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Final Reflections

Closing in on the end of a semester always prompts a bit of reflection, and this time is no different— in some ways, the need to write it all down in this blog has made it even more important. Though I’ve mentioned it before, the end of my first term in grad school feels like a momentous milestone, and I’m proud of the work I’ve put in thus far. I’m also looking forward to the future.

            Much of what I learned in LIS 6010 is rather untenable, abstract, which makes it difficult to convey, but I’ll do my best. What I appreciated most was coming to terms with the fact that I do want to be a librarian, and that many of the basic ideals and ethics are already part of my personal perspective. It seems like a small thing, but for somebody who spent years going back and forth in majors and goals as an undergrad, to know that I’ve made the right decision, that this field really does offer everything I thought it would— well, it’s a welcome relief.

            Another thing I learned this semester was how to connect to my colleagues. When the group project was first assigned, I expected it to be like any other group project I’ve been a part of: possibly bearable, possibly tedious, probably including at least one member who wouldn’t pull the weight or another who was resistant to any ideas but their own. To my complete and utter surprise, what I discovered instead was a support system. The group blogging project didn’t truly require as much contact and collaboration as my group and I maintained, and yet we all found ourselves sharing things that had nothing to do with the assignment. We discussed other classes and potential schedules, library news and interesting links, and personal triumphs and struggles. We made each other laugh, gave each other encouragement and thanks, and created an environment that I felt blessed to be part of. If I am lucky enough in my future career to have colleagues as absolutely fantastic as my classmates were, then it will exceed my wildest expectations. I’m grateful to have gotten to experience true collaboration for the first time in my academic career.

            As I mentioned in my mid-semester analysis, I found the Think Tanks to be fascinating, and that continued through the end of the class. To engage in thoughtful discussion on topics that we each had a genuine interest in whirled my brain into life, and I found myself contemplating new ideas in unexpected ways. I liked the way that the give-and-take nature of the forums prompted me to be bolder and voice my opinions definitively while still keeping an open mind. My tendency toward deep discussion was not only satisfied, but I think it gave me the opportunity to demonstrate my thoughtful nature and logical approach to life, which I feel would be beneficial in any work place.

            Even the struggles of the semester— a certain library visit that I had to reschedule three times comes to mind— taught me something and in hindsight, I wouldn’t change any of the things I experienced this fall, even the difficult ones. I know now that I’m in the right place, at the right time, and that’s the sort of peace that is hard won and amazingly comforting. And, as always, I’m looking forward to whatever the future holds.

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Revisiting Assumptions and Assertions

The first semester of graduate school has been an overwhelming and rewarding one; it’s the difference between that inner-voice asking “Can I really do this?” and the self-confident assurance, “I can really do this!” I’ve learned a lot about my chosen profession, and upon revisiting my initial assumptions and beliefs about librarianship, I find that most of them still hold true, even if they’ve altered a little.

1)      Librarians are not the guardians of knowledge; rather, they are its protectors. I still fully believe that this is the case; if anything, this semester’s close study of professional ethics has reinforced this assertion. Free access to information means free access to everybody, and librarians aren’t intended to be soldiers barring the way—we are simply the ones lucky enough to protect the information and ensure it is still there for future generations.

 

2)      Libraries aren’t meant to be intimidating. If people are hesitant to step through your doors, you’re doing it wrong. Again, this is still something I fully stand behind. Libraries have always represented an oasis in the desert to me, and there are many people that feel the same way. I understand the quiet reverence that can accompany a visit to a beautiful library, but they should never feel forbidding, and nothing I’ve learned this semester has persuaded me otherwise; in fact, I think it goes nicely with the tenants of the profession.

 

3)      People in the LIS profession are as diverse as those in any other. While I know first hand that this is true, having had the great fortune to interact with a wide variety of my colleagues this term, I’ve also learned that we are also more alike than I’d previously thought. We all value books, and preservation, and knowledge, and a myriad of other things. We may come from different walks of life and have different professional ambitions, but at the end of the day we share some core values, and that’s remarkably reassuring.

 

4)      LIS degrees are more versatile than you think. This was assumption I made based on my own personal experience, and the research I’d done when deciding to start down this path for myself. I had no idea how true it was when I made it, and after a semester of digging through blogs, websites, professional journals, and news stories, I was astonished to see just how accurate it was. LIS degrees are everywhere, even in places you’d never expect.

 

5)      LIS professionals are going to have to be technologically savvy in order to stay relevant. Like the above assumption, I had no idea how true this was when I made it. With the opening of completely paperless libraries, the increasing availability of electronic resources and the speed at which new technologies are emerging, being tech-savvy isn’t just a matter of staying relevant, it’s a necessary component to avoid becoming completely obsolete.

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Professional Blogs

For the professional blogs activity, I followed two prominent blogs by librarians, Free Range Librarian and The Travelin’ Librarian. These blogs were enjoyable because they each had a unique voice and balanced professional topics and insights with personal musings. By giving some of the explorations of issues in librarianship a personal touch, the bloggers were able to connect more convincingly with their audience, which is composed of both those in the field and outsiders.

The Travelin’ Librarian is maintained by Michael Sauers, who is the Technology Innovation Librarian for the Nebraska Library commission, where he trains other librarians in the use of new technology. He authors scholastic articles and books, and does many presentations every year, a number of which he makes available on his website.

As the nature of his day job might suggest, Sauers blogs quite a bit about technology of all kinds and its repercussions, including the nature of information in the age of the internet, and current events such as the Google books case and the New York Public Library’s recent digitization projects. Sauers’ weekly Tuesday Tech Tip blog is invaluable in itself, providing a wide array of tips and tricks about a multitude of software and websites. What I enjoy most about Travelin’ Librarian is that Sauers unabashedly embraces his inner geek— his website header is a quote from cult sci-fi tv show Doctor Who— and strives to post funny and interesting videos, cartoons, and clips to keep things from getting stale.

            Free Range Librarian is authored by K.G.Schneider, the University Librarian at Holy Names University in Oakland, California. Schneider is a veteran library professional— she’s authored dozens of articles and even a couple of books, was a writer for ALA’s American Libraries magazine, and has won some awards for her contributions to the field. The thing that makes her blog noteworthy is her wickedly sharp sense of humor; every entry is laced with acerbic wisdom and self-deprecating one-liners, and it makes her blog a joy to read. She jokes about readers “shower[ing] her with compliments such as ‘Stop using the word suck, you tramp!’ and ‘My cataloger can beat up your metadata specialist!’” in her “About” section, and this is a typical example of her natural sarcasm.

            The Free Range Librarian covers a variety of topics: her continuing education via a doctoral program, reflections on online instruction and the necessary technology, and the importance of shared print initiatives. However, what I found most useful about the blog was the way Schneider keeps the somewhat daunting world of librarian academia in perspective. To a new MLIS student such as myself, the slight tone of condescension or the feeling of elitism in established library sources (not to mention certain librarians themselves!) can be off-putting. In blog entries like “Life Sans Banana Slicer,” Schneider soothes those brave librarians who cannot publish volumes or run for offices (and those of us who have yet to reach that stage in our journeys) by writing, “The odds are you’re amazing anyway,” as she unapologetically mocks the overambitious “Movers and Shakers” who don’t always know what they’re doing, either. And, she proudly notes, contemplating her forthcoming foray into doctoral studies, “NO! I haven’t mastered APA citation!” – which is indeed a comfort to library science students everywhere.

 

References

Sauers, M. The Travelin’ Librarian. Retrieved from http://travelinlibrarian.info/

Schneider, K.G. Free Range Librarian. Retrieved from http://freerangelibrarian.com/

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Professional Reading

 In the interest of expanding my knowledge of some of the literature available to librarians and library science students, I examined several issues of The Library Quarterly and American Libraries magazine. The contrast of a traditional academic resource and a more popular practical one provided a fascinating juxtaposition.

The Library Quarterly is an academic journal that was first started in 1931 by the University of Chicago press. It is published four times a year, as the name suggests, and is geared toward professionals in the field, and covers a wide range of issues in library science, including education, history of books and libraries, psychological and sociological aspects of librarianship, and reviews of scholastic books.

            Library Quarterly is a double-blind peer viewed journal, and though discussion articles are permitted, the content focuses mainly on theory-driven original research backed up by data. Only previously unpublished, sole submissions are allowed by the journal, and must be less than 30 pages in length. Its most accessed and cited articles cover current topics such as the influence of the US Patriot Act on libraries, Google’s Digitization project and its potential problems, and information literacy.

            American Libraries is published six times a year by the American Library Association, with an additional four issues supplementing them quarterly. The magazine is not peer-reviewed, but rather focuses on an informal tone. Authors are asked to maintain this informal tone in their submissions, and though in-text citations and factual research are allowed in some capacity, footnotes and heavily academic works are not.

            While Library Quarterly relies on quantitative data and research, American Libraries strives to be engaging and readable, and covers issues such as current library trends, news of the ALA, professional developments, and library-related legislation and current events. It strives to be informative but inclusive.

            Despite their vast differences, I can see the value in reading both American Libraries and Library Quarterly. Heavy, academic reading can be invaluable in terms of reflecting changes and progress within the field; it can often foreshadow things to come. However, more accessible literature like American Libraries can impart imperative information in quicker fashion; by its readable nature, it makes absorption of vital statistics easier and more pleasant. I think that balance in professional reading is the key to success—overloading on too much research can be daunting, but neglecting the deeper articles for lighter fare can result in gaps of knowledge.

 

References

American Libraries. The American Library Association. Retrieved from http://www.americanlibrariesmagazine.org/

The Library Quarterly. The University of Chicago Press. Retrieved from http://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/journals/journal/lq.html

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Mid-Term Reflection

Halfway there and nowhere close. Mid-term is a strange time, because though at this point in the semester, I usually feel that I’ve got a solid grasp on where I’m headed for the second part of a class, in this case, I find myself all too aware that this is merely the first semester of grad school, and in many ways it’s a whole new ballgame.

 Thus far, we’ve had a lot of theories about ideals and professionalism and ethics thrown our way, and I enjoy engaging in the debates about theoretical situations and ideology. However, rather than ruminating on the tenants of the profession—which I often feel are already part of  who I am as an avid reader and advocate of free access to information— I find myself reflecting most often on real-world conundrums that librarians today are facing. Out of all the assigned activities, the ones I find most rewarding are the Think Tank posts. Whether it’s funding problems for public libraries or the tricky licensing issues surrounding e-books, they inspire me to think beyond the scope of school and employment; they force me to reflect on problems and look for practical solutions. While I realize that I am a small cog in the great machinery of things, the Think Tanks also reinforce the potential that just one person represents. Whether that means starting a Little Library or assisting an adult literacy campaign or simply educating community members about what their local library can offer them, one person can make a huge difference in the world of the library profession, and that matters to me.

I also enjoy the Think Tank posts because they are colleague-inspired discussions: these are articles that speak to the people I will be working alongside, and that gives me insight into what matters to them. It provides a more genuine atmosphere of give-and-take than assigned discussion topics, and I make more earnest contributions because I enjoy the sense of debate  with my classmates. The subjects being covered vary greatly, which has also given me a broader indication of just what is going on in the field.

In contrast, the blog posts often feel a little flat. Though the blog posts sometimes force me outside of my comfort zone to engage in reflections I might not normally pursue, sometimes the lack of interaction makes me feel as though I’m simply writing and sending my observations out into the ether. In the second half of the semester, I hope to channel some of the enthusiasm of the Think Tank talks into this blog.

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Job Analysis, Part 2

 

After reviewing a job posting for a Digital and Bibliographic Technologies Librarian for Texas Tech School of Law in Job Analysis, Part 1, in this section I will discuss a possible trajectory that would get me from Library Science Student to actual librarian.

As the job title itself would suggest, this job focuses heavily on technology and digital archiving. The job skills require somebody to be extremely proficient in digitization, database management, cataloging, and collection development. In addition, because this is an academic library, it would be practical to have a thorough understanding of those as well. I think if this were my dream job, I’d be at an advantage because I’m still in school and could tailor my class schedule accordingly. Classes such as Academic Libraries, Electronic Archives, Advanced Classification and Cataloging, and Database Concepts and Applications for Librarians would all definitely be beneficial in terms of acquiring the necessary skills.

Doing a practicum in an academic library would give me hands-on experience in the appropriate environment, particularly if it were a law library. However, if that were not a option, I would look into volunteering in such a place, or setting up job shadowing in order to get an insider’s look at the way a law library actually works. In addition to that, I would explore the possibility of taking some classes focused on law terminology or basic principles of law. Though the job posting suggests that the preferred candidate would hold a JD in addition to an MLIS, I doubt that many people hold both degrees, and personally, I find it unlikely that I would have the time or the money to go to law school once I finished my MLIS. However, by taking a few classes that would give me familiarity with terms and concepts that law students might be researching, I would be better equipped to fulfill the outlined duties of the Technologies Librarian.

Aside from creating a goal-oriented curriculum at school and attempting to get practical experience, I also believe that getting some basic computer certifications could be immensely beneficial and make me stand out from other candidates. A basic A+ certification, with additional certificates in areas such as Access or MySQL could hone my skills in tech-specific areas. Though I already have a good working knowledge of many programs, as well as a solid foundation of basic computer knowledge, I believe that getting certified would only increase my marketability.

Overall, taking a closer look at a real job posting did not truly alter any of my professional plans or goals, but rather served to reinforce the idea that I’m on the right path. Technology is becoming the cornerstone of the library science profession, and I think that the more I learn to utilize it, the better placed I’ll be when it comes time to seek employment.

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Job Analysis Part 1

 

In my constant perusal of The Library Network’s job board, I noted that there were some positions that had been posted for several months and not yet filled. Curious about the aspects of these particular jobs that might make them difficult to find qualified candidates for, I chose one from Texas Tech University School of Law Library to analyze.

This is an opening for a Digital and Bibliographic Technologies Librarian in the School of Law Library, and focuses heavily on technology and assistance in legal research. The librarian is required to provide “user-friendly searchable bibliographic records,” discover and implement new technologies, and coordinate acquisitions, serials, and cataloguing. In addition to these main duties, the librarian would also occasionally work the Reference Desk.

It is interesting to note that the outline of the job does not mention a specific number of years of experience in an academic library setting, this is obviously not an entry-level position. In addition to an MLIS, applicants need to have familiarity with media migration, database management, metadata, digitization, and knowledge of electronic legal information sources. The ideal candidate would preferably have a JD in addition to an MLIS and experience using Innovative Interfaces Millennium system.

Since this is considered an Assistant Librarian position, he or she would likely answer to the Head Librarian or Library Director. However, because this is an academic position, the power structure could be slightly different. The current opening is a tenure-track position, which changes my perspective of it slightly. In order to become tenured, academics generally have to jump through a series of hoops and engage in research or publication in addition to their usual duties. Also, the employee in this case is subjected to a background check and fingerprinting upon being hired, because applicants are given a security clearance at a low level. This also indicates that the librarian might, at some point, need to gain an even higher security clearance, which could require even more time and red tape.

This position strikes me as one that could truly be a career. The possibility of tenure and the room for upward mobility is connotative of stability and long-term prospects; it is unlikely that Texas Tech is looking for any professional that is too new or untested. And while the possibility of stability and a job that could potentially be one that you’d hold until retirement is alluring, there is also something daunting about it. In the early years, before one achieved tenure, it seems as though perhaps family life and outside interests would certainly take a backseat to career ambition.

References

TLN Job Board. The Library Network. Retrieved from http://tln.lib.mi.us/jobs

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