[Series] So What Do You Do? My Practicum Experience at a Small Academic Archive

11/01/2013 § 4 Comments

This post is part of a new series called “So What Do You Do?” in which LIS students talk about their experiences as interns. We want to showcase the wide range of things people are doing in the world of library and information science.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Nicole Helregel and I’m in my second year of the MLIS program at the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign. My undergraduate degree is in American History, from Beloit College (in Wisconsin!). I’m currently a graduate assistant at an academic library, where I mostly work the reference desk, create exhibits, and update web content. On a more personal note, I’ve recently come to the conclusion that delicious soups are good for the soul and perhaps the best way to combat the winter blues.

So what do you do?

This past semester I spent over 100 hours working at the Illinois History and Lincoln Collections (one part of the larger University of Illinois Library system) as part of a practicum experience. Because I’m a townie, I was able to start my practicum during the summer (even though I was technically registered for it in the fall semester) and worked, on average, about six hours a week from August through December. It’s a small unit, with two full time employees and no graduate or student assistants; thus, they were very grateful and receptive when I approached them about a practicum.

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Digitizing Our Stories: Why Narrative Matters Most in Libraries

21/12/2012 § 4 Comments

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Kelly Minta.


An employee outreach poster from Los Angeles’ first transportation library, Los Angeles Railway, which is now the Los Angeles’ Metropolitan Transportation Library.

The concept of librarians creating content and using grassroots promotional techniques to present libraries to the public isn’t a new idea, but it is happening in more innovative ways today.   The creation of content, whether on interactive user-generated sites or through articles, charts, images, and other storytelling mediums, is no longer an alternative to conventional means of public outreach and collection development. Rather, it is a necessity as libraries build stronger web presences.  Creating a digital space for people to visit the library is equally as important as creating a physical space for users.

As a graduate student who has studied and interned in public libraries, academic libraries, and archives, I have been able to see firsthand that the creation of content and dissemination of information in all types of library institutions is vital.  Not only are library users educated about the collection of materials, this is also a way to garner attention from those who do not patronize the institution.  The librarians who create this content are tech savvy writers and storytellers who understand the value of imparting narrative into a library or archive’s collection in order to add significance to people’s lives.

The concept of service is one that librarianship is founded on, and it can be very difficult to change the collective mindset of librarians away from conventional reference services to service via original web content.  I recently interned for a public library and was able to see firsthand that the culture of public libraries is often so focused on in-person service that they may fail to see the entire audience of users who are at home on laptops, sitting in classes or meetings with tablets, or out shopping with smartphones.  These are people that the library could be reaching – people who crave data and information that is useful, informative and accessible.  These are people who care about their communities and libraries and, while they might not visit the physical location, still support the library’s mission.  Digital spaces for libraries are more than an online representation of our physical ones – they are another wing of the library, a separate sphere for education and collaboration that draws users into the library via new and usable information.

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Wikipedia, Libraries and the GLAM Project

17/10/2012 § 13 Comments

Participants at the Wikipedia edit-a-thon held at the Indiana University Archives.

How often do you use Wikipedia? If you’re anything like me, probably a lot! I’ve been interested in exploring the relationship between libraries and what I’m pretty sure it’s the only encyclopedia I’ve ever used for a long time (giant physical copies were already on their way out by the time I was old enough to use one). Sad story, though: when I was an undergrad preparing to apply for library school, I included a link to the Wikipedia page on stereoscopes in a post on my personal blog about my university’s special collections. I was soon told by a librarian that I would be looked down on as a future library professional if I included links to Wikipedia in a post I wanted to be taken seriously. I remembering wondering right then if I would fit in in the library world–I wasn’t citing it in my dissertation, I just wanted readers to see a picture and get a brief overview of what the contraption was. From then on, I was constantly aware of this Wikipedia/library tension boiling under the surface, but I wanted no part of it.

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Introducing EveryLibrary!

11/09/2012 § 2 Comments

Recently, library-land has been buzzing about the soft launch of EveryLibrary, a non-partisan , national organization dedicated to helping libraries at the ballot box. As we move towards election time, I’m sure we’re all reading about what measures and initiatives we’ll be voting for and against (because we’re all responsible citizens who will be voting in the upcoming elections right?). What’s cool about EveryLibrary is that they will exclusively be dedicated to advocating for library initiatives, connecting with local communities to get voter support. Libraries can use all the help they can get at election time. A vote for libraries means more hours, more funding, and more jobs. This is something all library school students can get behind.

Advocacy is a very important aspect of librarianship. We often hear about the doom and gloom of library hours being cut and budgets being slashed. Professionals, new and young, are finding themselves out on the frontlines to push for more support from the community. We’ve written about advocacy and being a locally grown advocate before, so this concept isn’t really new to us or our readers. As future professionals, we all need to pay attention to what’s happening in our communities and see how we can help our local libraries.

Right now, EveryLibrary is in the fundraising stage, trying to get enough money to register as a 501(c) organization and a non profit in the state of Illinois. As students, it’s hard to spare even a small amount of money, but if you have some to spare, you can donate here. More importantly, the best thing we can all do is to spread the word. Tell everyone in your classes about this, tweet the link, share it with your friends and family. Let’s #makeithappen!

Follow EveryLibrary on Twitter and Facebook.

Tell us what you think about advocating for libraries and what you think about EveryLibary. Is this something that’s even being discussed in class? Have any other ideas about spreading the word? Let us know in the comments!

Pinning for the Patrons

30/07/2012 § 5 Comments

Photo by Jude Doyland

A few months ago a co-worker introduced me to Pinterest with the disclaimer that I would waste massive amounts of time on the platform once engaged. And they were right. I’ve spent a great deal of time collecting recipes I’ll never cook, outfits I’ll never buy and ideas to repurpose an old door that I don’t have. While some may see it as a waste of time, I enjoy the time I spend on Pinterest and it has prepared me for one of my new library job tasks: managing my library’s presence on the site. Admittedly, I’m still perfecting our approach, but I do have some tips that I’d like to share. (Check out this Pinterest 101 if you need help with some of the jargon below). « Read the rest of this entry »

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