20/12/2011 § 7 Comments
Today’s Guest post comes from Amy Frazier, who just finished her first term with Emporia State University’s School of Library and Information Management in Portland, Oregon. Before entering library school, Amy studied film in London and taught film making skills to community members here in Portland. You can read more of her writing on her blog: Sidelong Citation and be sure to follow her on twitter: SidelongCite.
I came to library school by way of film and video work. Prior to enrolling at Emporia State University SLIM-Oregon, the main thrust of my career was in documentary film making and education, teaching people how to make their own films and videos. It wasn’t the most obvious path to the stacks, even though to me the progression seemed natural. But it can be a challenge to find ways to make my existing skill set relevant to librarianship, so I spend a lot of time looking at the intersection between moving pictures and the library.
During my first term in library school, I got an opportunity to start digging into this a little bit by way of a class called “Theoretical Foundations of Service.” We got a group assignment to develop an information seeking behavior model related to a specific kind of library — visual libraries in the case of my group, which we narrowed down further to film and video archives and libraries. (There were two ex-film students in the group, which might explain the choice.)
A review of the literature didn’t provide a great deal of information – there were some good pieces about related fields like art libraries, but for moving pictures specifically there was very little. So as a next plan of attack, we decided to go straight to the authorities. We were very graciously granted interviews by two amazing librarians, Liz Coffey of the Harvard Film Archive and Mark Quigley of the UCLA Film and Television Archive . Based on those conversations, we gradually built up a picture of what an effective search would look like.
In a nutshell, it was… complicated. There were a number of factors that, while certainly not exclusive to film and video, represented unusually large obstacles. Collections tend to be quite isolated from each other and inaccessible from the world outside their home institutions; searches require pretty intensive mediation by a librarian who knows their collection well; and even under the best of circumstances, a search for motion picture items can be a long and uncertain endeavor. While the project gave me a new level of respect for the librarians and archivists doing this work, it was eye-opening to see how complex the process can be. Even with some idea of how to go about a search like this effectively, the prospect remains intimidating.
So that was my first brush with film and video in the library. Outside of school I work as a circulation assistant in the library of a large medical school/research hospital, and was lucky enough to be given a role on an existing video project developed by our User Experience librarian. It’s a relatively simple piece, a profile of the staff at our library and their philosophies of service and librarianship, but it’s an opportunity to demonstrate what video can do in the library. Now I’m looking around and seeing potential projects everywhere — some of the article databases are so confusing, what if we put together a video tutorial to help guide patrons through a simple search? We have students and researchers using library resources 24 hours a day, wouldn’t it be great to have that sort of resource available even when there isn’t a reference librarian in the house? Could video make these resources more accessible to that group of patrons that’s reluctant to come in and ask for help? It’s not a replacement for real reference instruction, but I think it could be a great supplement.
18/10/2011 § 15 Comments
Alexandra Carter is the Digital Imaging Librarian at the University of Maryland Libraries in College Park, Maryland, and previously worked in both public and academic libraries. Her current interests include the digital humanities and reference service in archives and special collections. When not busy with library things she reads and watches lots of sci-fi and fantasy, cooks delicious food, and plays board games with friends.
Disclaimer: These are my impressions of the MLS program at the University of Maryland College of Information Studies, based on my own experiences, and are not meant to be representative of the opinions of all students, the college, or the university. I attended the iSchool, as it is informally known, beginning in Fall 2008, and I graduated in May 2010.
Maryland’s iSchool currently offers three degree programs: Masters in Library Science (MLS), Masters in Information Management (MIM), and PhD in Information Studies. As of this fall, a Masters in Human Computer Interaction (HCIM) will also be available. The iSchool enrolls over 500 graduate students each year across all degree programs — I recall being told by an admissions advisor several years ago that about 300 of those were MLS students.
The iSchool is located at the main University of Maryland campus in College Park, Maryland. MLS classes are also offered at the Universities at Shady Grove campus in Rockville, Maryland, and online. Starting this fall, it is now possible to complete the MLS program entirely online.
Specializations, Concentrations, and Dual Degree Programs
There are two MLS specializations — Archives, Records, and Information Management and School Library Media — and three concentrations — E-Government, Lifelong Access, and Information and Diverse Populations, with requirements of varying complexity for each. There is also one dual History and Library Science (HiLS) degree program. Though I did take several Archives course, I opted for what students loving refer to as “the general track.” If you’re interested in a specilization or concentration, it’s a good idea to start planning early to make sure you can complete all the required classes.
There are both “core” and “required” classes at the iSchool. All are mandatory if you’d like to graduate, but there is a difference. Core classes are supposed to be completed within your first 18 credits (though I know anecdotally that this is more a guideline than a strict rule) while required classes may be taken any time during the program.
The core classes are: Information Access (aka “Reference”), Organization of Information, Information Technology, PLUS one of the following, depending on your concentration: Users and Information Context (aka “User Studies 101″), Archival Principles, Practices, and Programs (aka ”Intro to Archives”), or Library Media Specialists as Information Professionals.
The required classes are: A management course (there’s a School Library Media specific version, and an “everybody else” version) and a 100 hour field study (after being an optional elective, the field study becomes a requirement for all newly admitted students in Fall 2011).
Students also have the option of writing a Masters thesis, but few actually do.
One of the program’s biggest strengths is, undeniably, the location. Maryland’s College Park campus is located just outside Washington, D.C. in Prince George’s County, Maryland. As college towns go, College Park isn’t the greatest, but a 20-30 minute trip via campus shuttle and Metro gets you in to downtown D.C., which is chock full of things to do in your free time. More importantly for your professional aspirations, there are many libaries, archives, and other information centers in the D.C. Metro area.
If you’re looking to work, intern, or volunteer during school, you’re certain to find something. (It’s less certain whether it’ll be a paying gig. Sorry!) I personally worked part time on campus during my two years, but I knew others working at federal libraries, law firms, public libraries, local schools, and more. The National Archives and Records Administration is located in College Park—just a short walk, drive, bus, or bike trip away from campus—and many archives students obtain student positions there. Of course, all of this is just a quirk of geography, not a reflection of the program itself, but it’s too much of an asset to be overlooked.
As I noted before, there are a number of concentrations and specializations, many of which are well-regarded. (I don’t put too much stock in rankings, though. U.S. News recently reported that Maryland had a great program in Digital Libraries. There is no such program, or even any such class.) If you need a school media certification, want to be an archivist, or are otherwise intrigued by one of the specializations, the variety of choices is great.
The fact that you’re reading a post on Hack Library School leads me to believe that you have at least a basic awareness of some of the common problems facing LIS education, for instance the theory/practice divide. Yes, that’s also an issue at Maryland. And, yes, course offering often don’t quite keep up with the most recent developments in the field.
One of the biggest obstacles that I and my fellow students encountered was the iSchool administration. Communication between the administration and students is generally not good. I experienced this first hand when I wanted to transfer credits from another university and received three conflicting sets of instructions: one from an iSchool administrator, one from the iSchool website, and one from the graduate school website. Be prepared for a sometimes frustrating level of misinformation and confusion.
The flip side of the variety offered at Maryland’s iSchool is that resources can be stretched pretty thin. Core and required classes have to be offered on a regular basis, which means that other classes sometimes fall to the wayside. Sadly, this means that some really interesting offerings only come around once every 2-3 years. Their appearances in the course schedules can also be dictated by the college’s ability to find adjunct instructors.
One thing that’s stood out to me over the past three years is the turnover in the iSchool faculty and staff, which stretches the resources of the school further. I’m not privy to any of the administrative politics that undoubtedly have contributed to this trend, but it doesn’t work to the benefit of the students. For instance, for some students this means having two or three different advisors over two years.
iSchool students have established student chapters of several major professional organizations. They include ALA, SLA, ASIST, and SAA (the student chapter goes by Student Archivists at Maryland, or SAM). The activity level of the various organizations varies from year to year, depending on the interest level of the student leaders and the student body at large. The student groups organize a variety of events from chats with area professionals to library and archives tours to monthly happy hours.
Because most students at the iSchool are very busy, it can be difficult to connect with classmates. Students commute to campus from all over the region and most have at least one job or internship. Outside the initial core classes, students from different specializations and concentrations have little contact with each other, so I urge anyone who chooses Maryland to make an effort to meet people outside your niche area. It may involve a little extra effort on your part, but I know that the connections I’ve made here were well worth it!
There’s not a lot of funding to be had in the iSchool. There are Graduate Assistantships available in the college, either in the college office, research centers, or with individual faculty members, but compared to the total number of students, there really aren’t many. The University Libraries used to have about 40 Graduate Assistants, but do to funding cuts, there are now closer to 10. Assistantships typically include tuition remission, health insurance, and a stipend.
The federal government has student employment programs of its own. While these won’t pay your tuition directly, you should be able to earn a decent wage, and some student positions transition into regular positions when you graduate. The sheer number of federal agencies with offices in the D.C. Metro area makes these jobs well worth looking into, even if you’re not looking for a long term career with the federal government.
Maryland residents pay in-state tuition, which is significantly less than out-of-state tuition. Virginia residents are also eligible for in-state tuition through the Academic Common Market because there are no ALA-accredited LIS programs in Virginia. If you’re from out of state and would like to come to Maryland, I’d strongly recommend establishing residency first—I definitely wish I had. I had an assistantship for my second year, but took out loans to cover the first year of out of state tuition, which isn’t cheap. Also, keep in mind the high cost of living in the region! (I yearn Columbus, Ohio rents.)
The Bottom Line
I took a few great classes at Maryland, and other classes ranging from adequate to irritating. After talking to many librarians who attended programs around the country, I expect this is pretty normal. What I think makes the iSchool experience stand apart are the practical experiences available in the D.C. area for students.
Is it worth moving here from out of state to attend the iSchool? In my opinion, no. There are good things about the program, but it’s not so amazing different than any other that it’s worth taking on that much debt. If you are a local resident (or are willing to establish residency before enrolling) it’s a much better deal.
14/10/2011 § 1 Comment
For graduate students, ‘practical experience’ can mean a lot of
different things. For some of us this means traveling to foreign
countries for digs and research, volunteering in labs, internships at
potential employers, or simply participation in conferences and
papers. Regardless, practical participation in our fields is extremely
important to our future success.
These days it seems like even “entry-level” jobs are asking for
candidates with experience. It’s a little tricky, but not impossible,
to round out your resume and skill set while you’re in school. This
semester, I have been working as an intern for a marketing/design
firm. I’m not paid, but was able to get some credits toward my
Master’s for my work while I’m there. The work I do for my internship
is invaluable and is giving me experience in lots of areas I’m
interested in pursuing for my career. Many places take interns, and
many more would probably be willing to make an internship if you ask.
It’s also definitely worth doing the legwork to find out how to get
school credit for the position! Although a little clichéd, volunteer
work is another way to get experience while in school — especially if
you can be involved with the organization for a longer term than just
a semester. Work your way into a position that can be applicable to
your career, and always look for opportunities to take leadership
positions. Finally, it is relatively quick, easy, and non-committal to
job shadow someone in your field. You can see what the day to day of
the job is like and hopefully learn a few tips or skills that will
help you in the future!
As a graduate student (or as my partner likes to call me, a “lifelong
learner”) I soon realized early in my career that in order to be
successful, I had to leave my classroom comfort zone. I had that part
down pat. But in order to gain professional experience, I needed to
learn how to write, present, and research outside the classroom.
Ultimately, this means presenting at conferences, submitting articles
to journals, and doing multi-disciplinary research.
A vital aspect that underlies all these out-of-classroom experiences
is collaboration. The professional experience that you will need to
accumulate derives from the ability to work and do research with your
peers, faculty, and advisors. Collaboration is essential to the
process of becoming a professional in your field, and it is vital to
the learning experience. By collaborating with someone on, lets say a
journal manuscript, it
not only gives you experience in research, writing, editing, and
ultimately getting your name in print, but also shows that you work
well with others. And this isn’t limited to multi-authored papers.
Read any acknowledgement section in a book, article, or dissertation
and you will see successful collaboration at work. For me, the road to
experience starts with collaboration.
Practical experience for my discipline is a little different than other peoples. As an archaeologist we are expected to do field work. This means an extended excavation, potentially in a foreign country. We need to show that we can plan an excavation, know the steps for gathering primary data, and use our theories in a practical sense. Doing field work is extremely rewarding in that we gain a wide range of experience, deeply connect with a range of individuals in the profession, and work from the ground up on data and interpretation. However, the requirement to be away in the field for months at a time can be very draining and stressful. It is difficult to balance having a life here and be away for a large amount of time. Once in the field we are faced with uncommon languages, foreign cultures, and in general faced with an unknown world (See Charlotte’s post on fieldwork for more information on what we face). Right now I’m faced with the problem of deciding whether to have a library based dissertation, or one that will take me out of the country for a couple months but will give me both primary data and practical experience. Getting this experience is not necessarily part of our program, so its up to us to be proactive and gain that experience. I’ve been involved in fieldwork where I’ve paid to attend, been a volunteer teaching assistant for, and also been paid to conduct. It is often this range of experience that gets noticed on my CV. In the end, our discipline is known for getting in the dirt and doing field work, so its essential for us to get this practical experience however we can and to get a wide variety of it.
Gaining experience in your discipline is one of the most critical parts of being in graduate school. For PhD students, the obvious training comes in research: the majority of our time is spent on learning how to conduct, structure, and write about research. However, this is really only part of the battle: getting an advanced degree is also about learning how to be a professional. Included in this is how to teach, how to present your research, how to engage with the public (who likely supports your research), begin active in your professional societies, and how to work effectively with your colleagues. No matter how good you are at your research, these other components of becoming a professional will be critical to your success. Most graduate programs don’t work these elements into their programs, although the training can be found elsewhere. In some cases it comes through your advisor or another faculty mentor, through programming offered by your graduate school, or through your involvement with professional organizations. If your discipline is like mine (I’m in anthropology and archaeology), there may also be opportunities to work professionally in your field, or to gain additional experience through teaching at a community college, assisting in a lab, or getting an internship of some sort. Regardless, it is important to remember that getting an advanced degree is more than just learning about how to be an effective researcher, it’s about learning to be a professional, and that includes a wide array of experiences and skills.
11/10/2011 § Leave a Comment
This post is written by GradHacker writers and is part of our crossover week, check out Hack Library School’s advice about advisor/advisee relations on their blog here: GradHacker.
In graduate school, creating the perfect advisor/advisee relationship can be a daunting if not impossible task. Trent, Cory and Katy give their advice on navigating this relationship: find someone who you can work with, be proactive, and be explicit about what you want out of grad school.
Trent: The most important advice I could ever give anyone about advisors regards compatibility: If your relationship with your advisor is rocky, or you don’t feel you’re compatible, then you need to change advisors. You shouldn’t worry about ramifications if you change. If they are professional, then they’ll understand and encourage you to do so. A good advisor will have something academically in common with you, urge you to seek out classes you’re interested in, that pertain to you thesis or dissertation, and that will get you closer to graduating.
Cory: The advisor/advisee relationship can stressful, nurturing, or non-existent. I think it is easy as grad students to forget that our own attitudes can often shape this relationship. For example, when I started my Master’s program, my advisor was a Shakespearean scholar (I was researching post-colonialism!) who retired halfway through my program and who I met with only once. My bad attitude about the seemingly poor match up really meant that I lost out on a year of advising with someone who could’ve pointed me in the right direction, helped me find resources, or just be a mentor (albeit with different research interests).
The relationship with your advisor is definitely a two-way street, and while we are incredibly busy, we need to keep in mind that our professors are as well. Now, I try to be more proactive about talking with my advisor. For me, it was also important to build a friendly rapport on a personal level–I need to know that my advisor is human. This help me foster understanding so that when I’m stressed out about something in my personal life, I can also cut them slack when they’re behind on something because of a stressor in their personal life.
Again, it is important to gauge what kind of advisor you have while figuring out how you work best. Sometimes you really don’t have a choice about your advisor if your field of specialization dictates whom you work with–make sure you find an outlet for a professor who you do connect with on various levels. There are plenty of people in your department who will be able to mentor you unofficially if that personality type is what you need to keep on track.
Katy: Having a good relationship with your advisor is key to success not only in your department, but also in your future. As Cory noted, this is a two way street. Your advisor is there to guide you through the process of getting your graduate degree, so you need to be proactive in using them as a resource. However, they are not the sole source of knowledge and advice on pursuing your degree. You need to be clear with your advisor about what you want to study and the type of career you want in the end. To get the advice that will be most helpful you need to be explicit about your goals so that your advisor can help you out.
It’s also important to realize that your advisor may not have all the answers. It is beneficial in some cases to have a number of different mentors in addition to your advisor. Not all professors have the same knowledge about what the job market is like today, or how research is proceeding in certain areas. By expanding beyond the advice of a single advisor you are able to make more informed decisions. Advisors are not infallible, so it’s better to get advice from a diversity of sources. In the end it is your decision to make whether it pleases your advisor or not. You need to be explicit about what you want, strategic in choosing which advice to take and follow the path that is going to fit with your ambitions.