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Breaking Ground 94 - Kathleen Lehigh: a Ninja Librarian’s Quest for a Career

by Patti Lehigh, TN Partners in Policymaking™ Leadership Institute graduate and Kathleen’s mom

Kathleen Lehigh of Cordova, Tennessee has the super powers of cerebral palsy and dyslexia. She graduated from Concord Academy High School in Memphis. Her goal was always to be a librarian (secretly a Ninja Librarian), and she knew that her main objective was to get a Library and Information Science (LIS) Degree from the University of Southern Mississippi (USM).

Kathleen completed her basic classes at a community college in Memphis. At the same time she interned as a librarian at the Catholic Diocese of Memphis Library and competed for the Mid-South Adaptive Sports and Recreation Group to represent Tennessee at regional levels in track and field.

Kathleen started her core undergraduate classes online with USM’s LIS Department. At the same time she worked internships for the Memphis Public Library and Information Center (MPLIC) in the Archive Department and then at the Help Desk. For Kathleen’s last year of undergraduate school she moved to the USM campus in Hattiesburg, MS.

The whole time she never wavered from her mission – just like a Ninja!

Kathleen used her walker and her scooter for access around campus. She interviewed and hired a Personal Care Assistant (PCA). She made friends and introduced people to her different abilities. The campus police provided her rides to class during rainstorms so she wouldn’t ruin her scooter. She involved her instructors and friends in meeting her accommodation needs. The Office of Disabilities and Accommodations and the Office of Housing and Residency at USM were phenomenal in their service. Kathleen realized she was responsible for asking for help and being specific about what was needed – if she was going to succeed.

She completed her BA in Library and Information Science with Highest Honors in Fall 2014, and after consulting with interested representatives of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, she knew, in order to reach her dreams, she had to work a bit more. Kathleen started the Master’s program Spring 2015.

Kathleen learned that balance is key. She worked her life around church, school, exercise and her mental health. Kathleen knows that when she is so busy with life and her “super powers,” asking for help with anxiety and depression is one of the most important things to do! She utilized the campus fitness center because exercise also helped her mental health. She developed a routine including yoga, modified ballet and working with a personal trainer.

Kathleen completed her Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science and a Certificate in Special Collections and Archives in May 2018.

Kathleen is actively seeking a position that matches her skills, her interests and her Ninja attitude. She is also trying to complete a yoga teaching certificate, as a back-up plan or to supplement her library work. She wishes to remain in the South, but if the FBI needs her, she might see what she can do to accommodate them!