Graduate Course Work
LIS-414 Organization & Management of Corporate Libraries
LIS-403 Evaluation of Information Services
LIS-453 Collection Development & Management
LIS-408 User Instruction
LIS-450 Organization & Management of Public Libraries
LIS-467 Web Development & Information Architecture
LIS-531 Descriptive Cataloging
LIS-407 Reference/Information Services
LIS-531 International Issues in Librarianship: Nicaragua
LIS-404 Principles of Management
LIS-415 Information Organization
LIS-488 Technology for Information Professionals
With my program finished and graduation looming, I have officially reached the end of my short but happy tenure as a Hack Library School contributor. It was a fabulous experience, and I’m grateful to have had it. It was a two-shot privilege – not only did I have the chance to collaborate with HLS’s talented writers and editorial staff, but I had the opportunity to engage in meaningful professional dialogue with other library students. That’s pretty hard to beat.
Before I go, I wanted to toss out a few bits of parting advice, (hindsight being 20/20, and all).
1. Career Research. Start researching potential career paths early in your program, in your first semester if possible. Choose your courses wisely and with the long view in mind. Keep a running list of important projects that can be used on your resume. Most of all, stay flexible and open to new opportunities, ideas and career possibilities. If your program has a career center, check in with it early and often.
2. Internships. Do one! Do at least one! If you can possibly do two, do two! If you don’t already have a library job, and don’t have one waiting for you, do an internship. Really. They are invaluable. I mean it. Invaluable.
3. Network, network, network. Believe me, I know. You’ve probably heard it a million times, but networking really is really important. Really. And I say this a networking-resistant, committed introvert. Connect with people in your classes, join listserves and comments on blogs. If you’re able to, go to conferences and talk to people. It all gets you out there, participating in the profession and making connections.
So, that’s it. The sum total of two and half years distilled into 3 heartfelt pieces of advice. Good luck to all of you as you rock through the rest of your programs, and thanks for letting me contribute to the academic and professional dialogue here at Hack for the past few months. I wish you all the best!
Filed under: Discussions
This post is part of a new series called “So What Do You Do?” in which LIS students talk about their experiences as interns. We want to showcase the wide range of things people are doing in the world of library and information science.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Kayla Birt and I graduated from Indiana University’s School of Library and Information Science with my MLS at the beginning of May. I chose not to work toward a specialization nor a second masters while in SLIS for a few reasons: I wasn’t sure what exactly I wanted to do in the library, I did not want to pigeonhole myself in terms of coursework, and I knew I wanted my program to last approximately two years (I was worried about academic burnout going straight from undergrad to graduate school). Now I am grateful for the advice that led me to this decision and also for the opportunities it has led me to—including my internship!
I am currently working as the Assessment and Usability Graduate Intern at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. DePauw is a small, private undergraduate liberal arts institution that includes a competitive music school and strong science presence. My position is shared between the Information Services and Library offices where I report directly to the Dean of Libraries as well as the Chief Information Officer.
My technical background is rather limited, as is my statistical background. I received a BA in English Literature from Taylor University (Upland, IN) and avoided science and math like the plague. I am slightly regretful. Slightly.
So what do you do?
As the Assessment and Usability Intern I am working to help create and mold a ‘culture of assessment’ within the DePauw Libraries and Information Services departments. When I first came in I was completely overwhelmed and terrified of this explanation. My supervisors revealed that there was no person in charge of assessment at DePauw and I would be sort of in charge of shaping my internship. Twelve months. I’m supposed to shape what I’ll be doing for the next year on a topic that I really do not know too much (really…anything) about. WHAT?
But as time has gone on I have been able to talk to numerous people within both IS and the library about their assessment needs and wants (or lack thereof). My supervisors have given me plenty of opportunities to speak with contacts at other schools and also participate in professional development through DePauw (including a recent trip to ACRL in Indianapolis!). Now I am worried I don’t have enough time to finish all I want to accomplish in only a year!
So far I have helped finish national surveys DePauw participates in, which has involved communicating with multiple areas of campus. I’ve also been able to look at data from previous surveys and analyzed this data for different functions of the IS and libraries on campus. My current project is contacting institutions similar to DePauw asking about their individual assessment cultures. This includes designing a survey and determining what method(s) is/are most appropriate.
Are you finding your coursework helpful in this position? In what way?
An exciting part of my internship is the ability to not only use various aspects of a few of my SLIS courses but also to look back and wish I had either taken a specific course or paid more attention in a course! When I first started taking courses in SLIS I thought I was interested in children’s librarianship and ended up taking two different children’s literature courses. While these may not seem applicable to my internship, the methods of assessing good children’s literature gave me an infrastructure for how to evaluate proper methods of assessing services and surveys now. This shows that no matter what courses you’ve taken or are planning to take, they can be used in numerous ways!
Another encouraging aspect of my coursework integrating into my internship is the importance of core or required classes. I was not planning on ever working in assessment (who does?), but my core classes prepared me to accept and succeed in this position: everything from Collection Development (checklists!), Representation and Organization (scaffolding information!), Library Management (project leadership!), and Evaluation of Information Resources and Services.
What would you say are the lessons you’ve taken away from this internship?
After completing almost half of my internship thus far, the greatest lessons I’ve taken away do not directly concern assessment and usability but instead the community of librarians. I have quickly realized the investment not only DePauw is making in the future of academic librarians but the greater community of academic librarians that are taking active initiatives to help young librarians gain experience and contacts within the profession. The staff at DePauw has been overwhelmingly helpful, as has networks that I’m currently in contact with for my long-term project.
Another lesson reflects the path that lead me to this internship: do not think you are not qualified for a position. It cannot hurt to apply for an internship or job where you don’t meet every single ‘preferred qualification’. And don’t hesitate to use contacts you have already made to help you through the process!
How do you think this will help your career?
This internship will have a drastic effect on my career, I’m sure of it–for the networking opportunity alone, not to mention the practical, hands-on experience as well. The professional development experience is also incredibly valuable. I’ve attended multiple webinars and web workshops with faculty and staff at DePauw where I’ve been able to contribute to current discussions on MOOCs, student technology use, social media, etc. I’ve also been asked to lead some of these discussions as well. These small leadership opportunities and participatory situations are already helping me navigate the landscape of academic libraries.
While I still have about seven months left of my internship, I am grateful for the launch into the profession I feel this position has afforded me thus far and will afford me in the future. I fully believe this internship is not only fulfilling the “1-2 years of academic library experience” we often see on librarian postings, but above and beyond that through the projects and responsibilities I am tasked with and the people with whom I am able to network.
Filed under: So What Do You Do?
Ever since the first day I entered library school, in a distant era I refer to as “2011,” I knew I would top off my MLS with a practicum. Even when I found a student job in a library; even after I’d completed a couple of volunteer gigs and an internship; even after making myself the kind of library student who probably doesn’t, strictly speaking, need a practicum, I still knew I’d do one. And I would advise you to do likewise. Why? Because more practical experience is always better than less. Library school is great, but classes are no substitute for spending time in the trenches at a working library. However much experience I got, I knew I wanted more.
A practicum is, in a nutshell, an opportunity for a student to get some experience working in a library for academic credit. Not every library school encourages them — not every library school even offers them — but to my mind, every library student should do one. At a fundamental level, the practicum is a chance for you to put into practice everything that you’ve learned throughout your LIS education. If you’ve not managed to find much library work during your school career so far, it’s a vital opportunity to accrue some early experience, while also performing necessary work and making a first contribution to your community. It’s a perfect win-win scenario: the library gets some much-needed trained help, and the student gets some fresh insight and knowledge, and probably a nice reference.
The possibilities are endless, and can be tailored to your professional interests and strengths. Here are a few examples from my own cohort:
My project is a combination of needs assessment and collection development. It involves working with a nursing liaison librarian and nursing faculty to come up with a list of complementary, alternative, and natural medicine resources for the library to potentially add. – Sarah H.
I arranged and described the collections of two deceased nuns and created EAD compliant finding aids for the Archives of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. – Kathleen F.
I am planning a family resource fair, and developing story time grab and go kits. – Kathy S.
[I’m doing] original cataloging of CDs & DVDs going into the Archive section of the Instructional Media Center. – Dhyana W.
I’m working on creating surveys and conducting usability testing for the library’s database subject page (in collaboration with the research librarian). The test will inform whether the web page needs to be redesigned. – Clara J.
Or read about Nicole’s practicum in “So What Do You Do? My Practicum Experience at a Small Academic Archive.”
At its best, a practicum can be even more than a chance to get your foot in the door: it can be an opportunity to pull all of your accumulated knowledge together, and then build upon it at a professional level. The best practicum is not advanced-level student work, but an accomplishment that demonstrates your readiness to join the ranks of the professionals.
So how do you go about finding a practicum? If your school has an established program, they may well be able to point you toward likely host sites through your academic advisor. But even if the practicum isn’t really a “thing” at your school, you can still go out and get one for yourself. You’d be surprised how far you can go just by asking nicely. Find institutions that are doing the kind of work you’re interested in, pinpoint a person there who is involved in that work, and send a friendly inquiry. You’re offering to give them free skilled labor in return for some of their time and attention; why wouldn’t they take you up on it? They may well have a neglected project hanging around, waiting for some enterprising person to come adopt it as their own. And whatever work you do, when your practicum is complete you’ll have something to be proud of on your resume.
Did you do a practicum in library school? Do you plan to? Are you in the middle of one now? Tell us about it in the comments!
Filed under: Discussions
Alternate Title: all I needed to know about acing grad school I learned in 6th grade.
As we close out another semester of our varied Information Science degree pursuits, final projects, papers and presentations are probably top of mind – or wanting to be forgotten. As I was scrambling to complete my own submissions, my procrastination tendencies still going strong, I was continually reminded of one thing: the ability to write is incredibly important.
Now before you say “duh,” and stop reading, let me explain a little. I am positively stunned by how many, in graduate studies, professional and personal life, are unable to string together a cohesive sentence – not to mention paragraphs that explain a point clearly. I’m sure that you, in group projects or email chains, have read something through and silently or aloud said, “um… what?! What are you trying to say?!”
So here is the hack: Learn to write quickly and well.
I’m particularly thinking of my MSIT contemporaries who, with vast knowledge of systems and technicalities of which I’m profoundly envious, are seemingly flummoxed by getting that information to page – in plain English. Even I was recently censured for writing an Executive Summary for an Information Systems Final Project that was deemed “too technical in language.” So writing is constant practice, balance, and skill begging for improvement by us all.
I find that I might rely too much on this skill (again see procrastination tendencies) but if a hack gets the job done, isn’t it the best kind? It occurs to me how often I rely on my ability to bang out 1000 words without breaking a sweat. That 1.5 page Executive Summary was done in well less than an hour. Whenever I turn in a paper I wait for the Fraud Police to show up and scream “you didn’t spend enough time on this!” Surprisingly, they don’t. So when I sit down to write a paper, email to a potential collaboration partner, application, important course summary, or behemoth project, I have the confidence to write effectively.
No, I’m not Twain, Hemmingway, Chabon or Austen (most of those links go to the awesome writings of other incredible HLS hackers). My words will not go down in the annals of history for their beautiful turn of phrase — much as I might like them to. My sentences simply get the point across in a readable manner. Which, in LIS school and life, is really what is needed.
It starts, of course, with reading. More specifically: reading comprehension. It is critical in our profession to be able to efficiently sift through information and find the important bits. While I might have taken little time to actually write that ES, I had read the entire paper twice and allowed a day or so to let the ideas percolate and sift down to the most essential. I copied and pasted out the important sections and voila! I had an outline.
Once we know what we are trying to say, regurgitating those ideas in a cohesive manner is much easier. So my first tip when you sit down to write, know clearly in your own head what it is that you want to express.
Then, how do you get those sticky words to page? That also can begin with reading – reading critically to discover how the writers you like relay their message and then emulating them.
There are also of course plenty of resources out there to help you write better. Find ones that appeal to you and practice your reading comprehension to learn what is important. Know and follow those rules of writing first and foremost. I joke that I use proper grammar and punctuation in my text messages.
For really, writing doesn’t have to be – shouldn’t be – complicated and scary. It is just about expressing your ideas. You can practice and gain confidence all the time. You just have to write.
Practice. Practice. Practice.
It doesn’t get simpler than that. I’m sorry Mr. Darcy, there is no other way. You have to learn the rules and hen practice. It is only through writing that you will find your voice and flow. Make yourself do it. Often. You don’t have to show your words to anyone, but through writing, you will get better.
Write a journal; describe the important aspects of that interesting article you just read to solidify the concepts in your own mind; volunteer to take minutes and meetings; email those friends you have been missing about what has been happening in your life; write letters to your gramma – whatever. Just write.
I found writing for my a blog, here at HLS, and tweeting – yes tweeting – has been helpful for my writing skill. Writing well is about relaying a message in an engaging and clear manner. Condensing a message into 140 characters or less forces you to find and express the most essential information with extreme brevity. Making it public forces you to think about audience and how your message is perceived.
One of my best tips, whether you are going to share your piece publicly or just to a professor, is to walk away from it for a while and then read what you have written aloud. First, it is a great error check. You can’t make your point if your reader is distracted by poor grammar. More importantly, hearing the words helps answer the question: Does it make any blessed sense? The greats, whatever their other faults, express their point. Does your writing do that?
In sum: learn the rules by reading, know what you are trying to say, and write. There is no better hack then to have confidence that you can crush out 1000 words without crazy amounts of effort. You’re going to need this skill constantly in your profession, may as well get good at it now.
Have any great resources for writing that you would like to share? An alternate view of writing? Please share your opinions in the comments! (hey, it’s another opportunity to practice those writing skills!)
Filed under: Practicalities
I recently went to my first conference for librarians, the Minnesota Library Association’s annual ARLD Day, and I greatly enjoyed hearing from librarians and interacting with some of my library school peers in that environment. In the keynote presentation, Jenica Rogers provided a wonderful reminder that librarians should stop accepting what people offer as the terms of foundational work relationships (with vendors, legislators, what have you). More importantly, she encouraged librarians to stop thinking of ourselves as helpless against the people we collaborate with in making libraries work. I look forward to attending many more conferences, unconferences, and other gatherings of librarians to learn and partake of the energy that circulates in such spaces and the validation of our shared values.
This conference reminded me of something that I think is crucial to a solid LIS education. As much as we worry over the specific content of an LIS education, librarians-in-training must constantly remember to reach out to people in other fields, whether they are faculty in academic disciplines (for academic librarians), vendors of information materials, information technology specialists in their institution, social services agencies in the community (for public librarians), or teachers in schools (for both school media specialists and public librarians). We must learn how to work with others with different skills and training, and we must learn how to think about our work not just as supplementary to other people’s work but as complementary and mutually beneficial.
Although this idea of collaboration is perhaps commonplace in the library world, it seems significant enough to revisit regularly. Micah Vandegrift’s #HackLibSchool inaugural article, for example, discusses transliteracy as an important concept for librarians to embody. To take a slightly different approach, I would argue that librarians should have a basic understanding in a whole range of disciplines and platforms, but more significantly, we should be able to interact with a diverse group of professionals (which requires that basic literacy). This idea is also at the basis of Jenica Rogers’s point about understanding how profit-making publishers operate (to make money) and to know how to navigate the world of commerce even as we struggle to hold on to a different set of values for libraries.
In particular, I think it is worth thinking about how our LIS programs might encourage and facilitate a professional habit of collaboration. LIS programs could provide some training in soft skills (how to interact with people and work well with others). Programs could actively connect students with people and institutions they may find useful as partners in their future library careers through internships, independent study projects, and other types of learning experiences. Programs could foreground the many relationships that make up each library and information center, including conversations about how to negotiate with partners coming from very different contexts. Morever, programs could teach students how to navigate institutions (in all their bureaucratic, hierarchical, and idiosyncratic complexities) as part of workplace training.
In my experience, there are always resources in place to help students explore these types of collaborations, but they may not always be marked explicitly for these ends. One example is that I have used the professional development funds available to students in my program to participate in roundtable discussions at a nonlibrary professional conference (the Association for Asian American Studies–full disclosure: in my previous life I was a faculty member in the field). In the past two years, I have helped organize roundtable panels with the intention of creating conversations between LIS professionals and teachers/researchers in the field. As a result, I have had a chance to meet other graduate students and librarians interested in librarianship for the interdisciplinary field of Asian American studies. I have also been focusing my independent study this semester on considering different ways that librarians can work with teaching faculty in the context of Asian American studies. These explorations have deepened my understanding of why it is important for LIS professionals to engage with people in other fields and especially how to think about explaining what librarians and archivists do for people and institutions who often know little about what goes on behind the scenes to make information available.
This semester, I have also started working with a friend and recent graduate of my program to foster conversations about the connections between librarianship and social work. We recently started up a blog, Information + Publics, as a place to carry out that conversation online (please join in if you’re interested!). The aim of our project is to consider the many ways that librarians and social workers might benefit from talking to each other more regularly, even perhaps exploring how training in the master’s programs for our fields might intersect. We are excited for the possibilities in our own program, as faculty in both LIS and social work seem interested in seeing where we might encourage students to cross departments for their coursework or otherwise share in the learning experience. Part of this collaboration is about learning the institutional and organizational culture as well, a skill that all librarians (and workers in any field, really) should develop to be effective in their jobs.
What kinds of collaborations have you explored in your program? Are there courses you think would be an excellent place to explore collaborations? Are there resources you have found useful for developing collaborative relationships?
Filed under: Discussions, Professional Life