Praxis and the Perennial Conflict between Theory and Practice in Library Education

05/06/2013 § 7 Comments

prax·is \ˈprak-səs\ n. 1. the actual work of a profession (as opposed to the practice of it in training situations) 2. in social work, the concept of reflexive, integrated theory and practice 3. in education, the processes of reflective experiential learning or, following Paulo Freire’s work, the combination of reflection and action in the world that leads to transformations of oppressive conditions


Photograph from Pages and Pictures.

Does a dog need to read a book about being a dog? Does a librarian need to read a book about being a librarian? These questions may seem similar, but I suspect that most people have different answers to them. And yet, much of the conversation about library and information science (LIS) education seems to suggest that librarians do their work best simply through practice rather than reading and learning about librarianship.
More on praxis, Shulamith Firestone, and dogs…

Collaboration and the Library World

06/05/2013 § 2 Comments

I recently went to my first conference for librarians, the Minnesota Library Association’s annual ARLD Day, and I greatly enjoyed hearing from librarians and interacting with some of my library school peers in that environment. In the keynote presentation, Jenica Rogers provided a wonderful reminder that librarians should stop accepting what people offer as the terms of foundational work relationships (with vendors, legislators, what have you). More importantly, she encouraged librarians to stop thinking of ourselves as helpless against the people we collaborate with in making libraries work. I look forward to attending many more conferences, unconferences, and other gatherings of librarians to learn and partake of the energy that circulates in such spaces and the validation of our shared values.

This conference reminded me of something that I think is crucial to a solid LIS education. As much as we worry over the specific content of an LIS education, librarians-in-training must constantly remember to reach out to people in other fields, whether they are faculty in academic disciplines (for academic librarians), vendors of information materials, information technology specialists in their institution, social services agencies in the community (for public librarians), or teachers in schools (for both school media specialists and public librarians). We must learn how to work with others with different skills and training, and we must learn how to think about our work not just as supplementary to other people’s work but as complementary and mutually beneficial.

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Building Project Management Skills as a Student

28/02/2013 § 7 Comments

As librarians’ roles evolve, project management skills are becoming increasingly significant to potential employers. Library students interested in technical and leadership positions may want to acquire project management experience while still in school. This can be challenging, since the nature of a project manager’s role involves levels of responsibility that may not be given to graduate students.

Some ways to attain this experience may include volunteering on digital projects, involvement with professional organizations, or taking a leadership role in group classwork. Internships and pre-professional jobs may offer access to relevant professional development workshops- I attended a 2-part project management course run by the project management office at my internship site, which gave me a valuable overview of project management concepts and practices.

For a look at one specific LIS student/project manager experience, I sent some interview questions to Chelsea Gunn, who managed a digital library project for a class we both took at Simmons College GSLIS. The class collaborated on a semester-long project and built a digital library showcasing materials from the Simmons Archives. This was a complex undertaking involving multiple working groups of students with overlapping deadlines and dependencies, and Chelsea made sure our deadlines and standards were met.

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Apply Yourself

20/02/2013 § 30 Comments

When I tell people what I am doing in Florence, Italy for a year, I am invariably asked one question: “How did you land such a position?!” To which I smile broadly, often chuckle a little and answer simply and honestly: “I applied.” This, my LIS, MLIS and MSIT friends is one of my best hacks for library school and life.

Oldtimey Librarian

“Library Automation 6″ by quisnovus via Flickr under CC.

“80% of success is showing up.” – Woody Allen

You have to show up. For most positions and roles that you want to land, that means tossing your hat in the ring with an application.

If you have been following HLS’s new series “So What Do You Do?” you have heard about a number of great internships and programs to round out your LIS education. In none of them (at least so far) does the hacker say: well I was just standing around on a street corner and someone said “come do this thing.” Whether it be getting into library school, volunteering, taking a leadership position in the club which eventually leads to the internship which then leads to a job with your dream organization… all the steps start with some sort of applying yourself — even if it is as simple as showing up.

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[Series] So What Do You Do? Interning for Government Website Usability

28/12/2012 § 7 Comments

This post is part of a new series called “So What Do You Do?” in which LIS students talk about their experiences as interns. We want to showcase the wide range of things people are doing in the world of library and information science.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Steve Ammidown, and I’m a student in the Archives, Records and Information Management specialization at the University of Maryland’s iSchool.  My undergraduate background is in sociology and gender studies; prior to that I spent nine years working in the corporate sector as a paralegal and office administrator.

So what do you do?

I’m just finishing up as a Usability and User Experience intern at the U.S. General Services Administration’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies (and people wonder why acronyms are so popular in the federal government?) here in Washington, D.C.

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