What It’s Like to Work Full Time in Library School

05/03/2014 § 7 Comments

In today’s post, several Hackers discuss what they have learned about the challenges and benefits of working full time while in library school. Whether you are wondering if full time work is right for you or struggling to balance your obligations between work and classes, it can help to know that you are not alone. Rebecca Katz, Kara Mackeil, Lesley Looper, and Samantha Winn share their experiences, coping mechanism, and productivity tips after the break. Do you have a story about working full time while in school? Join us in the comments!

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Hack Your First Professional Conference

03/02/2014 § 9 Comments

I have never met a conference I did not like. In the last four years, I have attended twelve academic conferences ranging in size from under 150 to over 5,000 participants. I have presented papers, sat on panels, moderated debate, lead workshops, and worked logistics.

In my experience, all conferences share some common challenges: the pace is frenetic, restroom lines are long, snacks are mediocre, and at least two sessions you really want to attend will be happening at the same time. The rooms are almost always too cold or too hot. You may not know anyone.

Obstacles aside, every conference experience has been invaluable to me. They have so much to offer an emerging professional: a chance to make new friends and meet professional contacts, exposure to new ideas and best practices in your field, and the possibility of new opportunities. At a conference, you can challenge your expectations and even meet your professional heroes.

Last August, I participated in the Society of American Archivists 2013 Annual Meeting, my first professional conference as a graduate student. Although I came equipped with a diverse kit of conference tools, the SAA Annual Meeting challenged me to adapt in new ways. Professional conferences are especially intense in terms of pace. There is so much to do and see that it is to feel overextended. If you are an introvert like me, it can feel overwhelming to interact with so many people, especially when you suddenly realize you’re talking with someone “famous” in the field.

But don’t feel intimidated! Here are some steps you can take to help make your first professional conference a success.

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Hack Your Professional Organization

23/12/2013 § 4 Comments

There is no better time than graduate school to join a professional organization. Many LIS organizations have special incentives in place to attract library school students. The offerings will vary between organizations, but this post should give you an idea of what to watch for.  

TYPES OF ORGANIZATIONS

Professional organizations exist at several levels, including international, national, regional, state, and local. Smaller organizations may give you more opportunities to participate directly, but larger organizations will offer a broader spectrum of roundtables and sections. As a student, I have found national and regional organizations to be the most beneficial because I am still figuring out what I want to do with my career. Some organizations offer joint membership programs for library school students and support staff. This is a great way to make your membership dues go farther. Additionally, student chapters on your campus can be a great way to get involved with your regional and national organizations.

San Jose State University has compiled an extremely comprehensive list of professional organizations for LIS students. The list includes general national groups like the American Library Association and Society of American Archivists, but also specialized entities like the Music Library Association and the Association for Moving Image Archivists.

BENEFITS OF MEMBERSHIP

Membership in a professional organizations has several benefits for LIS students. Some of the tangible ones include scholarships, discounts on textbooks purchased through the organization’s store, access to job boards, continuing education courses, and (in some cases) tuition discounts at partner institutions. Other perks include opportunities to travel to new cities for conferences and learn about the field through scholarly journal articles. One of the greatest long-term benefits to membership is the chance to meet with peers, mentors, and future employers. Membership is also a great addition to your resume or C.V., especially if you make time to serve on a committee.

MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR MEMBERSHIP

Many organizations offer discounts on membership dues and conference registration to students in ALA-accredited programs. While it can still be expensive to attend conferences, this is a great way to try out a few organizations before you have to commit to full dues.

Several organizations offer concurrent membership in specialized roundtables, committees, and divisions. These sub-groups serve as a microcosm of the larger organization, allowing you to engage more deeply in professional conversations and network regularly with seasoned professionals. Each group typically focuses on a specific interest, institution type, or professional status. You might consider joining a roundtable for records management, GIS librarianship, performing arts archives, or library support staff. Many organizations have groups that that cater to students and new professionals.

If you’re still skeptical about joining a professional organization, you can try it out for free first. Check your campus library for print or electronic copies of professional publications. Follow organization and roundtable accounts on social media networks. Join listservs to preview the professional conversation or follow conference hashtags on Twitter. Most importantly, talk with your professors and peers to learn which organizations they recommend.

Have you joined a professional organization in library school? Share your advice and experiences in the comments!

A Liberal Arts Major’s Guide to Coding

25/11/2013 § 8 Comments

As programmer and tech journalist Ciara Byrne noted in her op-ed “No–You Don’t Need to Learn To Code”, learning to code is not always fun, easy, or even useful for every career path. Nonetheless, programming can develop several soft skills that translate across a broad range of professions. In addition to increasing your digital literacy, learning to code teaches you to solve problems, to seek out collaborative solutions when you are stuck, and (in my experience) to endure lots of frustration for the sake of future rewards.

The benefits of learning to code are especially tangible for information science students. Programming knowledge equips you to customize content management systems, create sophisticated reports in an integrated library system, develop mobile apps, manage databases, implement open source software, navigate user experience design, customize or create a web presence for your institution, and collaborate more effectively with IT professionals.

You may be thinking, “But Sam, I am not a programmer. It just doesn’t come naturally for me.” Well, join the club. My undergraduate degrees are in history and political science! Although I grew up in a very tech-friendly home, I never had any ambition to be a programmer. After I started working in libraries, however, I found that some kind of coding knowledge is necessary for many of the jobs I want to pursue. It hasn’t always been fun and it has rarely been easy, but I have made it a priority to learn these skills. Over time, I have actually learned to enjoy coding.

Here are some guidelines that have helped me endure the tough times:
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