UW iSchool Update – from a fellow advocate!

March 17, 2011

Did you read my post on Hack Library School about the threats to the UW iSchool during the severe budget cuts at the University of Washington?

I’ll be writing an update soon. In the meantime, please read Lyndsey’s most recent blog post here.


Speaking up! Save the UW iSchool

March 2, 2011

Dear friends,

My school, the iSchool, at the University of Washington has been named a possible consolidation/cut in the latest round of UW budget cuts. I wrote a post about it on the Hack Library School blog. Please read it and act quickly to support the future of IS education at UW.

We’ve created a Facebook group (Save the UW iSchool) and will have several other initiatives going in the next week. We need your help!

Sincerely,

Heidi


Not that? Tell more! Revamping Boolean Operators

February 1, 2011

One of the most important and decisive moments of a traditional reference interview is when a person says “I don’t want that.” This means two things: (1) they know what they don’t want and (2) they are engaged in the search with you. By knowing what a person doesn’t want, she is closer to knowing what she actually does want.

So, how can tools and services on the internet focus more on facilitating and instructing people in their online searches? They have to do just that. Tools and services must use interfaces people are already comfortable with and then facilitate their searches. Less emphasis should be put on the reference interview and more emphasis should be put on the opportunities a person has to find the information for herself. It’s a mind game. Read the rest of this entry »


Do I belong in a Professional Organization?

January 18, 2011
Around this time last year, I was approached by another iSchool MLIS student and asked to run for an office for the Student ALA Chapter at the University of Washington. I thought about it and asked other officers what the responsibilities entailed and decided to do it. Then I decided I had better become a member of ALA (American Library Association) if I was going to represent the iSchool and ALA by being part of the organization. So I joined. I didn’t know what (if any) the benefits would be, and I’m sure I still don’t know everything about it, but here are 3 things I didn’t know about ALA before I joined.
  1. American Libraries Direct – This is a weekly email that highlights events/webinars/people/awards… okay pretty much any and everything that is going on with ALA and libraries (in the U.S. and internationally) during the past week. I often tweet articles or snippets of stories I find interesting. I also bookmark articles I think will be useful for creating displays or planning programs when I am working at a library someday.
  2. There are so many listservs available and they are very diverse. Here’s a list from ALA: http://lists.ala.org/sympa. When you sign up for a listserv that looks interesting, you’re going to get a ton of emails. My advice is to set up a filter for the messages and then pick a day of the week when you want to look them over and save what you need and respond if you want to. I also found that job postings are often sent out on listservs and if you’ve been participating in the discussions, people may recognize you from your amazing insights and you could be a step ahead of the other job applicants.
  3. Scholarships - Some of the available scholarships for schooling and continuing education opportunities (such as ACRL, ALA and ALA Midwinter) are only available to people who are already members of a certain organization. Here’s the General Scholarships site for ALA.
I am also a member of ARSL — Association of Rural and Small Libraries — because I realized (during my education) that my passion lies in small communities and I hope to someday work in a small or rural library. By being a member of this organization, I am able to participate in email discussions with other people who are currently working in these settings.
This isn’t a post to convince anyone to go join ALA or ARSL. Find the organization that best fits your passions and career goals and join. Be as active as you want and enjoy and thrive in the experience of getting to know other librarians with similar passions.

Fall Quarter 2010 Review

January 11, 2011

At the end of each quarter I attempt to review the classes I took and give some final thoughts. I’m aware that I’m already into my second week of the next quarter, but here are my thoughts nonetheless. (Oh, and if you’re a potential MLIS student or just starting your studies, please let me know if you have questions about classes to take!)

LIS 522 — Collection Development 
* This class taught me the importance of policy, awareness, and preparation in libraries. I mean it ONLY makes sense to have a Collection (development, deselection, management, etc) Policy if you want to protect the library and its users and inform the staff and the users of the library’s role in the community.
* This class also taught me that guest speakers from the field (vendors, librarians, selectors) are valuable.
LIS 531 — Cataloging, Catalogs, CATA-WHAT?! (that wasn’t the real name)
* Everyone says “you have to take cataloging if you’re going to be a librarian” and while I want to agree, I don’t. There will always be original cataloging, but it is becoming less and less original and more and more automated. Libraries are sharing records and I think this is a GOOD thing — it makes the library more consistent, efficient and user-friendly.
* However, this class was a great way for me to exercise and grow my skills and knowledge of different library catalogs (searching, evaluating, etc). I don’t regret taking it, but I don’t think it is absolutely necessary. What is necessary is knowing about the theory and strategies of organizing information — most cataloging classes teach a couple strategies, but an overview class if perfectly fine if you never intend to do original cataloging. 
LIS 560 — Instruction Strategies for Info Professionals
* This class taught me that sometimes learning the theory behind strategy and practicality is essential. We were kind of thrown into teaching without much guidance (some but not ‘enough’ as some people would say). It was interesting and invigorating to see different people’s teaching strategies, but I also feel like I’m lacking in the theory behind instruction in information professions. I mean… How do I write a teaching statement?
* Nonetheless, I saw so many (honestly amazing!) practical presentations of relevant topics in instruction of information in this class, I left the class feeling more confident and inspired. Hey! Maybe I can teach a group of small business owners how to use Facebook to market their companies!
LIS 598 — Genre Fiction for Adults — with Nancy Pearl, Library Journal’s Librarian of the Year 2011
* I gushed about this class in a few other posts, so I’ll keep this short.
* If you ever get the opportunity to go to a training, class, webinar, book talk presentation, etc. with Nancy, go! It will be worth your time. Her love for libraries, students, readers and books will inspire you. You’ll be flying out of the room with a long list of books to read and sprinting to the nearest library. I’m not joking!

This was one of the most rewarding quarters of my MLIS experience. If you have any questions or comments, let me know!


Culminating Experience in Library School

January 10, 2011

There comes a time in the MLIS program where we have to face a scary and somewhat intimidating question:
Am I qualified for a job in the professional world?
I mean, the job market for (not only) libraries doesn’t look good right now even though we’re in the midst of an “information revolution”. When I read the news and see libraries closing and organizations “encouraging” retirements and not replacing employees, it makes me a tad bit worried.

At the iSchool we are required to complete a Culminating Experience before we graduate. This could be one of a few things:

  • a thesis – no explanation necessary — right?
  • a research project – working with a faculty member and his/her research team – designing, collecting data, evaluating data, writing reports, presenting information, etc.
  • a capstone project - this is a NEW option this year – it’s an integrated project (individual or team) where you bring in your skills and knowledge and apply them to a project (inside or outside of the iSchool). 
  • a professional portfolio – create a portfolio based on YOUR coursework and experiences to examine your qualifications in the professional world of librarianship.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m completing the Professional Portfolio to meet the requirement of the Culminating Experience. I think this is the most efficient and practical way for me to make good use of my time as I stretch myself thin by taking the last of my MLIS classes, work and search for a full-time position before April.

I’ve spent the past couple of days reviewing my work from the last 16 months and looking at Professional Standards and Qualifications in Librarianship. Here are a couple of documents I’ve been examining:
ALA’s Core Competences in Librarianship — these seem more theoretical to me and therefore more difficult to define assign specific pieces of my work to.
WebJunction’s Competency Index — these seem more tangible (is that the right word?) — they describe the qualifications of a working librarian. I feel like the work I am satisfied with from my classes and work experiences meet these in some ways.

I guess it really depends on what the wording of the actual qualifications in the job descriptions and the understanding of them by the people actually hiring me (us) are.

In any event, until I have a job offer, I don’t know if I’ll be able to super-confidently say I am qualified for a job in the world of libraries. So, keep these lists in mind when you’re preparing yourself for the future. And good luck!


Theory vs Practice

October 18, 2010
What happens when you combine 8-12 future librarians with a patio full of pumpkins? You get a conversation about theory and practice in library school curriculum. And this.

The discussion my colleagues and fellow-pumpkin-gutters had yesterday helped me realize one more thing about my MLIS experience. Our curriculum is ‘supposedly’ theoretical-based. It’s what we’re known for. But, we don’t know if that’s the right way to go anymore. Heavy on the theory — with a dash of practice if you have time. 

The faculty and instructors are realizing this, too. Shift happens — during required, core classes. One instructor teaches using strong theory while another provides no readings and puts us in workshops and presentations without any strategy. When we’re in the theory-based class, we complain because we want something more practical. We want to know what life is going to be like in the “real world” of library management or how to actually DO research. But, when we’re in the practice-based classes, we’re told to prepare a workshop to teach small business-owners how to use the library’s resources and we’re perplexed because we have no strategy or theory to act as a foundation for our planning.
So this leads us to a somewhat disappointing conclusion — we’re halfway through our program and we are right in the middle of a shift. We’re going to miss out on important LIS theory and practice, but we have the responsibility to be leaders in this new LIS field. We might not be satisfied with any of our classes, but we should take what we can get. It’s our right and responsibility to ask questions and debate the answers so we’re prepared to lead LIS into the future. 
At least we have each other. And Superman.

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