LIS Education, Advocacy, and the Future of Librarianship

15/04/2011 § 13 Comments

Note: I posted this a bit ago on my blog, but since it has a lot to do with how we approach LIS education as students and new professionals, I wanted to post it here too!

A lot of discussion has been circulating about the future of librarianship in response to comments made by Jeffrey Trzeciak (of McMaster University) indicating that he wouldn’t hire any more librarians, preferring instead to give certain positions to people in IT or with PhDs. I agree that in many instances you might want to consider candidates from a variety of backgrounds, but to discount librarians (especially coming from the University Librarian himself!) is an indication of how deeply our field is misunderstood. I first read about it through Jenica Rogers’ post, which I think provides a great intro to the subject and some awesome perspective on why we need advocacy as professionals (not just as a profession or as institutions.) My fellow Hack Library School editors, along with Courtney Walters and a few others, began discussing the topic via Twitter (I was at work, so didn’t get to jump in until after the fact!) If you’re interested in seeing the discussion, look for #savelibrarians. In addition, some blog posts have started going up to discuss our future as professionals–a great post in particular is Courtney Walter’s discussion of our identity crisis as librarians/info pros.

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Student Programming at Conferences

25/03/2011 § 11 Comments

InfoCamp Berkeley 7

by-nc-nd | Flickr User PZAO

UPDATE: We caught the attention of ALA with this one and Jenny Levine AKA The Shifted Librarian posted the following comment – we encourage everyone to submit ideas and participate in the Civics Class.

Hackers, great post. I’d like to encourage you to submit programs for the 2011 Annual Virtual Conference – there’s still time.

Also, are you planning to play along with ALA Civics Class this spring? Please say yes. I could use your feedback on the syllabus.

Jenny Levine
ALA staff

 

As future LIS professionals, we’re expected to attend conferences both to network and to become more familiar with our interest areas. It’s a good idea, but with most conference programming focused on those already working full-time, it can feel like our voices are getting lost. I’m writing this post to share some ideas that I have for student programming at conferences as ALA creeps ever closer. This post is also being published on the day that our student body at SLIS is hosting our first student-focused conference (more on that later!) More importantly, I want to hear from you: what is it that you look for in a conference that makes or breaks your decision to attend? What programming would help you develop as a professional, or help you explore new areas as a student?

The idea for this post came from ALA Think Tank, when Jenny Levine asked for programming suggestions for ALA’s annual virtual conference. I said I would like to see more student programming, but after posting it I realized I wanted to be more specific. What is ‘student programming,’ exactly? Obviously we can benefit greatly from a lot of the programming that is keeping people out in the field informed, but as students, we are also in a different place. Here are some of the things I’m thinking that either already exist or that I’d like to see:

  • Job hunting/PhD prep: it’s on all of our minds! ALA has some great options already (office for diversity–double check–hosts a PhD fair where you can meet folks from different programs) that I loved last year. Look up job hunting stuff. Helpful to have something focused on new job seekers fresh out of school (ie how not to get lost in the crowd).
  • Networking: conferences are a plethora of networking opportunities already. Some departments also host get togethers for attending members and alumni to network, as do some divisions/roundtables/etc. A student-specific gathering would be a great way to share advice with others in the same place to talk about student life–a IRL version of HLS!
  • Student research panels/posters: what are we doing in our classes? how about our jobs/internships? Finding ways to build on and apply this work to boosting your resume and getting some publication and presentation experience is a good thing. At our conference, presenters and posters get feedback forms from the audience to help them see how their work was received.
  • Mentoring: As we’ve mentioned here before, having real-world experience is key, and a mentor can be someone who can help show you the ropes as you learn more about the field and your place in it. The downside? Mentoring can be hit or miss (see some of the commentary included in Micah’s post coming later today) and doesn’t always give you the experience you hoped for. I wonder if ALA’s various divisions, roundtables, etc. might be more inclined to offer mentoring opportunities if there was a clearly understood ‘contract’ for what both parties wanted. For example, something as simple as having potential mentors and students interested in mentoring each fill out a form. For mentors, this could be something outlining their areas of expertise and what activities or events they are interested in sharing with a student, while students could say what they want to learn about/see/do and what areas of librarianship they are most interested in.

Also, the HLS crew has been talking about having a get-together or going as a group to certain events during ALA Annual. Readers–what do YOU want from this? Formal/informal, a certain type of venue, etc. Let us know!

So, Why Do You Want a PhD?

07/03/2011 § 22 Comments

The title of this post is a question that I have been asked a *million* times (OK, slight exaggeration) over the last year as I’ve filled out applications, done interviews, and talked with friends, family, and colleagues about the process. Everyone has different motivations and experiences that lead them to the PhD, but for those who are curious, here are my reasons:

1. I love research. Can’t get enough of it. Many friends and family members have been bored nearly to tears as I’ve gone on long-winded rants about some amazing new piece of information I found or a breakthrough I had in writing a chapter. Not only do I love research, I love writing about my research and sharing what I learn with other people. This brings me to my next point…

2. Teaching/mentoring makes me happy. Granted, I don’t have the most experience with this, but I love sharing what I know and learning from others, and what better place to do that than in the classroom? I also want to make my classroom a place students want to be, and where people feel safe sharing new ideas and growing together. How do I hope to do this? Well, that’s where you come in (see below).

3. LIS rocks. You already know this, but if you didn’t, you heard it here first. So many exciting things are going on in our field, and I feel like it’s a great time for folks who want to collaborate and stretch the boundaries of what we do and how we approach our work. I really want to be on the forefront of that change, and training future info pros to be impassioned and informed is a great way to do it.

4. I like learning. I love to learn new things, and the more new things I learn in a given day, the happier I tend to be. It might be hard to thrive in LIS unless you love to learn, and I suspect it would be *really* hard to be a PhD student (and someday, one hopes, a faculty member) when you stagnate and stop seeking out new ways to learn and grow.

So, LIS students past and present, this is where I want your input, both for my own growth and for other folks out there considering the PhD track. Since at least a goodly chunk of us plan on being professors, it would be great to know what it is you love (or don’t) about your faculty members’ approaches (or about curricula, although that’s been addressed somewhat elsewhere). One request I have is that we avoid a string of comments about a lack of experience in a library: it’s true, many faculty have little experience or haven’t worked in a library for years (more on that in a future post). What I would like to talk about instead is how the faculty members have made materials interesting (i.e. was there a theory that bored you to death until that one faculty member was able to explain it in a way that it clicked and became relevant?) or teaching strategies you especially enjoyed (for example, awesome Andre Brock in my department used a wordpress-based class blog for discussion, which resulted in the most involved and insightful discussions I’ve ever been a part of in a class). Part of the HLS philosophy is to use this space to talk about how we as students see LIS education (including both what we love and where we see room for improvement). I want to foster an educational environment where faculty and students are collaborators and where students have a meaningful role in shaping our degrees, so this seems like a great place to start getting that input while I’m still a student too!

Diversity in LIS Education

10/02/2011 § 4 Comments

This is a post I originally posted on my blog after being inspired by Micah’s post on diversity in LIS. I agree with Micah that the best way to start promoting diversity is to start talking, and I’ve already had some really great comments in response to this post. I’d love to hear what you have to say too!

A couple things have happened lately that have caused me to spend some serious time contemplating diversity issues in LIS. The first was a post made on a professional listserv I follow. One individual shared a letter she had written to Iowa legislators about a number of issues, including library funding. She mentioned that the letter included other issues, but that she shared it on the list for those who were struggling to find words when talking to elected officials about libraries. For those of you who aren’t from Iowa, you may or may not know that a lot of people here are very divided at the moment over the issue of gay marriage, and the fact that this woman’s letter included mention of her support for gay marriage was upsetting to some other list members.
One member’s response was basically, “if she wants to go against what THE BIBLE says, that’s her right, but keep libraries out of it.” I tend to stay away from angry listserv discussions (people get riled up about everything from tuna fish to book boards on the lists I follow, and most of the time I just sigh and delete the thread), but this instance was one where I felt compelled to respond and say that the list included non-Christian individuals, and that not only did that response make them uncomfortable, it took time and attention away from the library issues the list was created to discuss. I did not mention my stance on gay marriage in the hopes that I could diffuse things rather than add my own anger to the discussion (but, for the record, I’m an ardent supporter!) I also wanted to avoid belittling the author’s views, because she has most likely formed them with as much care as I have formed my own.
This angry response, and a number of others on both sides, gave me a chance to reflect on what was happening. Are these discussions we should be having on professional listservs? I think the answer can be yes, but the trick is how we approach it. As librarians and info pros, we are in charge of providing information to people and (I hope) focusing more heavily on what their needs are than what about them we don’t like. I suspect most of us do this very well, and so the list might be a place we can talk about how to provide services to diverse groups or, maybe, even to discuss our own views or how we react when confronted with a patron we find challenging. My request is that we refrain from the anger and divisiveness I saw in some of those responses and focus instead on the issues and on discussion rather than on tearing each other down. About a week later, Micah Vandegrift published this awesome diversity post on the Hack Library School blog, and it made me think that maybe now would be a good time to share some of the thoughts I’ve had on diversity since I’ve been in LIS.
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So how do I pay for all this?

04/02/2011 § 3 Comments

From Flickr user walknboston

One thing students and potential students in nearly every field stress out about is how to pay for their education, and LIS is no different. I’ve compiled a list of places to look for support. I’m sure there are some I’m leaving out, so if you know of an extra resource, please share!

Departmental scholarships/fellowships/assistantships: Your department probably has some funding lying around that students compete for yearly, and I definitely recommend giving this a look when you apply. I looked at our scholarships *after* I started, only to realize that the ones I wanted were for 1st-semester students. Ideally, you can apply for scholarships and assistantships and the like when you apply to the school, if not, write the program assistant to find out what steps you need to take to be considered! Another bonus to assistantships and fellowships, in addition to some nice funding, is great experience! You get to work closely with a faculty member and learn more about their work, gain some new skills, and hopefully get a nice recommendation out of the deal as well.

Read on for more funding tips…

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