05/04/2011 § 3 Comments
Carolyn Caffrey is in her last semester of the MLS program at Indiana University Bloomington. Originally from Southern California she relocated to the land of corn where she works in instruction and reference. She is an aspiring instruction librarian, who loves roller derby, office supplies, spring, and critical information literacy. You can find her on twitter (@cmcaffre) or at her blog.
Following up our recent editing-team post about Internships, here’s another way to get experience while in school. Carolyn has written a thoughtful post with great specifics for those interested in information literacy and instruction. Comments and other tips are welcome!
14/03/2011 § 7 Comments
You’re scanning your program’s course schedule, and see no classes being offered in your specialization. Or you attend a conference, and realize that there is a gaping hole in the way your school addresses this important issue in the field. The good news: you’re an engaged learner who is conscious of the resources being put into your coursework and your degree. The bad news: graduate schools have finite money, faculty, and flexibility for adding courses to the register. What can you do to make sure your curriculum meets your interests and educational and professional needs? Take charge!
In 2003, the Student Diversity Action Group came to the faculty of the UCLA IS program, and submitted a proposal for two courses, one being a core course that addressed cultural diversity and activist thoughts, tools, and resources for the contemporary information professional. The result? An existing class was dropped from the core curriculum, and Ethics and Diversity became a graduation requirement. As of 2009, UCLA is the only program that requires a course on diversity for information professionals*.
Looking at the motivations for this addition to the curriculum, it’s easy to see why UCLA students asked for such a course. Serving the diverse population of Los Angeles, working with indigenous populations, and designing information access structures for communities across the world, MLIS students recognized the need to be aware of cultural and community differences in approaches to information. The UCLA MLIS program is an incredibly diverse one itself, hosting more ALA Spectrum Scholars than any other. IS students deserved (and demanded) that their education meet an important concern for their research, practice, and development as professionals. If you feel your curriculum doesn’t do the same, here are some ideas to make it happen:
07/03/2011 § 22 Comments
The title of this post is a question that I have been asked a *million* times (OK, slight exaggeration) over the last year as I’ve filled out applications, done interviews, and talked with friends, family, and colleagues about the process. Everyone has different motivations and experiences that lead them to the PhD, but for those who are curious, here are my reasons:
1. I love research. Can’t get enough of it. Many friends and family members have been bored nearly to tears as I’ve gone on long-winded rants about some amazing new piece of information I found or a breakthrough I had in writing a chapter. Not only do I love research, I love writing about my research and sharing what I learn with other people. This brings me to my next point…
2. Teaching/mentoring makes me happy. Granted, I don’t have the most experience with this, but I love sharing what I know and learning from others, and what better place to do that than in the classroom? I also want to make my classroom a place students want to be, and where people feel safe sharing new ideas and growing together. How do I hope to do this? Well, that’s where you come in (see below).
3. LIS rocks. You already know this, but if you didn’t, you heard it here first. So many exciting things are going on in our field, and I feel like it’s a great time for folks who want to collaborate and stretch the boundaries of what we do and how we approach our work. I really want to be on the forefront of that change, and training future info pros to be impassioned and informed is a great way to do it.
4. I like learning. I love to learn new things, and the more new things I learn in a given day, the happier I tend to be. It might be hard to thrive in LIS unless you love to learn, and I suspect it would be *really* hard to be a PhD student (and someday, one hopes, a faculty member) when you stagnate and stop seeking out new ways to learn and grow.
So, LIS students past and present, this is where I want your input, both for my own growth and for other folks out there considering the PhD track. Since at least a goodly chunk of us plan on being professors, it would be great to know what it is you love (or don’t) about your faculty members’ approaches (or about curricula, although that’s been addressed somewhat elsewhere). One request I have is that we avoid a string of comments about a lack of experience in a library: it’s true, many faculty have little experience or haven’t worked in a library for years (more on that in a future post). What I would like to talk about instead is how the faculty members have made materials interesting (i.e. was there a theory that bored you to death until that one faculty member was able to explain it in a way that it clicked and became relevant?) or teaching strategies you especially enjoyed (for example, awesome Andre Brock in my department used a wordpress-based class blog for discussion, which resulted in the most involved and insightful discussions I’ve ever been a part of in a class). Part of the HLS philosophy is to use this space to talk about how we as students see LIS education (including both what we love and where we see room for improvement). I want to foster an educational environment where faculty and students are collaborators and where students have a meaningful role in shaping our degrees, so this seems like a great place to start getting that input while I’m still a student too!
14/02/2011 § 27 Comments
In December, Library Journal posted an article by Andy Woodworth, of Agnostic, Maybe, on “big tent librarianship” in their “Back Talk” column. Big tent librarianship is an idea guided by the belief that librarians, regardless of their chosen information specialization or information institution, like academic librarianship or public librarianship, are all connected by the same principles, and can enact positive change by uniting around these principles. The original article, titled “We Need Big Tent Librarianship,” is an inspiring and thought-provoking read, and to officially kick off Hack Library School, a collaboration committed to and an example of big tent librarianship, I’d like to draw on Mr. Woodworth’s ideas and relate them to library school.
When we enter library school, the divisions begin immediately. Are you a future archivist? A public librarian? A public YA librarian? While we might all begin in the same “Introduction to Information” class, confused and scared as a professor explains exactly how an antelope can be a document, our specialization quickly siphons us off into “Preservation,” “Metadata,” “Storytelling,” and “Archival Methods.” It can be hard to remember, behind our stacks of PDFs, that after “Intro to Info,” we came together and were excited, too, because what we heard resonated with something we believed– we just didn’t have the words for it yet.
And that’s what library school is. It brings together people who have a belief in the power of information, and gives us the tools and the ideas to do something concrete with that belief. How we choose to do it may look very different in the end, but that passion for information is a thread that unites us.
The “big tent” mentality must begin in library school. We must begin by challenging ourselves to reach out to those in our department, and to students at other library schools. The web has allowed for the conventional barriers of interaction to fall away, and given us the tools to somewhat define our own education. Yes, we may all have to take this class or present that paper to graduate, but interacting with fellow library school students will inform and expand our motivations and knowledge, give us new tools for advocacy, and a broader platform to advocate from, constructively criticize our own education, and offer successful solutions to other students looking for change in their own programs.
So how to do it? Read library student blogs and comment. Ask a fellow student about the paper they’re working on. Follow conference hashtags on Twitter, especially those outside your own specialty. Be aware of the achievements of your peers, not only at your own schools, but across the nation, and tell other people about it in person, on your blog. It may be difficult. We’re all so focused on being hireable, and in being as competent in our own fields as possible, these are big things to commit to. Andy Woodworth points to James Rettig’s “library ecosystem,” in which all types of libraries depend on one another. We can extend this ecosystem analogy to all the information institutions, and especially to our fellow library school students.
We are the future protectors and promoters of information access, preservation, and literacy, and so we must protect and promote one another.
Library school is the perfect place to begin to explore the possibilities that a shared passion brings. Once we graduate and move on with our careers, most of us won’t be interacting with people in information professions other than our own unless we’re proactive about it. Library school mixes us all together and exposes us to the challenges and strengths of other information professions and gives us the perfect opening to start a relationship with potential collaborators and future colleagues.
What could these partnerships look like? What could they achieve? In a society where information has become such a commodity, how could our collaborations ensure not only the existence of our professions and our institutions, but a flourishing? Quoting Hack Library School’s own “About” page, “What will the information professions be next year if we define it for ourselves today?”