11/11/2013 § 17 Comments
My first interaction with a computer was in my second grade public school classroom. Each day we had a set rotation where students either spent the afternoon reading a book, writing in a journal, or playing in the “computer lab.” The latter rotation section was a favorite because a handful of us were able to, nay required to, play games on this device most of us probably did not have access to outside the classroom. I cannot recall the specific programs available on the computers, but remember thinking we were so lucky to not have to do “school stuff” for a couple hours like everyone else.
That was 1996, fast-forward 17 years and think of how far technology has advanced! Schools are no longer lucky just to have a couple green screen computers, yet some have a whole room of flat screen computers, tablets in the classroom, or personal laptops for every student. Even libraries have jumped on board by offering access to public computers, free wi-fi and makerspaces. But how has this influx of technology changed how our youth learn? Has technology become a great addition or a mere distraction in an education setting?
Currently I volunteer at an elementary school library and with a teen makerspace where technology is a common connection. The majority of my time at both locations is spent helping students with something as simple as logging into a computer to more complex activities like using the UP! 3D printer. While I always leave each site even more energized about working with youth, I have to wonder if increasing technology in the classroom is actually increasing learning opportunities. In the end my answer is always the same, “Definitely yes… if done correctly.”
08/11/2013 § 7 Comments
Hello Hack Library School readers! I’m excited to introduce myself with a topic very near and dear to my heart: managing volunteers.
In 2011, after finishing my MA, I found myself at a bit of a crossroads and needed to do something different and interesting while I figured out what was next. So I started a year-long AmeriCorps placement with an arts education nonprofit, helping administer three volunteer programs. I did everything from the nitty-gritty of event RSVPs and answering questions about the application process to big-picture reevaluations of the entire volunteer recruitment and screening system. Although none of these skills are taught in my MLIS program, I can already tell that they’ll be among the most valuable skills in my professional toolkit.
Much of the recent debate about unpaid internships can also be applied to volunteering; it can provide valuable experience for volunteers and build capacity for organizations. Plus, it often just feels really good. But when volunteering becomes an expectation or prerequisite for moving ahead in a field, or when administrators use volunteers to replace professional staff, thorny ethical issues arise. Despite these concerns, though, volunteering remains an important part of our civic and cultural landscape, and my guess is that it’s here to stay.
So I’m not here to tell you that volunteering is inherently good or bad for the profession, or to tell you that you should or should not volunteer as an MLIS student. I am absolutely here to tell you that you will need to manage volunteers at some point in your career, and that your MLIS program most likely will not equip you to do so. Volunteers are a long-term investment for your organization, and without some forethought and infrastructure, neither you nor your volunteers will be satisfied. So here are some basics you’ll want to keep in mind as you get started:
06/11/2013 § 7 Comments
In the library world, enthusiasm is not in short supply. I’d even go so far as to say that being excited about things is quickly becoming part of the new librarian stereotype, along with being 25, tattooed, pink-haired, and on a skateboard. Think about it—an abundance of library websites, blogs, and Twitter feeds focus on being clever, sharing new book finds, and poking fun at our profession. And while all this is great (and hilarious), I often wonder, where’s everybody’s indignation? Doesn’t something (other than rude patrons) make you mad?
I’ll go ahead and admit that I sometimes wonder why I’m in the library business at all. But then I meet people who remind me, like the 75-year-old woman who could hardly walk without breathing heavily who needed help applying for a job at Burger King. Unpack that one—digital illiteracy, elder care, unemployment, disability. That makes me mad. And when I get mad, I do what librarians do best—I start learning.
Of the five tracks my MLIS program offers (youth services, cataloging, management, reference, and technology), I originally chose to focus on technology because, honestly, I thought it would look amazing on my resume. But once I started working at a public library, everything I learned in my technology classes started to come into focus. Digital illiteracy became real to me, and I realized that my classes were preparing me to think about the big picture concerning the impact of new technologies on libraries, their patrons, and the world.
These classes and experiences prepared me to think critically about a topic that I hadn’t even realized mattered to me. They gave my studies a sense of purpose, and they reinforced the lessons I’d learned in core classes. And yes, as I predicted, they’re starting to make my resume look a lot better, too.
It is my advice, then, when designing your course of study, to specialize in something that makes you mad, something that will equip you with the skills to right the wrongs you see. I know that letting what makes you mad drive your decisions is usually a bad idea, but in this case, it makes sense. Enthusiasm wanes (Twilight, anyone?), but man, can people hold a grudge. And sometimes, that’s a good thing.
You don’t have to sink your teeth into an issue and never let go, but it’s not a bad idea to at least keep the issue where you can see it. Don’t ignore what you like—try tearing me away from display making, why don’t you—but don’t ignore what makes you mad, either. You may find something new to love.
What do you think fellow hackers? Is there enough indignation among library people? Is there anything that makes you mad?
05/11/2013 § 5 Comments
Congratulations! You’ve made it to library school. Hopefully you are getting accustomed to the expectations and challenges of your program. If you have registered for spring classes, you are likely busy planning out the rest of your requirements and looking towards getting that ever-valuable practical experience.
Entering a new program is often a mix of preparation, nerves, and adjustment. Much of this adjustment can be based on how our peers are treating their education, and our reactions to the misperceptions of one another’s backgrounds. One troubling thing for me during my first year was how I was constantly encountering the notion that students fit mainly into two categories:
1. Those who have entered school straight from their undergrad program
2. Older students already in the profession who are looking to strengthen their marketability.
This assumption is embedded in the culture of grad school: from the school’s marketing, to the classroom discussions, to how we view the objectives of our degree. The frequency with which this young-old dichotomy shows up even in discussions here on HLS attests to how commonly the ‘experience’ perception can be misguided. As a 30-something grad student, I have had many conversations where people assumed that I was experienced or established in the field. If you count yourself as a younger student, for whom the newness of learning with students of ‘advanced age’ can be intimidating, I have a confession. I entered library school 11 years after finishing my undergrad and with ZERO library experience.
01/11/2013 § 6 Comments
Tis the start of the season when we begin to list all the things we are thankful for: Tofurkey, pajama skinny jeans, NFL Sunday tickets, and failing a class in library school.
I know, you probably said, “pajama skinny jeans, really?” but they’ll come in handy on Turkey Day, trust me. More importantly, this post is about being thankful for some of the obstacles we might face during our graduate studies. In particular, it’s about what happens when a set-back like failing a class actually turns out to be the saving grace that motivates you through the remainder of library school.
Now, a quick disclaimer: this post is not meant to downplay library students who are able to successfully balance many responsibilities without having to fail a class, nor is it to excuse the act of failure. The purpose of this post is simply this: you and I will fail at some point in our lives and that’s okay, but how you choose to make that failure work for you is what counts. Failing and giving up are not one and the same.
Here is my story…