Hacking Your Career Plans: Independent Information Professionals

24/03/2014 § 3 Comments

This post came about as a result of combining in my mind the following four things:

  1. A conversation about possible directions of big legal research sites (Lexis and Westlaw, specifically but hypothetically)*, now that there are so many reliable alternatives for finding primary law (statutes, court opinions) at significantly lower cost;
  2. The worn-out trope of the “death of libraries” (to which I’m not linking any items–do we really need to give it any more press?);
  3. Musings on the term “Chief Information Officer” and how it generally has nothing to do with information and everything to do with technology; and
  4. An announcement of a conference of the Association of Independent Information Professionals.

The sum of these parts is brownies. (Yum.)

No, the sum of these parts is the role of the librarian outside the four walls of the library. (And brownies.)

Many of us are going to get our degrees, find a job in a public, academic, or special library of our choice, and live happily ever after. But some of us may not want that. Did you know that you don’t have to want that?

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Cheap Skate or Pioneering Information Professional?

21/03/2014 § 1 Comment

I’m not going to say that my graduate student budget forced me into the world of open source software, but it certainly didn’t hurt.  There was a time when “open source” was synonymous with “free of charge”, but with the proliferation of mobile technologies and free apps, the lines between for-profit and not-for-profit software are now blurred.  Therefore the distinction must be made that open source software contains a license, which allows the user to modify the code and to freely distribute the software to anyone, for any purpose.  As a result, this software is often community developed, and widely distributed.

So why should you invest your precious time in learning how to use these free alternatives?  Let me consult a recognizable mantra.  Some of the triumphs of open source software come right out of ALA’s mission statement: “Equitable Access to Information, Intellectual Freedom, Education and Lifelong Learning”.  There can be obstacles to early adoption, primarily the learning curve, but grad school is the ideal time to conquer these technological challenges.  Here are some open source software examples I have adopted in my pursuit of information literacy.

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Hack your Enthusiasm: Boosting Motivation When Torpor Hits

20/03/2014 § 4 Comments

Library school is great.  After a standard Bachelor of Arts and a few years in the workforce I’m finally making progress towards my career goals, and it’s refreshing to be in classes that I chose myself and will impact my career in real and direct ways.  On most days I approach my classwork are enthusiasm, interest, and excitement.

But there are days that this is not the case. I absolutely want to be a librarian; but sometimes being a student all over again saps my will, and even the best classes have units that are critical and practical but not inspiring or engaging.  There are days when a Netflix marathon and a craft beer or two are far more enticing than 50 pages of theory-heavy reading in 10-point font. I’m sure many of you have days just like this. Lethargy: it happens. But unless you want to give up your librarian (or archivist) dreams you’ve got to figure out a way to overcome this torpor and get your positive momentum back.

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Get Involved and Reap the Benefits: Advantages of Professional Library Membership

19/03/2014 § 6 Comments

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Sara Kelso.

This is the post where I convince you to get involved, if you aren’t already, with professional organizations as a library or information professional.  “But I don’t have time!” you say.  “But it’s expensive!” you protest.  “And what do they ever do for me anyways?  I mean, it’s great to have conferences, but those are expensive too!” you lament.

Dear reader, I hear you.  But I’m here to tell you that there are enormous advantages to professional organization membership and involvement that you may not have yet discovered.  Fellow MLIS students, I’m particularly talking to you.

Early on in my life in the library world a few years ago, when I landed my first student position, I made it a point to shell out the hundred or so bucks to get that ALA and local OLA membership.  I wasn’t making much, and this felt like a lot of money to give to an organization I knew nothing about, but I am so grateful I joined.  I have reaped so many benefits from it, I can’t imagine how my life as a library professional would look without these experiences.  Thus, this is my call to all of you to get involved and to do it now.  Organizations like the Oregon Library Association are working hard to represent and to connect library professionals on a regional and a state level, and despite all the amazing work being done and the fantastic developments that have emerged even just this year, like a mentoring program and the Passport program, membership is suffering and round tables, committees and task forces need more heads and hands to help out.

At my first ever retreat, I got a chance to see the big picture and to better understand my role in the organization, how others depend on me, how I depend on them, and how all the puzzle pieces fit together to make a group dedicated to helping libraries all over the state, and even form partnerships with other states.  It was the most supportive, collaborative, open-minded, and focused professional experience I have ever had.  It gave me the opportunity to see just how dedicated people are to the library profession, how much it really means to them and how generous people are in this profession.

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The Scariest Things We’ve Done In Library School

17/03/2014 § 5 Comments

When I was a freshly-declared English major, just beginning to flex my college reading and writing muscles, one of my professors told me something that has stuck with me ever since: “If you feel like you’re out on the tightrope and it’s swinging, that’s good. That’s where life is.”

As I recall, she meant that specifically in relation to making strong arguments and taking intellectual risks; if you feel like what you’re saying is risky, that’s good because it means you’re really making an argument. But I think we can jump easily from writing guidance to life advice (and my professor did so often). When you step out onto uncertain ground—take a risk, that is—you open to growth and new experiences. If it feels scary, good, you’re doing something important and it’s called living.

I’ve felt like I was “out on the tightrope” many times during library school and, as uncomfortable as it is, I’ve tried to embrace the feeling. Instead of letting fear cripple me, I try to use it as a motivator to find some extra courage within myself and continue on whatever nerve-wracking track I’m currently on.

Sharing the things that scare us, while adding some initial vulnerability, can be motivating and empowering. And so, some fellow hackers and I would like to share the scariest things we’ve done in library school and what we learned from the process.

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You, Too, Can Be a Change Agent

13/03/2014 § 10 Comments

With the annual release of Library Journal’s “Movers and Shakers” awards, there seems to be an attendant wave of discussion about what, exactly, it takes to be recognized and praised in our field. This year’s Movers and Shakers were just rolled out this week, so the think-pieces haven’t quite started yet, but many of last year’s posts are worth revisiting. Critics of the awards argue that lots and lots of librarians make a difference in day-to-day activities that are never valorized in the press. Like the M & S awards themselves, however, these posts are all geared toward “in-the-trenches” librarians who are already established in their career paths. The discussion left me wondering, “What about students? In what ways, big and small, do we make our mark on the field?” « Read the rest of this entry »

Library Buildings

12/03/2014 § 6 Comments

This semester I’m taking a class on library buildings. “Library buildings? Is that a class?” you ask? Indeed it is! Taught by Fred Schlipf, an LIS professor, library buildings consultant, and former public library director, the course is an introduction to the physical spaces that LIS institutions occupy. One of the most practical courses I’ve taken in library school, it is less focused on the history or culture of library buildings and more on the actual working parts of library buildings and their renovation/construction.

While slightly geared towards public library structures, the class offers information that would benefit any specialization/path. As Fred said on the first day of class, “you will almost certainly be part of or affected by a library building project at some point in your career.” This has been true for many of the practicing librarians and archivists I know. The further we get into the course, the more surprised I am at its uniqueness: according to Fred, very few other library schools offer a comparable course. I have found it immensely helpful to learn about everything from reading blueprints (not as scary as it seems) to arranging bookstacks (good sightlines mean less theft!) to heading off suggestions of “couldn’t we turn that building into a library?” (most buildings do not have the structural strength to hold books unless they are specifically designed to do so).

The Geisel Library at UC San Diego certainly *looks* cool... But future expansion is going to be tricky... (Image Source)

The Geisel Library at UC San Diego certainly *looks* cool… But future expansion is going to be tricky… (CC 2.0 liscensed image from Flickr user ewen and donabel)

While very few people *plan* on being part of a library building project, it seems almost inevitable, and the knowledge required is very niche. Being comfortable with renovation/construction topics and vocabulary can be a major asset, especially in a smaller/more remote environment (apparently one of Fred’s former students was able to shine in an interview by pointing to redesign blueprints taped to the director’s office walls and commenting on them with some fluency). Thus, in light of the revelation that Library Buildings classes do not exist at most schools, I’ve pulled together a few resources to share with the Hack Library School community. I know that “free time” is rather scarce as a grad student, but if you have some and feel so inclined, take a look at some of these; the resulting know-how will probably be useful sooner than you think!

State of America’s Libraries Reports – 2013 reportArchived reports
Published annually, this report contains a section on library construction and renovation, which can be a great way to dip your toes into the recent challenges and issues.

American Libraries Design/Buildings supplements – 2012 supplement 
Every so often publications like American Libraries will put out special issues on library facilities, construction, renovation, and/or design. These are also fun, low-stress ways to acquaint yourself with new developments.

Webinars – e.g. “Constructing the Future Library: Architectural & Digital Considerations” (free recording of a 2011 ALCTS webinar)
Webinars are your best friend when it comes to topics your school doesn’t have classes on. Do some searching and you’ll often find recordings of past presentations for free!

Books on library construction! 
When you’re ready to bite off a bit more, there are a number of fabulous, recent books on library construction and renovation projects. The two we’re using extensively in my class are: Managing Your Library Construction Project: A Step-by-Step Guide (2007) and Checklist of Library Building Design Considerations (2008). I’ve also come across many others that look equally informative.

Got any other great library building resources? Or have you been part of a building project at some point in your career? Share your advice and thoughts in the comments!

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