17/06/2013 § Leave a Comment
One of the things I most love about librarianship is the diversity of the field. People choosing library science come from any background you can think of, and once they have the degree their choices are manifold. As an amplifying degree, virtually anyone can find their options and skills expanded by graduate study in librarianship, and can enter and thrive in truly wide-ranging circumstances.
This is awesome. It does, however, create a small problem for new grads: How can we express our skills and interests to employers and networking connections when the field is so broad? How do those of us with a number of interests pick which one to focus on? More pertinently, when a combination of skills is our real strength, how do we explain the whole picture to listeners who may be more accustomed to specialists?
“Elevator pitches” vary slightly depending on the audience in terms of content, but the general understanding I’ve come across is a short, to-the-point statement that covers all relevant information, and could be given “between floors” on an elevator ride. They’re “teasers,” designed to hit all the bullet points and provide just enough information to prompt a longer conversation. For startups, they’re designed to inform and persuade listeners along three dimensions: “So what?” (What’s the issue at hand, and why does it matter?); “Why you?” (What makes you the person uniquely qualified to address the issue?); and “Who cares?” (Why should your audience become involved in your success or failure? What’s the application to their life?).
In the month since I finished my library degree, I’ve found myself giving an elevator pitch every time someone has asked “So what can you do with your master’s?” I’m willing to guess I’m not alone–any answer to the dreaded “You need grad school to work in a library?” would count as an elevator pitch, and as so many of us around the country graduated in the last few weeks, there are plenty of people asking us what we intend to do.
Ad-hoc pitches are great, and it’s an important skill to be able to improvise an answer to unexpected questions quickly–just ask a reference librarian. That said, I’m finding it more helpful to put some thought into the elevator pitch I’m giving on a regular basis. People keep asking me what I want to do with my degree, and while I have lots of answers, every time I’m put on the spot I forget something, often something I find really important. Listeners get bored with the litany of ands (“I can do this AND that AND the other thing AND…”), so finding a concise way to cover all the bases took some effort.
Here’s what I learned in trying to edit my own elevator pitch:
- It doesn’t need to be memorized, and in fact shouldn’t be repeated word-for-word–it would become mechanical.
- Writing it down and rehearsing a pitch a few times can ease the “I forgot something important” feeling.
- You don’t need to cover everything. Elevator pitches are designed to prompt further conversation. Hit the major bullets, and your audience can ask for more information.
- You can tailor pitches for different audiences. I have related, but different, answers to “What do you want to do with your degree?” depending on who’s asking–family and friends outside the LIS world, librarians, and business leaders each get information designed to be accessible.
- Remember the “who cares?” part of a pitch–it’s great to talk about the things you’re passionate about, but it’s even better if the person listening can grab hold of something you said and connect with it.
Librarianship is about connecting people and providing information. For those of us just starting out, nailing the elevator pitch now will help significantly in the long run, as we pitch for new ideas, new careers, and new ways of doing things. Good luck!
How do you pitch? Let us all know by commenting!
14/06/2013 § 1 Comment
Dear Hack Library School Readers,
We would like to visualize where HLS readers are in the world. To that end, we’ve created an open Google Map for collaborative pinning. Please add yourself to the map so that we can see where people live! You will need to be logged in to a Google account in order to pin yourself to the map. If you would prefer not to use your account, please use the dummy account we have created for this map (username: mappinghls, password: hacklibschool).
This map may also help us choose some other locations for HLS meetups like our summer DC meetups (check out the June meetups if you are in the area!). We hope it will also be useful for connecting you all with other library school students nearby.
Click on the link below the map to edit it. Step-by-step instructions and a video that walks through the steps are also available below.
07/06/2013 § Leave a Comment
Ruth Tillman doesn’t like to be bored. In addition to being a full time library paraprofessional and part time library student, she has embarked on a number of projects that many of us might see as full-time jobs unto themselves. I wanted to talk to her about one of her explorations in particular- EADiva. This website sets out to improve upon a system that students in archival concentrations across the country view with equal parts suspicion and dread- Encoded Archival Description, or EAD. I asked her about EAD, and what she hopes to accomplish with EADiva.
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
I’m an archives student at the UMD iSchool, with one semester of coursework to go. Between college and library school, I spent a lot of time doing various kinds of web work. A lot involved HTML/CSS/PHP, but some involved XML (eXtensible Markup Language) and SQL. I discovered EAD and Archivists’ Toolkit in my first semester of library school and, since then, I’ve been working on learning more about it. Last fall, Molly Schwartz (who just graduated from the iSchool, congrats!) and I presented a paper at MARAC on using Archivists’ Toolkit to learn EAD.
When I have free time, I’m a crafter when I can be, I’m a bit of a geek, and I’m a gamer—Xbox and tabletop. Right now I’m playing through the Mass Effect series to celebrate my summer break. I’m also interested in accessibility for libraries and doing a self-directed summer study on disability and accessibility.
Can you explain for the uninitiated what EAD is?
EAD stands for Encoded Archival Description. It’s an XML schema designed by archivists, for archivists. It’s used to encode or “mark up” data about archival collections, generally for finding aids.
To break this down even further, EAD is a list of XML tags which you can put around information about archival collections. For example, an item about me might be encoded as <persname normal=”Tillman, Ruth” source=”local”>Ruth Tillman</persname>. The tag tells any search system that my name should be handled as Tillman, Ruth, but display systems will show it as Ruth Tillman. It also tells the system that this is a locally-generated name, not from LCSH or some other naming authority.
Once a finding aid is encoded in EAD, a lot of things can be done with it. It can be transformed and displayed as HTML. It can be transformed into PDF. There are a lot of things one can do with XML to extract and transform data from the EAD file into other files. Fortunately, you don’t necessarily have to learn any of this transformation or scripting, unless you specifically want to get into that kind of work.
Is EAD just for archivists? Or do you think it’s something librarians and other metadata professionals should understand as well?
It’s primarily for archivists. I think metadata and systems librarians should not only be aware that it exists, but be aware of the kinds of elements it has and how it approaches description. Archival materials are quite different from most library holdings, which is reflected in EAD. A site like EADiva might be an good place for one to get an overview.
As for non-metadata/systems librarians, I wouldn’t say there’s an especial need.
What prompted you to create this site?
I was working on a paper and some projects to teach myself more about it and became aware of some of the improvements that could be made to the Library of Congress’s EAD tag library. Since no one else was doing it, I did.
Specific improvements I made are: linking to other elements when they’re mentioned (LoC’s tag library has no internal links) and defining Attributes every time they’re mentioned (LoC uses a DTD format—if you don’t know what it means, that’s kind of the point for why I didn’t—and requires one to check one of three pages for attribute definitions). I also tried to write it in a fairly approachable style, but I think the interlinking and attributes were the biggest improvements.
What lessons did you learn from trying to interpret EAD in plain language?
Well, I learned that there are a LOT of tags and that it’s impossible to remember all of them, but that’s ok. I think my biggest takeaway was that EAD really is designed by and for archivists. It’s completely unsuitable for cataloging library books, but it truly reflects the nature of archival materials. It’s not like Dublin Core, which, the longer I studied it, the more dissatisfied I became with it for its purposes (non-archival, I just saw a lot of problems related to displaying different materials types).
I also learned that it’s quite difficult to translate from tech into non-tech. I’ve done my best and I hope people will ask for clarification if something is too technical for them. I’ll make edits as I can to improve the quality of the description. I had to accept, for example, that people will have to know a few very basic things about XML in order to use the site. However, I put together a page about understanding EAD and XML with some of the basics and a link to another description of XML.
Are there any complementary resources you would point new EAD users to?
I’ve linked each element on my site to the Library of Congress’s EAD tag library. I also really suggest their EAD homepage and its links. For people looking for even more context, I recommend the LoC’s EAD best practices page.
I strongly recommend that, as well as looking at the elements themselves, people learning EAD use a program like Archivists’ Toolkit or the upcoming ArchivesSpace. Simply creating a basic finding aid in the Archivists’ Toolkit sandbox (explained further on their site) and then exporting it as EAD can help one see how that information will look when marked up.
Because of the tools available, one rarely has to create one’s own finding aid from scratch. But that doesn’t mean people should just ignore EAD. It just means that we don’t have the memorize it, thank goodness.
06/06/2013 § 1 Comment
Are you going to ALA later this month? We’re teaming up with LibraryLab to host a meetup on Sunday, June 30th from 8:00-10:00 at the Green Door. The meetup is a fun and informal way to hang out with us, network, and make some new friends while having a cocktail! You can add it to your ALA calendar by going to this link.
Also, if you’re in the DC area, remember we’re hosting meetups in June!
05/06/2013 § 4 Comments
It’s that time again! Summer is here, and we know lots of Hack Library School fans are in the nation’s capitol for work, or internships, or school, or just for the heck of it. So we’ve got a series of meetups planned for everyone to get to know each other. It’s a great chance to network in a casual setting, and get to know parts of this excellent city that you might not see otherwise!
The first two meetups will be:
June 8th, 5:30
We the meet up @ We, the Pizza
305 Pennsylvania Ave SE Washington, DC
(Just up the street from the Library of Congress. Closest Metro is Capitol South, Blue/Orange lines)
June 15th, 7:00
Hack Vampire School (Buffy the vampire slayer Happy Hour) @ The Black Cat
1811 14th St NW, Washington, DC
(Closest Metro is U Street, Green/Yellow lines)
If you can’t make it to these two, there will be more to come, so stay tuned! See you around town!
05/06/2013 § 7 Comments
prax·is \ˈprak-səs\ n. 1. the actual work of a profession (as opposed to the practice of it in training situations) 2. in social work, the concept of reflexive, integrated theory and practice 3. in education, the processes of reflective experiential learning or, following Paulo Freire’s work, the combination of reflection and action in the world that leads to transformations of oppressive conditions
Photograph from Pages and Pictures.
Does a dog need to read a book about being a dog? Does a librarian need to read a book about being a librarian? These questions may seem similar, but I suspect that most people have different answers to them. And yet, much of the conversation about library and information science (LIS) education seems to suggest that librarians do their work best simply through practice rather than reading and learning about librarianship.
More on praxis, Shulamith Firestone, and dogs…
31/05/2013 § 4 Comments
Two years ago, I had just graduated from my undergrad program and was eagerly awaiting moving to Indiana to start library school. I read Hack Library School and anything else I could get my hands on that might provide some glimpse of wisdom. What should I do? How should I feel? I wasn’t exactly sure, and that made me nervous.
If you’ll be starting library school in the fall, here are some ideas for how to spend your summer, in no particular order. (If you’re a year in, you may enjoy Topher’s post on how to hack your summer vacation.)