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.


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:

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?

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.

It’s Been Awhile

Blogging can be a lonely endeavor, you just type out all your thoughts into this huge void and there it just sits. However, I really enjoy putting my thoughts down somewhere because it helps me work out ideas and issues that I’m having. I had really tried to update my blog about once a week for awhile there, but I started taking a summer class and my poor blog has been neglected. I hope this will change soon.

My life lately has been a weird mix of feeling absolutely burnt out on library school, and yet still being very immersed in it. I’ve really tried to devote most of my time to my class, but I still have other library-related things to work on. For example, the ALA Convention  is next week! Holy cow! There were so many things I wanted to do to prepare myself. Some things, I had slowly worked on, like making cards, trying to update my Linked In, re-doing my resume, etc. but there wasn’t enough time to get it all where I wanted it to be. That is life!

If anyone is reading this and is going, I would like to meet you at some point. I’m a first timer, so I’m sure it will be an eye opening experience. Time for me to stop being afraid of strangers and welcome them into my life for a few days! I’ve gotten some really good advice from other bloggers on what to do at conferences, not to mention the awesome ALA HackLibSchool themed week. Check out conference advice from  The Library Adventure of Kiyomi and Archiving Desk to Desk for additional tips.

Hey, that reminds me, if you ARE going, please come to the HackLibSchool Meet Up (this is the facebook event page)! Hope to see some people there!

To learn programming or not? That is the question.

Last night I attended this Geek Speed Dating Night (minus the dating part) eventHeart, put together by a group called Refresh Indy. They describe themselves as “Promoting design, technology and usability, Refresh Indy is a part of the Refreshing Cities movement.” Sounds pretty cool and applicable to libraries right? I should probably back it up and explain how this Geek Night works. I got there with my library school friend (who writes at Red Lipstick Librarian) and my boyfriend (who was a web developer in a previous life). There were several round tables set up and other web developers, programmers and designers milling about. Then we all had 30 minutes at any given table to talk about topics like social media and marketing, iOS development, web design and development with these experts. It was a very low-key informal event that allowed for casual conversation on these topics.

I went into this hoping to learn about what’s going on in the web development world and wanted to see if I could bring some of what I learned into the library field. I have to say, it’s different when you work for a non-profit agency and you’re listening to marketing skills for someone with a personal business. Additionally, the only web skills I have are html and css. The first person we spoke to develops apps for iOS and I was in over my head, not to mention many of the experts leading the discussions had background knowledge in programming. I do not know how to program, I have a super basic knowledge of how it works, so at times I felt lost.

However, it was actually pretty awesome to get outside of the LIS field and see what others do. These are people who are creating web apps, building websites, they’re on the forefront of technology. There was a difference and a wake up call for me, coming from the library field. How many times have you heard the words social media and marketing or web development in the library world? I’ve heard it tossed around many times, but if you take those ideas outside of LIS, there are different trends that are emerging that libraries SHOULD be paying attention to. For example, someone was talking about how businesses don’t use social media correctly, that we have not utilized its full potential. Businesses try to tailor everything to the user based on what websites they’ve looked at, try to sell them products based on past user trends; but the users are actually using social media differently. People are more apt to purchase something if their friends recommend it, and where the real magic happens is the interaction between the people, not the business dictating what you should buy. In education, that’s called active learning, where peers are engaging with each other, exchanging information and learning in a proactive way, as opposed to passive learning. Can libraries implement this in their own marketing techniques or in other ways? Yes! I don’t have all the answers, but I just want to point out that the internet is a very helpful forum that allows for active learning to happen.

At the end of the night, I had to ask myself “is programming something that librarians should know?” My boyfriend mentioned that librarians shouldn’t have to know how to do these things but rather, work with programmers to develop the tools that we need for our own crowd. Having a familiarity with programming languages would definitely be a plus, also it would help to focus what you want out of whatever project you are working on. I think it’s quite normal for libraries to outsource this work to the IT departments, since many librarians do not have these skills. In light of people thinking that libraries should be hiring more IT professionals instead of MLIS librarians, it might be a good idea for library/ information professionals to learn about programming and web development. I’m interested in digital libraries, so this may be something I should become familiar with; whether I use it in my future profession or not.