TMI: Tammi Kim Discusses Student Government and Student Organizations

31/03/2011 § 1 Comment

Student organizations and student government are a big part of the MLIS experience, mirroring committee work and boards we will be expected to participate in as information professionals. Listen in!

Don’t Like Your Curriculum? Change It!

14/03/2011 § 11 Comments

You’re scanning your program’s course schedule, and see no classes being offered in your specialization.  Or you attend a conference, and realize that there is a gaping hole in the way your school addresses this important issue in the field.  The good news: you’re an engaged learner who is conscious of the resources being put into your coursework and your degree.  The bad news: graduate schools have finite money, faculty, and flexibility for adding courses to the register.  What can you do to make sure your curriculum meets your interests and educational and professional needs? Take charge!

In 2003, the Student Diversity Action Group came to the faculty of the UCLA IS program, and submitted a proposal for two courses, one being a core course that addressed cultural diversity and activist thoughts, tools, and resources for the contemporary information professional.  The result?  An existing class was dropped from the core curriculum, and Ethics and Diversity became a graduation requirement.  As of 2009, UCLA is the only program that requires a course on diversity for information professionals*.

Looking at the motivations for this addition to the curriculum, it’s easy to see why UCLA students asked for such a course.  Serving the diverse population of Los Angeles, working with indigenous populations, and designing information access structures for communities across the world, MLIS students recognized the need to be aware of cultural and community differences in approaches to information.  The UCLA MLIS program is an incredibly diverse one itself, hosting more ALA Spectrum Scholars than any other.  IS students deserved (and demanded) that their education meet an important concern for their research, practice, and development as professionals.  If you feel your curriculum doesn’t do the same, here are some ideas to make it happen:

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[Series] TMI #4 Maggie Johnson of Los Angeles Public Library

23/02/2011 § 2 Comments

In this edition of TMI (two-minute interview), Senior Los Angeles Public Librarian Maggie Johnson speaks about the budget crisis in public libraries, and how being unable to hire recent graduates will affect the future of the public library.

Listening to Ms. Johnson describe the state of librarianship in the public library, is this the case for all information specializations? Will the current hiring market cause us to “lose a generation” of information professionals? How does this affect recruitment? How does this affect you?

Big Tent Library School

14/02/2011 § 29 Comments


Supporting the Big Tent. Joseph Warren, Photographer. Sourced from NYPL Digital Gallery.

In December, Library Journal posted an article by Andy Woodworth, of Agnostic, Maybe, on “big tent librarianship” in their “Back Talk” column.  Big tent librarianship is an idea guided by the belief that librarians, regardless of their chosen information specialization or information institution, like academic librarianship or public librarianship, are all connected by the same principles, and can enact positive change by uniting around these principles. The original article, titled “We Need Big Tent Librarianship,” is an inspiring and thought-provoking read, and to officially kick off Hack Library School, a collaboration committed to and an example of big tent librarianship, I’d like to draw on Mr. Woodworth’s ideas and relate them to library school.

When we enter library school, the divisions begin immediately.  Are you a future archivist?  A public librarian?  A public YA librarian?  While we might all begin in the same “Introduction to Information” class, confused and scared as a professor explains exactly how an antelope can be a document, our specialization quickly siphons us off into “Preservation,” “Metadata,” “Storytelling,” and “Archival Methods.” It can be hard to remember, behind our stacks of PDFs, that after “Intro to Info,” we came together and were excited, too, because what we heard resonated with something we believed– we just didn’t have the words for it yet.

And that’s what library school is.  It brings together people who have a belief in the power of information, and gives us the tools and the ideas to do something concrete with that belief.  How we choose to do it may look very different in the end, but that passion for information is a thread that unites us.

The “big tent” mentality must begin in library school.  We must begin by challenging ourselves to reach out to those in our department, and to students at other library schools.  The web has allowed for the conventional barriers of interaction to fall away, and given us the tools to somewhat define our own education.  Yes, we may all have to take this class or present that paper to graduate, but interacting with fellow library school students will inform and expand our motivations and knowledge,  give us new tools for advocacy, and a broader platform to advocate from, constructively criticize our own education, and offer successful solutions to other students looking for change in their own programs.

So how to do it?  Read library student blogs and comment.  Ask a fellow student about the paper they’re working on.  Follow conference hashtags on Twitter, especially those outside your own specialty.  Be aware of the achievements of your peers, not only at your own schools, but across the nation, and tell other people about it in person, on your blog.  It may be difficult.  We’re all so focused on being hireable, and in being as competent in our own fields as possible, these are big things to commit to.  Andy Woodworth points to James Rettig’s “library ecosystem,” in which all types of libraries depend on one another.  We can extend this ecosystem analogy to all the information institutions, and especially to our fellow library school students.

We are the future protectors and promoters of information access, preservation, and literacy, and so we must protect and promote one another.

Library school is the perfect place to begin to explore the possibilities that a shared passion brings.  Once we graduate and move on with our careers, most of us won’t be interacting with people in information professions other than our own unless we’re proactive about it.  Library school mixes us all together and exposes us to the challenges and strengths of other information professions and gives us the perfect opening to start a relationship with potential collaborators and future colleagues.

What could these partnerships look like?  What could they achieve?  In a society where information has become such a commodity, how could our collaborations ensure not only the existence of our professions and our institutions, but a flourishing?  Quoting Hack Library School’s own “About” page, “What will the information professions be next year if we define it for ourselves today?”

How Hireable Are You?

25/01/2011 § 6 Comments

This is a re-post from my blog on a resource for evaluating your job readiness.  I made a few edits, and I’ve added a “general” spreadsheet for any type of IS work (or any job, really).  When thinking about classes, internships, and volunteering to develop your skill set, I’ve found having a concrete way of tracking your development against what information institutions are looking for is really helpful.

*     *     *

An academic librarian visited one of my classes last quarter, and she talked about the hiring process in the California State University system.  The CSU uses points and rankings in hiring their librarians, which many public libraries do as well.

This got me thinking about what I would look like on paper in a point system, so I whipped up these spreadsheets.  The first is geared towards public youth librarians; the second is only the categories, to fill in with whatever skills you notice in your own profession’s job postings.

The left hand side is a list of job skills/qualifications, broken down by required/desired.  If I had a skill in “desired” but it came up as a “required” in another job posting, I moved it to “required” to be as prepared as possible.  Across the top is a variety of categories, including whether I have this skill or not, and if so, how; what courses and experiences have been relevant; what I would rank myself in accordance to other 2010/2011 grads and public librarians that have been working for up to three years (Librarian I), and ways to further develop that skill.  On my personal spreadsheet, I included a list of links to library job posting sites in the regions I’m most interested in, as well as a list of the youth/children’s librarian positions I drew the job skills from, where they’re located, and the pay/benefits of each, to track geographic differences in job skills.  I find it useful to have one access point for my job resources when checking in to the job market.

I’ve been filling mine in and altering it as I add more experiences, and using it to evaluate weak spots to think about in terms of what classes to take, and making the most of internships and assignments.  Feel free to take these spreadsheets and use them however you’d like!  I’ve also included a link to competencies as defined by professional associations to consider when planning career development.


Job Skill Evaluation: Public Youth Librarians

Job Skill Evaluation: Information Professions


From ALA: A roster of professional competencies by specialization (this includes archivists, information technologists, LIS educators, etc…)


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