Newsletter of the Association of Library and Information Science Students (ALISS)





November 2003

Vol VII Issue V

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Information Professional Spotlight:
An Interview with Angela Culbert

By Dyan Chandler
Angela Culbert graduated from the iSchool MLIS program in June 2001, and is now working as a Browse Developer at We recently chatted with her about her job, her iSchool experiences, and her advice for fitting those two things together. Here's what Angela had to say:

Silverfish: What exactly does a Browse Developer at Amazon do?

Angela: As a browse developer, I am one of a team that maintains and develops the online browsing taxonomies for the website. This involves a variety of activities including categorizing products, constructing thesauri, and working with internal groups to improve retrieval results by category. Researching products sold on the website is a natural part of the work that we do. Additionally, troubleshooting classification is an ongoing task. To do this well, we are continually learning new information about the complex processes that go into putting the website online.

Silverfish: Researching products, that must be interesting! What types of products are you categorizing, besides books?

Angela: Amazon sells a large variety of products besides books. Music, videos, DVDs, electronics, and apparel are just a few of the areas that we deal with while working on the browse team.

Silverfish: Could you briefly describe your path to your current position?

Angela: I started working at Amazon with the Browse team as a directed fieldwork student during my last two quarters at the Information school. After graduation in June of 2001, I continued on as a contract employee on a temporary basis. Based upon this previous experience, I was asked to do a second contract months later. After several extensions on my temp status, a permanent position opened up in the Browse department. I applied, went through the interview process, and was hired.

Silverfish: So is it safe to say you would recommend the directed fieldwork experience for MLIS students?

Angela: Definitely. I really enjoyed my directed fieldwork experience and think it is an important part of the curriculum. Among other benefits, I found it to be a very good way to get experience and it was useful to me in determining what type of position I might be interested in after school.

Silverfish: What are the biggest challenges in your job?

Angela: Striking a balance between doing the job quickly and doing it well is always a great challenge. Setting priorities while working in a fast-paced environment can be a demanding task in and of itself.

Silverfish: What are the biggest rewards in your job?

Angela: I'm really lucky to work with a great group of smart, fun, interesting people. Working in an environment that thrives on innovation is very rewarding because it creates an atmosphere that pushes me to constantly learn more and improve upon my skills.

Silverfish: Sounds exciting! Do you work with other librarians?

Angela: Yes, there are several librarians currently on the browse team. As a group we also work with software engineers and others across the company.

Silverfish: What class/skill from the iSchool has been the most useful to you in your career?

Angela: The iSchool's emphasis on teamwork has proven beneficial, as the work we do at Amazon can at times be highly collaborative. Additionally, courses in thesaurus construction, database design, and cataloging have been very useful as they emphasize the importance of quality data in good information retrieval systems.

What do you know now that you wish you would have known in school?

Angela: While I was in school, I was always concerned that I was choosing the right classes I would need most to help me in my career. In hindsight, I'm happy to say that all of the classes I have had have come in handy in some way either professionally or personally. Learning doesn't end when school is over as there are plenty of opportunities for continuing education and further development of professional skills.






Dyan Chandler is an evening student in the MLIS program.