Presenting Your Best Self

20/03/2013 § 6 Comments

Library school is full of presentations. Whether it’s a short, informal talk or a long, detailed speech, I’ve had to give some kind of presentation for almost every library school class I’ve taken. Partly just a given in academia, frequent presentations will also be a reality for many of us in our future careers. LIS professionals are often expected to speak eloquently and concisely to everyone from peers to administrators to the general public.

Over the last few semesters, I feel as though I’ve learned so much more about presenting and presentation styles from my LIS peers and professors than I ever did in undergrad. Thus, I thought I’d share a little of their collective wisdom; some of these things seem fairly obvious, but many have changed the way I present myself and my information to others.

Must it always be a PowerPoint?
When planning a presentation, you always have to decide what, if any, visual aids you will use. “Presentation” has almost become synonymous with “PowerPoint,” but it doesn’t have to be! PowerPoint is a very useful tool, and it can be great for a lot of situations, but it shouldn’t be the only weapon in your arsenal. When you find yourself slipping into the same old PowerPoint layout, consider mixing it up with something more dynamic like Prezi.

Cut the amount of text in half; better yet, throw it out altogether
Crazy, right? Except it’s not. I recently had to help craft a group presentation for a marketing course. I was ready to plug away with some standard Title/Picture/3-5 Bullet Point slides. But one of my group members (who, it comes as no surprise, is already working in a management position at an academic library) insisted on minimal text. And when I say minimal, I mean very lean. We ended up only using images, a wee bit o’ text, and a lot of Smart Art (PowerPoint’s infographics):
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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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Hack Your Program: The University of Tennessee School of Information Sciences

03/02/2012 § 17 Comments

Ayers Hall

Disclaimer: This post contains opinions and statements that are mine and may not be representative of other students and faculty within this program.

The School of Information Sciences (SIS) at the University of Tennessee is ranked 17th in the U.S. News rankings of library science programs. The School has roots as far back as 1928 and has been accredited by the American Library Association since 1972. It is a housed within the College of Communication and Information (CCI). With twelve full time faculty members and over 200 students in the program, SIS offers a Master’s of Science in Information Science and, through CCI, a doctoral degree.

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Should Online Coursework Be a Library School Requirement?

01/02/2012 § 31 Comments

Photo by Wouter Verhelst

This semester I’m taking ‘Distributed Learning Librarianship’ online at the University of North Texas.  Needless to say online learning is on my mind.  In August of last year Rose L. Chou contributed a great HLS post In Defense of Online LIS Education,  and Laura Sanders’ recent post on Teaching Methods Used in Library School generated some good discussion that included comments about online coursework. I’d like to build on some of the ideas presented in these post and in my class.  I feel like every other day I have a conversation with someone about online courses that includes a statement like, “How does that even work?” or “I can’t imagine what a class would be like online.” This weekend it dawned on me–maybe you can’t imagine what an online class is like until you take one. Sometimes I feel like I’m describing driving to someone who hasn’t ridden in a car.

There is a growing population of online students in the United States. According to the 2010 Sloan Survey of Online Learning  online enrollment experienced an average annual growth rate of 20% from 2002 to 2009. From fall 2008 to fall 2009 there was an online enrollment increase of nearly one million students for a total of 5.6 million students. Many areas of librarianship are affected by these online learners. As one would expect, online students turn to their University libraries for support–but they also use their local public libraries for school-related needs. Additionally, school librarians may be called on by K-12 students taking online classes. As more people choose to learn online, do we need more librarians who know how to serve them? There are many different ways to approach needs assessment—in the case of online learners I’m beginning to think needs assessment should come, in part, from firsthand experience.

I understand that online learning isn’t a great fit for every library school student and many people still resist the idea of online courses and degrees. 5.6 million online learners are proceeding anyway. How are we going to educate ourselves to meet their information needs?

I want to know what you think. Do we need to do more to anticipate the needs of online learners in our coursework? How does your school’s curriculum address online learning? Should library school students be taking more online courses? Let’s discuss.

Some Thoughts On Course Evaluations

30/11/2011 § 6 Comments

Photo by Todd Binger

It’s nearing the end of the term—and that means course evaluations are looming. To be honest, I start thinking about course evaluations on the first day of class. I like to keep mental notes on my classes throughout the semester so that I have coherent comments to offer up at the end of each term. I’ve been mentally grading my teachers and classes since junior high. Lately, I’ve been spending a good deal of time thinking on the evaluations themselves to try to understand their purpose and what I can do to make the most of them.

What do professors want?
In thinking about this post, my biggest question was—what do professors want from our evaluations? I reached out to a few professors that I know (across many different fields) and posted this question to them. The breakout theme? Specific comments. Professors want specific feedback on the negative AND positive elements of their class. If you didn’t like the syllabus—tell them exactly why. If a paper led to an epiphany about your career goals—say so. In many cases, the comments section of an evaluation form is preceded by a tedious list of ranking and fill in the blank questions. Don’t fizzle out and turn in the evaluation until you write something personal and specific to the professor. « Read the rest of this entry »

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