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 Well, I got a new job, and now my other cards are outdated.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.

My First ALA

I am currently sitting at the airport waiting for my flight to my very first library conference! Thanks to many great conference veterans, I’ve gotten plenty of good tips to prepare myself. Yep, I brought comfortable shoes, snacks, and a reusable water bottle, plus all the chargers I need. However, there are some goals that I want to set for myself. I have a tendency to be very shy, and sometimes being quiet and shy comes off the wrong way. It can actually come off as aloof or mean. I don’t want people to get that impression of me at all!

Here are some of my goals:

  • Stop being afraid of strangers. This means going outside of my comfort zone and approaching people. I also have a bunch of cards that I want to get rid off.
  • Meet some internet friends! This is my first opportunity to meet my HLS co-editors and other cool people I have corresponded with on twitter. Yay!
  • Learn a few things. I just finished a metadata class and the session that I am really looking forward to is this Linked Data session.
  • Have fun! I tried to schedule things so that I would have a break in between stuff to take a breather. I don’t want to be too wiped out to enjoy myself.

I hope to also find some time to write updates about what happened. While I’m sitting here I keep hearing bits of people’s conversations and the keyword “library” keeps popping up. I think I’m in good company and looking forward to meeting awesome people.

Funny Library Love Notes

Post-It Notes

Just a note can brighten your day!

Last February, my library had a great campaign called I <3 the UL (university library). They had set up a poster board with a prompt that asked students and other patrons to write on post-it notes about what they loved about the UL and what changes they wanted to see. The latest project that I have been working on is cleaning up some of those post it notes. Some are totally hilarious and crack me up and some are genuinely very nice. I think this campaign did a good job of reaching out to the students and getting a good understanding of what they want and what they love about the library.

Here’s a sampling of what some people said they loved about the UL:

  • Single and ready to mingle (phone number)
  • Itchy eyes? Itchy eyes.
  • Library, I think you are sexy.
  • I <3 the UL
  • Free Stuff!
  • Any type of book of course! Yay intellectual freedom. ←(probably a SLIS student)
  • It’s cozy in there and it looks like there are enough comps. I love couches? <3<3<3
  • I come to you when I have no one else.
  • It’s my part-time house (UL)
  • The library is awesome! More people should use it.
  • Library, I am continually impressed with your generous helping attitude. I do wish to continue our mutual relationship. -Student

I hope that they do this campaign again next year, because I am getting a kick out of reading all these notes. I also want to add that many people wrote that they LOVE BOOKS (the paper kind!). Old habits die hard.

What do you love about your library? Anyone else have a similar marketing campaign?

 

What makes a school a degree mill?

I should be doing my metadata final right now but I have this BURNING question in my head, that I want to have clarified. In light of reading Will Manley’s post about the value of the MLIS, I have to ask myself, what schools are the “degree mills”? I have found a paradox of people not trying to rip on the online schools, but then complaining about “degree mills”. Is every school a degree mill in this case? Is it every school with lax admission practices? Probably. I had even posed this question to my fellow HackLibSchool editors and while we are all familiar with the term, they weren’t sure what actual schools are considered a degree mill. I am curious to hear what others have to say about this.

I am also reposting my comment on Will’s blog here. He really set up a great conversation, just by asking reader’s questions.

My Response: 

I am going to jump off librabbie’s comment here because I am at the other IU campus and from what I read, our programs are very different. We technically have the same degree but my campus is very focused on practical experience, but some of us would like more of the information science classes that Bloomington offers.
Anyway, LIS education is a topic that is very dear to me, and as a current student, I have put a lot of thought into what kind of program I wanted. On to the questions!

#1: Should graduate library schools make an effort to restrict their enrollment to the prevailing job market?

Yes I think it would really help to have standards for good applicants. I had considered one program, but all they asked for was $50, filling out an application, and maybe your transcripts. No letters of recommendation, no personal statement…how exactly were they going to determine if you were a good fit? That application process alone told me that this would not be a good school for me. It made me pre-judge the quality of the program because if they don’t care who joins the program, why do they care about what they teach? Of course, now that I look back, I see that I could have been wrong, maybe the school produces strong graduates.

Context #2: Are graduate library schools distancing themselves from the public library market by becoming too ivory towered in their approach to training future practitioners?

At IU, the core classes are very traditional and geared towards the traditional library roles. We all have to take reference and library management. Like some of the other commenters mentioned, most students have a lot of electives so they can gear their courses towards what area of librarianship they want to go into. I have a few friends interested in public libraries and youth services, so they have signed up for courses that reflect those interest. I am lucky because my program does offer classes that cater to academic, public, and school libraries.

Context #3: Why have graduate library schools not forged closer ties with working libraries and focused their research on projects that can actually have practical value for libraries?

Again, I feel fortunate that my school is located downtown, near many great libraries who welcome SLIS students. Almost every semester I have at least one class that has us talk to professionals in the field, or shadow them to get an idea of what a librarian does day to day. This is actually very valuable to someone like me who has limited practical experience. I also think that seeking out mentors in the field is another valuable way for someone to supplement their degree.

What disheartens me is reading comments from professionals in forums like this, who say that taking on volunteers or mentors takes up too much work and they simply don’t have the time. If you look around, you’ll see plenty of people complaining about the state of LIS education, of the divide between the practical and theoretical, but what will YOU do to change that? It’s easy to sit around and say “This degree is useless.” If people really feel that way, then we all need to do something about it. (Disclaimer: I write over at HackLibSchool and these are very important issues to us)

Context #4: Because on-line education is now the dominant delivery approach for graduate library school is too much emphasis being placed on the library as an on-line data center accessed from the homes of patrons?

I think the physical space is still important. I know that I see lots of people using computers at the public library, not everyone has access to the online data center. Of course, if your school is online…that’s another story.

Does graduate library school have any real value anymore other than as a place that issues union cards?

In a way, I would say yes, it’s like a union card but I honestly feel like my MLS is so much more than that. It has put me in contact with librarians and library students across the country. I have gotten some really great practical experience from my program and I have made a great group of friends/future colleagues. I truly believe that library school is what you make of it. I know people who skirt by with the minimum and those who are obsessive. It’s really up to you what you want out of this degree. I most likely wouldn’t have been able to even get my foot in the door in terms of jobs at a library without this degree, and when I step in, I know I will be thoroughly prepared. I think it’s just as important to learn the theory, as it is to learn the practical.