment for you, either in college or after, when you realized that you wanted to be a librarian?
I was at a point in my professional life where I was struggling to find work that was a good fit for me as a person, where I felt my unique set of skills could contribute to a larger purpose. I participated in career counseling that assessed my skills and interests and cross-referenced those with my Myers-Briggs personality profile. While looking through the recommended professions on this assessment, I saw the word “librarian,” and it was like a light switched on in my mind. I realized how central all kinds of libraries had been throughout my life. I moved often as an adult, and wherever I moved, one of my favorite early tasks was to get my library card. I had also spent countless hours in the stacks as a student, studying and researching. In that moment of realization of how important libraries (both as public spaces and places of learning) had been to me, I felt thrilled at the prospect of supporting others to have their own meaningful engagements with libraries.
Do you have an especially fond memory of your time at TU?
There are so many. I remember sitting on a blanket on the U, reading for class. I also fondly remember discussing novels with one of my favorite professors, Dr. James Watson. At the same time, I used to get frustrated because he would praise my writing and then give me poor marks on my papers! And the process of working on my thesis (drafting, discussing, revising) with Dr. Laura Stevens was so enjoyable, it was one of the reasons I went on to pursue graduate studies.
What advice do you have for current students interested in English and creative writing?
I hope I can offer you some encouragement that there are so many possibilities for jobs across a variety of fields that require the ability to research, think critically, and read and write well. I worked in education, nonprofit development, grant writing, and communications before I joined the library and information studies profession. In each position, my background in English literature studies and writing served me well.