Editing Wikipedia While In Library School

17/04/2014 § 4 Comments

Are you a Wikibrarian? I recently became one—a librarian who edits Wikipedia (“the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit”)—and I have found the experience rewarding in the extreme. I have even stumbled into a role as an embedded consultant, helping faculty teach undergrads how to write Wikipedia articles on gender history, on which improvements are urgently needed. So what are the benefits to becoming a Wikibrarian while in library school?

Wikipedia is legit

My role as a Wikibrarian is possible because Wikipedia has become increasingly “legit” among the more open-minded educators and information professionals. Wikipedia’s rigor and quality have come a long way from Steve Carell’s classic deadpan in The Office a few years ago. Now Harvard University’s rare books library is recruiting a Wikipedian in Residence! Best uses of Wikipedia are to find background information, bibliographies, topic ideas, quick facts, and keywords. Selective editing, conflict of interest, copied and pasted text, and other problems do persist, but even the Encyclopedia Britannica has been known to error.

One does not simply cite Wikipedia

Meme by Michael Rodriguez

Rather than proscribe or ignore the world’s most popular resource, librarians such as Hack Library School’s Anna-Sophia are opting to teach information literacy skills that learners are able to apply to Wikipedia—precisely as they should to any resource. « Read the rest of this entry »

Things to Do Before You Graduate from Library School

11/04/2014 § 5 Comments

My final month as a graduate student will be a whirlwind of activity, largely due to the fact that I am starting a new job just weeks after I graduate. Whether you have a new job, are still on the hunt, are moving or not – graduating from your program is undoubtedly a busy time. Here are a few things that are on my to-do list before graduating, in no particular order.

1) Write thank you notes. There are so many people I want to thank now that my time at Indiana University is over, including job references, current and former supervisors, professors, and department staff members. I want to make sure to acknowledge all of their help and kindness over the years.

2) Renew/begin professional memberships. You’ll be oh so happy later on that you did this at the student rate, which is fractions cheaper than the institutional rate. This is the last time you’ll be able to take advantage of your student status – go for it! I had diverse interests as a student because I didn’t know where I would end up in library technology. Now that I know the specific areas I will be working in, it’s easier for me to decide what organizations are most relevant to me.

3) Organize post-grad logistics. Are you staying where you are? Are you moving? If you’re plotting a move it takes a lot of work. Do some research. If you have a job, does your employer offer a relocation allowance? Sometimes this is available to all employees and other times it needs to be negotiated. Think through all of these details.

4) Understand my new job. If you’ve secured a job already, make sure you fill out all of your paperwork. Learn about your benefits, retirement contribution, and other real job stuff. As someone who has been an hourly worker for my entire life, these were all pretty new to me. I found it helpful to set a tentative budget and debt repayment plan, two things that become easier once you calculate the taxes, retirement contribution, parking, and other expenses associated with your position. If there’s something you don’t understand, consult the human resources department. In my experience, they’ll be more than happy to help you.

5) See the sights. I’m taking a southern road trip to celebrate graduation and have some fun before my impending move back to the frozen tundra that is Wisconsin. I am also planning lots of day trips and weekend trips to see nearby cities that I just didn’t get to over the past few years.

6) Try not to freak out too much about the future. Graduation brings with it lots of uncertainty, whether you have a job yet or not. There are so many variables; there is always a trade off. In my case, my partner of seven years and I will be be living in separate cities for the first time ever. Even though I am confident it’s the right choice for us and we are both excited for each other, it will be a hard transition. There aren’t easy answers. It would be so easy to move from a state of panic over what job I will get into a state of panic about how (if!) we will end up together eventually, but instead I am just going with the flow. I’m choosing happiness.

Graduates or soon-to-be graduates, what are your suggestions to wrap up library school?

Keeping Serendipity Alive: or, Hacking the Culture of Cramming

10/04/2014 § 6 Comments

When I first started talking to librarians about going to library school, I was told over and over that “everyone hates library school; it’s just something you have to do.” Judging by Kara’s posts on asking for help and boosting your enthusiasm when overwhelmed, Alison’s brush with dropping out, and Becky’s bunches of lemons, to name just a few, I’m hardly alone in finding this to be (mostly) true. I chose an accelerated one-year program mainly in the interest of getting an actual career under way before passing from the “mid-twenties” into the dreaded “late-twenties” demographic, and it has been a race to pick up best practices and theory, metadata schemas and management tactics, to churn out assignments and rack up internship hours. MLIS curricula are, by and large, geared towards training us to do a job – one which is increasingly under threat of marginalization and shaped by the blood instinct to survive in a neoliberal environment of assessment and ROI. The concept of library advocacy is all too often conflated with marketing, and entire genres of blogs and student services programming have developed to teach us, as LIS students, to think of ourselves as commodities.

When I first learned about the wonderful new blog, ebrowsing.org, something clicked. For all our talk of discoverability and connection, there is very little room for exploration in library school. There is very, very little room for generative joy and love in library school. And I am beginning to suspect that this grad school culture of product over process negatively affects our practices later on as professionals. The stress we feel as we race to check assignments and entire fields of inquiry off our graduation to-do lists doesn’t just hurt us — it hurts every single patron we serve.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Pro Bono Librarianing

09/04/2014 § 4 Comments

I’m an attorney, and one of the things that attorneys are encouraged (in some states,required) to do is pro bono work. “Pro bono” means “for good” and is generally representation of a low-income person or a non-profit organization without payment. Libraries are generally a community function and librarians generally serve communities (but see my most recent post, on independent information professionals). There’s less of an opportunity for librarians to do the same sort of “pro bono” work. Volunteering isn’t really the same thing.

But I think, nevertheless, that there are real opportunities for pro bono librarianing. I came to this conclusion while at a conference of the Law Library Association of Maryland about Access to Justice. As an attorney, I had always thought about access to justice as a lawyer thing, not a law librarian thing. It makes sense, though, that librarians would have a role in access in justice.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Asking for Help When You Need It and Knowing When to Help Yourself

02/04/2014 § 1 Comment

Do you remember what it was like to be an undergraduate?  I took a few years off between college and my MLS, but I can still recall the endless “student social events,” the finals-week pampering and “de-stressing” events that my college hosted without fail.  The intro-to-the-library session all the first-years received. Basically, the hand-holding.

I’m not saying undergrad is a breeze.  There’s plenty of work involved, and those degrees are earned.  But undergrads enjoy a lot more basic support structures and failsafe measures to keep the clueless from falling through the cracks.  Masters and PhD programs, while wonderful, are a whole different deal (especially when you’re online). There are very few measures to catch you if you screw up, and while I’m sure your program wants to see you succeed, you’re the only one responsible for your success.

But that’s not to say you won’t get help if you need it.  The key is knowing who to ask, when to ask, and when you should really be helping yourself.  Here are some common problems and ways that they might be solved.  Please add your own problems and solutions below the line! « Read the rest of this entry »

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