22/08/2011 § 21 Comments
I work as an intern for a youth program in a public library. Most of my time is spent planning or implementing programs or leading book clubs, but every once in a while I encounter a parent with questions about books or technology issues for his or her teen.
A few weeks ago I had such an encounter with a parent: she approached my desk and asked me if the library had any kind of surveillance software installed in the teen computer lab. I explained that all of the library computers have an internet filter, but I don’t personally monitor what the teens are doing on the internet. I will only intervene if the youth is watching something that is actually illegal for them to watch, for example, pornography. The parent then asked if I knew of any email surveillance software she could install on her home computer to better monitor what her child was doing online. « Read the rest of this entry »
25/07/2011 § 31 Comments
Last winter my colleague Annie wrote about the importance of online self-branding for information professionals. I couldn’t agree more that personal branding is important for both budding and seasoned professionals. Not only does it demonstrate a level of competency with social media technologies, but it also demonstrates that you’re connected with the profession and other professionals. Plus, deciding to count your few free hours blogging and Twittering as professional development is totally awesome.
12/07/2011 § 13 Comments
Recently I read an article in Library Journal about a panel held at ALA Annual that encouraged the ALA to do more to promote diversity in the field. I’m certainly not the first blogger to discuss the uncomfortable racial demographics that exists in the information field and I will not bring any earth-shattering solution to the table. Instead, I want us to think about what diversity really is, why do we care so much about it, how would it help our profession and, ultimately, the population we serve.
Austin’s No-Majority and the iSchool
Talking about the state of diversity discipline-wide is outside the purview of this article; instead, I want to focus on the city where I live, work, and go to school: Austin, Texas. Austin is a particularly unique city because it has no racial majority: the white population in the city has dropped below 50% and the second largest racial group, Hispanics, are sitting right around 40%. This population trend is evident in the services the Austin Public Library offers, namely the New Immigrant Centers located in eight (of 21) branches. NICs have computers with ESL software, bookmarked links to citizenship and immigration websites, and guides to job and house hunting. Austin Public Library is aware of the growing need to serve a diversified (read: non-white) population and, in my opinion, does a pretty good job. Nearly every professional job posting at APL prefers a candidate who can speak Spanish.
Unfortunately, the librarians entering the Austin job market aren’t as diversified as the population. Many professional librarians at APL matriculated from the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Information. Let’s take a look at who makes up the iSchool student body:
According to the 2010-2011 Statistical Handbook of the University of Texas at Austin (see page 38 of the “Students” PDF), there were 268 graduate students in the iSchool in the Fall semester of 2010. Of those, 207 (77%) are white; 26 (10%) are Hispanic and the remaining students are comprised of black, Asian, Native American, and Pacific Islander. Not even close to representative of the population we will eventually be serving. And unlike some other programs that require a course in diversity (such as UCLA’s Ethics, Diversity, and Change), the iSchool doesn’t.
The Value of Diversity
Its easy to look at these numbers and think, well, so what? I’m inclined to do the same, particularly because the Austin Public Library seems so well attuned to the changing demographics and implementing new services to reflect those changes. What does a diversified library staff mean, anyway? What is all this diversity fuss really about?
Diversity should mean more than just scholarships, quotas, and pats on the back. Striving for a more diversified library staff should be about the integration of the library into the community. Community-integration requires mindfulness of the library’s location in the city, its collections, its policies and yes, the people working there. In my statement of purpose to the iSchool I talked about entering librarianship to be a part of community building and what I called community-based collections and organizing, a process that involves creating relevant, comprehensive and sensibly organized libraries that engage all members of the community. The fact that so few people of color choose to not enter this field (and yes I realize there are myriad reasons higher education is inaccessible to people of color or why those who do would want to choose something with a bit more earning potential) could mean that we, as librarians and community members, are out of touch with our communities.
What can LIS education do about it?
I’ll be the first to admit that the lack of diversity in the information profession is complicated, messy, and has no straightforward solution. The first step, though, has to start with ourselves. If your program doesn’t require an internship or some other field experience, do it anyway. Find out where you live, who you live with, what services are offered, what services aren’t, and who is satisfied. If your course guide is lacking in critical analyses of race, gender, and other sociopolitical demographics, take one in another department. Bring it up in class. Let’s demand a space for the uncomfortable, challenging, and important conversations.
Secondly, as Melody Dworak suggested in her blog, we should try to consult with other “pink collar” and predominately white workforces. Do they know something we don’t? I think she’s really on to something when she suggests we look for other ways into the profession that don’t cost as much time and money as a two-year graduate degree. We, as the future of the profession, need to figure out what roadblocks to the profession exist and what we need to do about them.
We’re facing a critical time for the information profession. I hope the future brings new meanings and responsibilities to librarianship, but more than anything else I hope we find a way to become an essential service to our communities. And we’re not going to do that by all looking the same.
17/06/2011 § 2 Comments
Polanka, Su, ed. No Shelf Required: E-Books in Libraries. American Library Association, 2011.
I have to be up front with you guys: I don’t have a Kindle. I’m certainly not a luddite and I’ve spent most of my life around computers. I remember first getting dial-up AOL at my house in elementary school, I had an AIM screen name and Live Journal account in middle school, my first cell phone at 15, and my mother still blames all her computer problems on Napster. You’d think someone like me who wants to be a librarian in the digital age would be fully seduced by the e-book. Heck, I even work for a program that implements technology instruction for teenagers. And yet, seduced I’m not. Sure, I have the typical complaints about missing the essence of the book–the pages! the feel! the margin notes!–but I’m also concerned about the implications of e-books for the preservation and perpetuation of knowledge. What does it mean for a library to no longer own a part of its collection but instead own licenses to it? What would it mean for OverDrive (or some other third-party vendor) to go out of business, or more likely consolidate with another vendor? How are e-books in libraries serving the mission of increasing information and technology literacy? It’s no joke the digital divide still exists, so how can e-books be used to serve this population? So, when I asked the HLS team for suggestions for books and Polanka’s No Shelf Required came up, I was in. “Convince me,” I dared it. « Read the rest of this entry »
02/06/2011 § 24 Comments
The above image is the philosophy of information science of the UT iSchool, one that manifests in its approach to curriculum and preparing students to enter the workforce. I began the program in the fall of 2010 and expect to graduate May of 2012. My decision to attend the UT iSchool was influenced by in-state tuition (my parents live in Texas), the reputation of the school, and the versatility of the program. I am kind of in love with the program, though it isn’t without its flaws. Needless to say, these opinions are strictly my own!
The UT School of Information (colloquially, the iSchool) was founded in 1948 and offered a Masters of Library Science. The School of Library and Information Science was founded in 1980 as a response to the increased focus on information science as a discipline and profession. To fully reflect the interdisciplinary focus of the program, in 2000 the school removed its Masters of Library Science and instead only offered a Masters of Information Science, which is what it still offers today. In 2002, the name of the school officially changed its name to the School of Information. « Read the rest of this entry »