Annie Pho:

The LIS Queen was so kind and asked to interview me for her blog. I’m reblogging her post here.

Originally posted on The LIS Queen:

What appeals to you most about being a librarian?
Many folks say that telling interviewers that you want to be a librarian because you love books is basically an interview suicide. Although I do love books, I actually wanted to become a librarian because I wanted to help people with their research. The most appealing to me about being a librarian is helping people and connecting them to the information that they seek.

I’m also glad to have found a profession where it is perfectly acceptable to love cats.

What program are you in? What’s your favorite and least favorite thing about your program?

I’m currently going to school at Indiana University – Indianapolis. I wrote a Hack Your Program Post on it if you want the full scoop. My favorite part of the program is all the opportunities within the city of Indianapolis to get hands on experience…

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LibDay8 Day 2

Avery studies postmodernism.

I can haz reading?

Yesterday, I was an intern and a graduate student. Today, I’m a librarian and a graduate student. Okay, so I’m probably always a million things at once, but who’s counting anyway? Today was really out there, let’s see if I can recap all of the things I did. First off, when I woke up this morning I walked out to my cat reading a book! He’s so smart. If only he could recap. He’s reading Frederic Jameson’s Postmodernism or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, by the way.

8:00 am – Get to work and check email. Turns out my director would like me to help her with her presentation for an adjunct faculty conference next month. I had submitted my own proposal, but I never heard back. Now I’m helping my boss with hers, although I’m not sure what she has in mind. New motto for the year, “Roll with it!”

9:00 am – Look over the presentation for tomorrow’s Education library instruction session. They’re working on a scientific inquiry project and so they’re coming in to learn about how to search library databases. It’s a one-shot instruction session, which can be limiting – also, I don’t know anything about their topic. Like I said earlier, “roll with it!” and “fake it til you make it!”

10:00 am – Start my virtual chat reference shift. I spent about 20 mins with another student in Amherst, helping her find resources on medical assisting. Virtual reference is hit or miss in my experience. Sometimes, the student disconnects before we’ve even started the reference interview. Today was a success and she was able to find enough info to get started on her research project. Win!

11:00 am to 12:30 pm – Eat lunch and finish ordering some books from Amazon. I had a cart full of books that other librarians had requested so I needed to finally get that in. We don’t always buy from Amazon, it just so happens that some of these books are older so I can’t get them through our usual, and kind of unreliable (ahem) vendor.

12:30 to 3:00 pm –  Reference desk shift! These desk shifts vary from day to day. I helped several people with the scanner that is on the copy machine. Usually I don’t have to help as many people with that. Reference librarians have to do it all, help people print and answer research questions.

I helped one student who came in with a question that totally stumped me!
He came in wanting journal articles on the history of the $2. Turns out, I had a hard time getting the type of info that he wanted. Historical info exists on the web, but I had no luck finding anything in our databases. We also struck out on books in the collection. Finally, I had to get his email and ask if I could get back to him later that afternoon. Turns out, the public library down the street has several books on the history of U.S. currency so I gave him that info, as well as stuff from the U.S. Treasury page. Bonus points for people who can find some good info on the $2 that’s not a shady web page.

Another student came in asking for a particular fiction title. She’s been in almost every day asking for it. Who ever took out our one copy still hasn’t returned it. I finally asked her where she lived and found a public library very close to her house. They had 5 copies of the book she’s been looking for. She was really grateful for the info and was going to head there to get the book. I work at an academic library located near a large public library. We don’t really carry a lot of fiction, so it makes sense to advertise their collection to our students.

3:00pm to 4:30pm – Started talking with the other librarian about making displays for Black History Month. She already started gathering the books. Our campus just opened a brand new building, so we had a faculty member come and take many of our books related to Black History. This means the books that would be perfect for OUR display are gone. That’s ok though, we work with what we have. I also found a treasure trove for displays. Apparently, a former librarian at my work used to be in charge of displays and had a cabinet full of supplies but no one told me about it. Good to know!

4:30 pm to 6:00 pm – Drive to school, traffic is crazy because Super Bowl is in my city this year. Ahh! Yes, I’m really scared. Things are going to get crazy.

6:00 to 9:00 pm – I have my Education of Info Users class. We talked about active learning and critical thinking. Yay! All important things to bring into info lit sessions. I’m still working on my classroom pizazz. This class generated enough brain food for future posts, so I’m going to save it until then. I will say this now: if you’re in library school, I encourage you to go to different libraries, outside your interests. I work in an academic library, all my jobs have been academic, but I go to public libraries and I pay attention to what they’re doing. Pay attention, and you can learn a lot.

Well, this was a really long post! See how much my days can vary?

Day 1 of #libday8

I participated in #libday7 over the summer and am excited to do it again. Since then, I have gotten a new job with more responsibilities, and I’m interning at the lovely Indianapolis Museum of Art this semester. I’m in a strange, transitory place in my life where I am part information professional, part MLS student. Hopefully, as I blog my activities this week, the range of experiences I deal with on a day to day basis show through. Today wasn’t a very library heavy day in terms of work, but I did spend most of my day pondering library related things.

9:00 am – Get to the museum and discuss what projects need to be done today. The library director mentions that a volunteer who does copy-cataloging got a FT job and won’t be able to volunteer anymore. She wants to find someone who can do the cataloging. I ponder this for awhile.
10:00 am – Start re-classifying some art books from Dewey to Library of Congress. This is the main project for the day.
12:30 pm – IT guy comes and sets up my museum email. After I get logged in, I see that I have no emails at all, so the librarian sends me a nice link to the Kitten Covers.

1:00 pm – Head to the university to have lunch with the BF.

The rest of my afternoon, I worked on a job application and pondered about starting a library school support group. Job applications are a lot of work and there are times I wish I could talk to my peers about the process honestly and not be scrutinized. Many tweeps suggested NMRT as the place to go for support, and generally I do agree. However, there are times when I need more personal support, which is why I’m grateful for my friends. Time are tough.

 

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?