Service Learning: Friend or Foe?

06/12/2013 § 1 Comment

One of my courses this semester (Community Informatics) required a sizable amount of “service learning” (for those who don’t know, service learning is basically community service/volunteering activities that are incorporated into a course). When I mentioned the extensive, unpaid time commitment that the service learning represented to a friend of mine, he balked: “So they’re basically making you volunteer? That’s crazy. Plus it can’t really be considered volunteering if they make you do it…” This got me thinking about the various pro’s and con’s of service learning, a course component that seems to be more and more prevalent these days. For those who have a service learning component in an upcoming course or who are interested in designing their own service learning experience, here are some pros and cons (as I see it) of service learning:

  • Con: Service learning is time-consuming. This semester I had to commit to 4 hours a week of volunteering at a library or computer lab. While this doesn’t seem like much, I also work 20 hours a week, take classes full time, am an officer for a student group, and contribute to this blog (love you guys!). Not to mention I live in the same town as my family, and am thus often committed outside of school/work. Therefore, I do not often initially relish seeing a service learning requirement on a syllabus. A service learning component can also require an initial time commitment to scout out a site, go through an orientation, and set up training (depending on what you’re doing). There’s also the transportation time, field notes time (as you often can’t jot down info until after your shift), and reflection time (as service learning usually involves reflection writing assignments).
  • Con/Pro: Service learning is hard work. Whether it’s explaining to a senior citizen how to log in to a computer, open a browser, and log in to their email for the 100th time (ok, so it hasn’t happened 100 times, but sometimes it feels like it) or building custom-made wooden computer stations in your professor’s workshop (see below), service learning will challenge you in a variety of ways.

    Ah the Saturdays spent in safety goggles. So fun!

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When Library School Hands You Lemons

22/11/2013 § 17 Comments

My library school experience has, I’m sad to say, handed me a bunch of lemons. There are the professors who aren’t as inspiring as I would prefer (sorry), the journal articles that look like they weren’t proofread, the classes that are scheduled at times that are inconvenient for everyone. Including the instructor.

And then there’s the fact that one of the classes I need for my specialization is offered only in the spring, and this spring it is offered at a time when I cannot take it for religious reasons (probably NSFW), which is the biggest lemon of all.

Meanwhile, I’m paying a not-insignificant amount for my education, so let’s talk about how to turn these lemons into lemonade. « Read the rest of this entry »

Hackers Enjoy the Little Things

20/11/2013 § 10 Comments

Why so serious?

For aspiring librarians, attitude is all-important. Many of us eat up our days doing internships and day jobs, writing papers, presenting at conferences, and networking our hearts out on Twitter. This kind of workload makes us run the risk of stress, frustration, disillusionment—even burnout, especially if we work in high-pressure public service jobs, fret over the dicey job market, or struggle with personal issues. How do we stay in love with the career we chose?

First, try not to agonize. The fate of the world does not rest on your shoulders. You need to work hard and do things you may not always enjoy doing, but you need not keel over from exhaustion every night to succeed professionally.

What do I myself do to hack my library school and job? Answer: I do not take myself seriously. I’m a perfectionist, so I take my work very seriously, but I see no reason to stifle my joie de vivre. And so I sip tea from a Shakespearean insults mug while manning the reference desk. Gotta enjoy the little things.

Panache

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Obstacles & How to Deal with Them

23/08/2013 § 2 Comments

As I finish up my MLIS (August graduation!) and start my certificate program, I find myself wanting to share a little library school wisdom. So things might get a little feelings-heavy, but bear with me; also, this advice goes to both new and returning library students:

Library school is a journey. You will encounter numerous experiences, guides, and opportunities along the way. But you will also almost certainly encounter a number of challenges, hurdles, and roadblocks. As Joanna wrote in her fabulous post, Apply Yourself, so many lovely opportunities are just waiting for you to take the initiative and grasp them! We’ve also featured numerous posts about how to do proactive things like changing your curriculum or doing an independent study. As you navigate numerous challenges and opportunities on your library school journey, here are some obstacles you may encounter and some productive ways to overcome them:

(CC licensed image from Flickr user rcstanley)

(CC licensed image from Flickr user rcstanley)

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[Hack ALA] What to Bring to ALA and What to Do

26/06/2013 § 2 Comments

Are you ready for ALA Annual? Check out last year’s post on preparing for the conference, “Hack ALA: Professional Preparations.”

ALA exhibit hall

Photo of ALA exhibit hall (Washington, DC, 2007) by Elizabeth Thomsen.

For some extra advice, I asked some of my friends who have gone to ALA what attendees should bring and what they should do while at the conference. Here are their suggestions:

What to Bring

  • Business cards. If you don’t have any yet, make some quick ones on a printer with card stock!
  • Bring clothes that you can layer. Not only is Chicago summer weather fickle, but you will have to deal with variable conference center and hotel air conditioning systems.
  • Granola bars or other portable snacks. You will be booked solid (if you are doing things right) and may forget a meal here or there.
  • An empty water bottle. Stay hydrated!
  • Professional looking pen. (“No bics, man,” says my friend.)
  • Camera (sound settings off if possible for less obtrusive picture-taking).
  • Chargers for your phone, camera, tablet, computer, and other gadgets.
  • Comfortable shoes.
  • Blister creme.

What to Do

  • Make sure to schedule time to network (at more formal events as well as more informally over meals and drinks). Meeting people is as important as attending sessions.
  • If you know that you need time for yourself, make sure to also schedule some downtime away from people, especially if you have roommates.
  • Be ready to pick up swag (free stuff! books! pens! bags! random thing!) at the exhibits.
  • If someone invites you to an event or meal, go! Make lots of friends.

Thanks to Roger, Sarah, Bryan, Julia, and Stephanie for these suggestions!

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