Wednesday, May 1, 2024
Headshot Photograph of Damien Ihrig

Damien Ihrig, Curator of the John Martin Rare Book Room at the University of Iowa’s Hardin Library for the Health Sciences and 2020 Iowa SLIS graduate, found his librarianship calling after working in academia for nearly two decades. Before pivoting to the field of library and information science, Ihrig found a great sense of fulfillment working in the College of Medicine as a Collegiate Registrar.  Networking with registrars from across the University of Iowa is what led to Ihrig’s initial introduction to David McCartney, former Archivist at the Main Library Special Collections and Archives.

Ihrig says McCartney warned him, that jumping into the field of librarianship and archival work wasn’t a process of instant gratification, but rather one of dedication to completing the two-year Master of Library and Information Science graduate program. After much discussion, Ihrig’s family made the collective decision to dedicate the time, attention, and resources, to make his professional pivot possible.

“I went in with the attitude of saying yes,” said Ihrig. “Whatever opportunity it is, say yes. You get to meet a ton of great people that way, and not just in SLIS, but in the libraries in general.” 

Many of his ‘yeses’ turned into one-of-a-kind opportunities, such as curating a collaborative Special Collections exhibit about the history of books and book making, exploring the rock library at the Iowa Geological Survey warehouse, and working with SLIS faculty on interesting research projects.  

“Whatever you bring to the table, it’ll be part of your [professional] foundation,” said Ihrig. “If anyone is interested in health sciences libraries, there are also librarians at the hospital.” 

Whether it’s a passion for a certain subject matter, a specialized style of content or material, or specific language and culture, unique personal interests can help students set themselves apart in their classes, and in their professional ambitions. However, Ihrig also shares the importance of mastering the skills and strengths that are often learned alongside these passions, the foundational areas of librarianship.

“SLIS gave me the foundation. It’s inevitable, no matter the field, that you also learn on the job,” said Ihrig. “You can’t know it all, but I am lucky to work with an amazing team of people across the UI Libraries!” 

This includes the Hardin Library for the Health Sciences where Ihrig and his colleagues are celebrating the Hardin Library’s 50th anniversary, the re-opening of its renovated fourth floor, and a brand-new reading room space in the John Martin Rare Book Room. The open house event is scheduled for Thursday, May 2, 2024, from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.  The festivities will commence with speaker Dr. Andrew Lamb, cardiology surgeon and author, followed by additional speakers, decadent cupcakes, and rare books on display for perusing. 

As Ihrig would advise, “Just say, yes!”