When Do We Need a Translator?

18/09/2013 § 2 Comments

When evaluating which courses to take, students often start with the list of undeniably library-specific courses: reference, cataloging, archives, etc. But as the profession continues to evolve it has become more and more interdisciplinary. Library students today take end up taking everything from web programming to marketing, from database design to educational/instructional theory. 

The question I’ve been trying to tease out lately is: is it more effective to take library-ified versions of these courses within our library schools or to take them in their true departments? For instance: will you learn more from a marketing class that is taught by a library school faculty member and focuses specifically on library issues? Or would it be more broadening and beneficial to take a marketing class in the business college?

When is the original appropriate and when do we need a translation? (CC licensed image from Flickr user gcbb)

When is the original appropriate and when do we need a translation? (CC licensed image from Flickr user gcbb)

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Start reading job ads now

24/05/2013 § 7 Comments

One piece of advice that multiple people gave me around the time I started library school is: it is never too early to start reading library job ads (especially if you’ve already started library school). Of course the library hiring process is not so lengthy that you need to start actually seeking jobs if you aren’t within a few months of graduation. Rather, looking at job ads is a great way to discover a lot of things about yourself, your library school, your career goals, the job market, and the field that you have entered. While it can sometimes be disheartening (because you’re still far away from graduation) or strangely inspiring (because of the totally amazing opportunities and positions that are waiting for you) or even confusing (why would I need to know how to do that), reading library job ads will almost always prove to be an enlightening and worthwhile use of your time.

Now's the time!

Now’s the time to start looking! Image Source

Here are some of the key reasons you should be reading library job ads now and how you can use them to shape your path:

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Are We Learning Enough About Users?

15/02/2013 § 8 Comments

Well into my second semester of library school, I find myself still recovering from a bit of metaphorical whiplash I picked up in the fall.

You see, I’m not sure how to feel about users.

The reference desk at Bucknell's Learning Commons. via http://faculty.rwu.edu/smcmullen/Bucknell.html

The reference desk at Bucknell’s Learning Commons. via http://faculty.rwu.edu/smcmullen/Bucknell.html

I know it sounds like a no-brainer. Without users, after all, our workplaces would be nothing but big empty information warehouses.

But when it comes to users, it seems like there’s a contrast within MLS programs. In my library classes, there was a good amount of talk about user needs. Meanwhile, in my archive classes, users got little more than a passing mention. And fair enough- as any first year student will tell you, libraries aren’t archives and archives aren’t libraries. They’re two different types of places. But they both have users, and anyone working in the field needs to be able to understand them.

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The Undercover Library Student

16/11/2012 § 20 Comments

Your task is to develop a persona, and make up a research question that persona might ask.  It can be anything you want.  Once you have a question, take it to a reference desk at a library/archive/historical society of your choosing. Then write a paper about the experience.

Sound familiar? No, it’s not a rejected subplot from Skyfall.  It’s an assignment I’ve encountered in two different classes this fall, which is my first semester of library school.  And from talking with other LIS students, it seems like this is a common assignment regardless of your school.  It’s the “secret shopper” theory of observation at work.  An anthropologist might call it “extreme participant observation.”  The theory says you’ll learn more about something if you immerse yourself in it, giving no impression that you’re REALLY doing research.  That the other participant doesn’t know they’re part of an experiment should make their actions more truthful than if they knew they were being observed.

Are you SURE you’re not a library science major?

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Tips for New Students Looking for Library School Jobs [Starter Kit]

29/08/2012 § 31 Comments

As a second-year SLIS student, I’ve talked to quite a few new students in my program who are anxious about securing library jobs. I can understand how they feel; after all, one year ago I was a freshly minted SLIS student. I had never gotten paid to work in a library. I came to library school with the sage advice of my mentor, a very recent library school grad, ringing in my ears. She had conveyed to me in no uncertain terms that I should work as much as I could while going to school to build my resume. Because of her, I came to library school knowing I needed to jump right in—-but that didn’t make the process any easier.

By now I’ve held several jobs and it has led me to realize that my real education happens when I go to work every day. I view my coursework as something to get through; if my classes are enjoyable it’s a plus. I have taken enthralling classes, practical classes, boring classes, and enragingly irrelevant classes. They’ve fallen all over the spectrum. So while I attempt to do well in them, my main priority is working as much as is feasible.  I firmly believe that library jobs should always trump coursework because if you do not work, you will not get a job in a library upon graduating. We could squabble about the particulars (maybe you could get a paraprofessional position without experience) but I don’t think it’s contestable. The library job market is intensely competitive and the more library experience you have, the better off you will be.

With that said, the following are a few tips I have for new students looking to work while in library school.

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