The value of list-servs

Which is better? In the age of social media, many people groan at the idea of list-servs. Email mailing lists are so old-school/out of date and yet they’re so prevalent in library land. I was talking to my librarian friend about them and which ones we subscribe to, then realized what a librarian thing list-servs are. ILI-L, NMRT, RUSA, the list (ha, ha) goes on! You can pretty much find a list-serv that fits your interests. It’s always interesting to me to see the varying levels of netiquette and opinions, depending on which list you look at.

Why pay attention?

My first list-serv was ARLIS/NA (art libraries). Seeing the types of requests for articles and reference questions those librarian got gave me an idea of what their typical day might look like. It was an easy way to get a window into their world. It was also the lack of job postings on the list-serv that made me realize that I needed to widen my scope and gain more general skills. More recently, I added a few more to follow and I get so many interesting calls for papers, proposals, job posts, and general questions (followed by email conversations). These are opportunities that don’t necessarily circulate on twitter or other social media outlets. You can also get ideas for instruction or programming that you can apply at your own workplace. It’s a great way to pick people’s brains and see what’s being done at other places.

Personally, I feel more clued in to professional activities by spying on these list-servs. I do get a ton of information from social media too, but it’s not always the same stuff. This is a lot of information for one person to sift through! I filter my list-serv emails so that they skip my inbox and go straight into folders. That way I can check on them when I have time and not feel overwhelmed.

What not to do…

I did mention varying levels of nettiquette. I’ve been surprised to see some of the things people say on these lists.

  • Please don’t email the entire list for instructions on how to unsubscribe. There are instructions on the ALA Mailing List website. Also, as a librarian (or future librarian) we should all be able to follow instructions. Think of it as doing a reference transaction with yourself.
  • Don’t bad mouth the profession and potential places to work on the list. The library world is actually quite small and you don’t want a bad reputation. If you are employed and you’re bad mouthing another institution, that looks bad too. Honestly, I’ve seen these dramatic email chains circulate.
  • Don’t get caught up in the drama. It goes hand in hand with the previous point.

Will list-servs disappear in the near future? I have no clue, but it’s a great place to hear about some insider info.

If you build it, will they actually come?

Tumbleweed Rolling

Anyone? Anyone at all?

Having a web presence is important, both for you as an individual and for your library. I wrote about how as a student, it’s really helpful to build an online presence and Steven Kaszynski wrote on his blog about library’s promoting their online presence. It makes sense and it’s not too hard to do right? In all honesty, this past semester there have been a few things that I have struggled with, in terms of building an online presence for my library school student group, ALISS. This blog post by the Annoyed Librarian on how little users actually pay attention to library’s on Facebook really hit home, because I’m struggling with this very problem! I have to ask the question, if you build it, will they really come?

Over the summer, as the new Chief Info Officer  of my group, I was charged with maintaining the website. I redesigned the website and installed WordPress to make the website more dynamic, and make it easier to update content. Students can comment on the posts and there’s potential for conversation on the website. Guess who actually comments on the blog? Other ALISS officers and spambots. Not quite what I was hoping for. Between the other student officers, we post really great opportunities for students to apply for scholarships, internships, student events and more! Opportunities that I didn’t even know how to find as a first year student. All great stuff, but it falls on deaf ears. We tried promoting it through the SLIS list-serv, to which another student replied “I almost never pay attention to those emails.” We promote our events and the website on Facebook and Twitter and still there’s a lack of response. So what happens when you’ve built our online presence, continue to update content but can’t get your audience to pay any attention to you?

The SLIS program at my school is geared towards people who are already working FT jobs. It’s a commuter campus. Our students tend to be older, have families and other responsibilities outside of school, so they might not have time for student events. But that’s why having the online presence is important. However, part of the problem is that you still need face-to-face interaction to promote your online presence. If people aren’t paying attention to your posts while they’re online, I’m not sure how promoting through other online outlets will help. It just doesn’t. Making connections in the classroom and telling people things like “Hey you like ____ right?  I heard about an internship that you might be interested in. It’s posted on our website” might carry more weight. To be honest, I’m not sure. I’m speculating here.

This semester, all my classes were online. This is a first for me and in general, I do like going to a physical class and talking to people in person. I felt cut off from my student body and I don’t know who our new students are. How can I reach out to them and promote our events if I don’t know what their faces even look like? If I feel this way, how many other students do? I have a lot of questions and I don’t have a solution to this problem. I’ve heard from other student groups and ALA chapters that it can be hard to get people to participate, but how do you make it successful? If anyone has any insight, I’m all ears.

Do It For You!

Today was the first time in a very long time that I just enjoyed something for just me. I’m a huge music fan (mostly indie and other random stuff) and I decided that today, I would indulge myself and listen to what makes me happy. About a year ago, my car stereo was stolen and I haven’t been able to replace it yet. I never thought that not listening to music, even the radio on my drive to school and work, would have an effect on me. I never considered the place that this thing that I enjoy had in my place. I often feel that at least for me, I put things I enjoy aside when I’m really busy. Let’s face it, we’re all busy, especially if you’re in grad school full-time and working. Life is crazy and there is always something you *should* be doing.

Last night I was talking with a friend and she asked me if I was a procrastinator. I had to say “yes” because it’s true. It’s not to say that I’m lazy though, I just take on so much at a time that I have to prioritize what I need to get done first. As library school students, we’re expected to do so much in order to have a chance at getting a job. Yes, it’s just a chance that someone might look at your resume and say “this person is qualified.” It’s a clear expectation that you have to do a million things to get experience and most of the time you’re not getting paid for it. To be honest, I think this can be really tiring, probably because I just hope that it will pay off. Experience goes a long way. However, working yourself to the bone and not taking time to just chill out is really dangerous. It’s just plain unhealthy. We all need outlets for ourselves. As a result, I put aside all the small wonders of life that I have grown to love. Forget creativity, forget taking walks, forget day dreaming. Alright, I still day dream all the time; but I realized today how much I’ve removed myself from doing what I love. I think it’s important for everyone to take some time out of the day for just themselves. Do something for you.

If you want to have a Party of One and dance in your room, go for it! If you want to write holiday cards and listen to music, GO FOR IT! A big part of my feeling burnt out is because I haven’t taken the time out this semester to just relax and do stuff for myself. I just hope that in the future I’ll be able to find a better balance. For those who have, I completely envy you.

And to get into the holiday mood and ENJOY something:

Newer Cards!

New Cards

Psychedelic Kitten!

I made some mistakes the first time I made myself some personal cards. The biggest mistake I made was putting a current job title on there. I had heard from others that you shouldn’t put MLIS candidate on there since you’ll graduate sooner than you know it. My boyfriend who is a photoshop whiz told me that I should put a current job on my card because people will want to know what I do. Well, I got a new job, and now my other cards are outdated. Boo! I actually have official cards from my new job so I felt no need to recreate that job title for my personal cards. The other mistake I made with my old cards is that I stuck a QR code on there, but no link to my blog. Um, that’s terrible! I didn’t have a smart phone at the time so if someone didn’t put a link on their card, I wouldn’t have a way to get to their website.

When I went to ALA, I was nervous because I wanted people to think I was “professional” and serious about librarianship. Yeah, try and tell that to the guy at Lafitte’s on Bourbon St. who is just about blacked out drunk. Just kidding! No one was that out of control, but the point is, it’s OK to have personality and flair. People will still know you are serious because first of all, you showed up to a conference on your own dime (if you’re a student) and because you’re talking to other people like you have something important to say. Your card is a chance to express yourself and build your own brand. That’s just how I feel anyway, I had a lot of fun making these and so did my boyfriend who had a great time creating renditions of crazy rainbow kittens.

And no blog post about business cards would be complete without this amazing/intense card swapping scene from American Psycho. If I start sweating when you hand me a card, you’ll know you’ve outdone yourself.

Burnt Out

Last month was really crazy busy for me. In general, I can handle a large workload but I think I’m officially burnt out. This is why I’m procrastinating and writing something for myself. Having a creative outlet for myself has always been important to me, even though it’s something I tend to forget. I feel terrible, I haven’t blogged in a couple of months, which basically feels like forever in the internet world. It’s not like I don’t have ideas for posts, I get them all the time. It’s all the other life stuff that gets in the way. I think Jessica Olin’s post on How to Avoid Burn Out is pretty great advice. I’m trying to take the time to listen to her advice. Hack Library School recently did a cross over post on Gradhacker (one of my new favorite blogs) about getting experience and not burning out, which I contributed to. I mostly wrote about how not to burn out, despite the fact that it’s too late for me. Kind of seems hypocritical for me not to listen to even my own advice. I’m learning from my mistakes. I also need to learn how to say no to volunteering (but I’m addicted).

In other general news, part of the reason why I’ve been so crazy busy is because I got a new job! My first professional position as a librarian! I’m a reference and instruction librarian at a community college. It’s part-time which is good in a way because I’m still in school full-time. I’ve been putting a lot of my skills I’ve learned in school to good use. Also, realizing that school does not prepare you for many things once you get to the job. You’re really expected to be able to hit the ground running. This is why I am a firm believer that all library school students should do internships. There are so many things I learned from doing an internship in library instruction that I couldn’t learn in school. Talking in front of your library school class is different from talking in front of a bunch of freshmen who don’t understand your library jargon. It’s been good for me to see where a lot of the students are in terms of how they understand the library and how to search for information. I’m also kind of shy so getting up and teaching has really pushed me to leave my comfort zone. Eventually, it will be easy right? That’s what I hope anyway.

Back To School

Fall is one of my favorite seasons.

We’re off to a new school year. For some of us who are still in school (or work at one), this is a fun/busy time as we all get back into the swing of things. Lately, there have been some excellent posts with advice to the new library school student. Andy Woodworth wrote a great post to the MLS Class of 2013 and over at HackLibSchool, the Library School Starter Kit has a TON of tips and advice for the library school n00b. Seriously, I wish I was more plugged into the library world last year when I was just starting. I really had no clue about the wealth of knowledge and great community that existed out in the interwebs. I thought I would take this opportunity to reflect on where I have come from a year ago. For any new library school students, I hope they can learn from some of my mistakes.

 

A year ago, I sat in a new student orientation. I had recently moved to Indianapolis from California and was adjusting to my new settings. I will admit that I did not do a lot of research into the online library community before I started school. It didn’t even occur to me to do that, because I was a very low tech, not plugged in person. I used Facebook and that’s about it. I didn’t even know what an RSS feed was, I didn’t read any blogs except for webcomics, I didn’t know that Twitter had any purpose, I didn’t know that writing in a blog would be therapeutic, I didn’t know what “the cloud” was. Really, I did not know a lot. In fact, it took me quite awhile to get to where I am now. My remedial tech skills class taught me what Google Reader was, and forced me to go out and find library blogs. From there, I was able to find a way to connect to the online library community. After forgetting my flash drive at school MULTIPLE times, I figured out what Google Docs was. I have had a Gmail account for a couple of years and I did not use it to it’s full power until a year ago. This is so shameful. But from this shame and all these mistakes, I grew and I learned. Yay for life long learning!

I learned that it would be important for me to connect with the library world. This means keeping up with current events, finding librarians and library school students on social media and going to conferences. No, you don’t have to join Twitter, there are plenty of librarians and library groups on Facebook too. Even Linked In is a great place to connect with other professionals. I can’t stress how important connecting and staying current with the field is. Every library school student should be doing this, because we are so fortunate to be in a field with many people who are willing to help and answer questions. As a student, we have so many duties and obligations to our studies and our jobs; but taking the time out to just see what’s happening in the library world really enriches what you bring into the classroom and your job.

I have come a long way from where I started a year ago and a large part of it was just trying to be more active in the library world. I know that this year things will change even more dramatically but that’s another blog post. What have you guys learned from the start of your library school experience? Any other tips you want to add?

Choosing Practice Over Theory

The debate over practice vs. theory is quite familiar in LIS education. If you think about it, the very nature of our profession and our degree really does spur this kind of discussion. It’s funny because I’ve been recently writing about what students who are interested in digital libraries should do while they’re in school. Taking classes in the things that interest you is an obvious tip. In a way, I feel like a hypocrite because I haven’t even done all of those things myself. In fact, and I could be wrong about this, most people seem to find what they want to specialize in within the first year that they’re in school. Then they tailor their electives to match those interests; i.e. if you want to be a children’s librarian, you’re probably going to take classes related to that. Really, a MLS/MLIS program is too short to teach you everything you need to know, but it should give you a solid grounding that you can draw from. It’s really your time to take the classes that you think will prepare you best.

If you take a look at history of my coursework, you would probably wonder what area of librarianship I want to go into. I’m seriously all over the place. I am actually very interested in academic and digital librarianship, but I haven’t taken a digital libraries class. To be honest, I’m not sure if my schedule will allow me to do so, which I’m not entirely happy about. Here I am writing about the importance of understanding the theory behind the practical and yet I don’t always listen to my own advice. Is it important that someone understands the why and how a digital collection is built? Probably! But my own experience of understanding that is outside of the classroom. I’m not sure what’s more important, having that hands on experience, or learning about it in class. The likely truth is, both are just as important but why have I not chosen to do that?

This fall, I have chosen to do an instruction internship as opposed to one in a digital library. I was particularly inspired by the Seek a Challenge post written by Michael Stephens, in which he gives excellent advice to students. I have very little experience with instruction or with public speaking. This is something that makes me feel very uncomfortable so naturally, I chose to do an internship in an area that I know needs improvement (and also scares me). The other part of this is that I have chosen to do an internship in this area, as opposed to taking a class that would teach me a theoretical understanding of how to teach. Once again, I have elected practice over theory. I’m not saying that this is necessarily good; but I had to ask myself if I would learn more by doing or by sitting in a classroom and being lectured. I chose to learn by doing and I figure if I really want to learn more, then I can take the class offered by my school next semester. I’d probably get a lot more out of it since I could see the practical application.

Obviously, everyone has different learning styles and will approach their own education accordingly. I never really thought of myself as a person who hates learning about theory in library school. Ideally, practice and theory should go hand in hand. However, we only have a limited amount of time in school to learn so much and there are times when choices have to be made. What do you think is more important? Getting hands on experience or learning the theory in the classroom?

Worlds colliding!

Two Worlds Colliding

My worlds are colliding!

When I had originally set up my twitter account, I had intended for it to be mainly for library related things. In my head, I wanted there to be a separation between my personal life, which I mainly kept on Facebook, and my student/professional life. Even after joining the HackLibSchool team, I didn’t befriend my co-editors right away on Facebook and I just interacted with them mostly on Twitter. Actually, many of my friends, even my classmates in real life don’t even know that I write for a blog, or have my own. Not that it’s a good thing they don’t know these facts about me, it just goes to show how separated I have been trying to keep my life; but now all those divisions are tumbling down.

I’m friending more librarians on my personal Facebook and I’m losing touch with some of my California acquaintances/friends. I spent a good part of yesterday questioning myself about what I thought constituted a friendship or a connection, and which of those are actually valuable to me. My professional and personal are quickly becoming intertwined and at first, that gave me pause. On the other hand, it might be a sign that I am actually transitioning into a profession. Some of the people who give me the most support in my academic endeavors are people that I have never met.

You know what? These connections mean more to me in many ways; but I can’t help but feel like I’m losing part of my past. I haven’t talked to some of my best friends in ages! These are ones who have known me for years, prior to library school, who supported my decisions to pursue this degree. This makes me sad, because I’m finding that the physical distance puts a strain on these friendships, but I also know that they’re not going anywhere. I am also looking forward to getting to know some of my newer friends that I’ve met at conferences, because I have many things in common with them, sometimes even more than people I have known for a long time or in real life. It’s actually refreshing to meet these folks because they make me feel more at home. I think as we move forward in our lives, our interests change and so do our friendships.

I think my issue was that before I had actually met some of my internet library friends in real-life, I thought it would be easy to keep a division between my two worlds. Once I actually got the ALA, relaxed, got over my anxiety of talking to strangers, I found it much easier to approach people. The Pumped Librarian put it best in her post-ALA wrap up, when she said that it’s better not to think of networking as networking, but rather hanging out with cool people in your profession (she says it a lot better, I’m just paraphrasing). Being at ALA basically felt like I was hanging out with my friends, even if technically, what I was doing could be considered networking. After all the awesome meet-ups, I got Facebook requests and also made some requests on my own. As a result, I’ve found that my worlds are crossing over and I’m having a harder time distinguishing professional from personal. Looking back on my initial segregation, I just feel silly about it.

At this point, I have decided that I need to come to terms with a few things in my life. First off, librarianship is now a HUGE part of my life and who I am. It’s not only a professional interest, but a personal passion, so anyone in real life who knows me needs to know this. Second, I’m not going to be anyone that I am not. At first, I didn’t know how to use twitter, I didn’t want to retweet Andrew WK because I was afraid it wasn’t “professional”. Whatever, if you don’t think he’s hilarious, something is wrong with you. Kidding aside,  I do understand the fine line between what’s inapproriate conduct and what’s acceptable. I will say, I find it boring to follow people on twitter who only tweet articles and never interact with other people. Twitter is one of the main reasons why I felt comfortable approaching people and introducing myself to them. It was easier to talk to people at ALA11 because I interact with them on Twitter. I will admit that my online presence has slowly become a better representation of who I am in real life. I know I’m capable of good work and am a pretty nice person, which I think that’s what will really shine through.  No more hiding, no more walls.

Post ALA Reflection

I thought I had done a good job researching what to expect and do for a huge conference like ALA, but it did not prepare me for the reality. I had a wonderful time, meeting people and learning a few things at some of the sessions. I found that I did not make it all the sessions I had planned so carefully. One day, I only went to one because I was so exhausted, I didn’t have the brain power. Next time, I know that I need to schedule breaks in between to eat and rest; otherwise I would spend the day starving. Conference food is way overpriced and I am a broke grad student so I’m glad I at least brought snack bars with me.

I also realized that it was hard to tell what sessions would be crowded and what ones wouldn’t be. The session I wanted to attend the most was so packed, people were sitting out in the hallway and there was no way I would get in to hear what was going on. That made me realize I needed to be flexible in my plans. I also felt like I wasn’t very successful in actually going to the sessions I wanted to, because either I couldn’t get there on time, or it wasn’t what I thought it would be. My biggest success at the conference though, was meeting people. The first day I was feeling intimidated, but by the afternoon, I had found some people I follow on Twitter and hung out with them. What’s great is that I felt comfortable talking to my Twitter friends because we have already built a rapport online, so it was easy to get along in person. Additionally, they introduced me to other people that they knew, so it makes networking so much easier! Yay for the internet!

The highlights of the conference though was meeting my HackLibSchool colleagues in person and witness Daniel Ransom be entered and CHOSEN as the wild card, participant in Battle Decks 2011. The conference was a great time and I am very happy I went. I am definitely saving up for next year.