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.
22/11/2013 § 13 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 »
06/11/2013 § 7 Comments
In the library world, enthusiasm is not in short supply. I’d even go so far as to say that being excited about things is quickly becoming part of the new librarian stereotype, along with being 25, tattooed, pink-haired, and on a skateboard. Think about it—an abundance of library websites, blogs, and Twitter feeds focus on being clever, sharing new book finds, and poking fun at our profession. And while all this is great (and hilarious), I often wonder, where’s everybody’s indignation? Doesn’t something (other than rude patrons) make you mad?
I’ll go ahead and admit that I sometimes wonder why I’m in the library business at all. But then I meet people who remind me, like the 75-year-old woman who could hardly walk without breathing heavily who needed help applying for a job at Burger King. Unpack that one—digital illiteracy, elder care, unemployment, disability. That makes me mad. And when I get mad, I do what librarians do best—I start learning.
Of the five tracks my MLIS program offers (youth services, cataloging, management, reference, and technology), I originally chose to focus on technology because, honestly, I thought it would look amazing on my resume. But once I started working at a public library, everything I learned in my technology classes started to come into focus. Digital illiteracy became real to me, and I realized that my classes were preparing me to think about the big picture concerning the impact of new technologies on libraries, their patrons, and the world.
These classes and experiences prepared me to think critically about a topic that I hadn’t even realized mattered to me. They gave my studies a sense of purpose, and they reinforced the lessons I’d learned in core classes. And yes, as I predicted, they’re starting to make my resume look a lot better, too.
It is my advice, then, when designing your course of study, to specialize in something that makes you mad, something that will equip you with the skills to right the wrongs you see. I know that letting what makes you mad drive your decisions is usually a bad idea, but in this case, it makes sense. Enthusiasm wanes (Twilight, anyone?), but man, can people hold a grudge. And sometimes, that’s a good thing.
You don’t have to sink your teeth into an issue and never let go, but it’s not a bad idea to at least keep the issue where you can see it. Don’t ignore what you like—try tearing me away from display making, why don’t you—but don’t ignore what makes you mad, either. You may find something new to love.
What do you think fellow hackers? Is there enough indignation among library people? Is there anything that makes you mad?
14/10/2013 § 20 Comments
I confused some people when I said that I was going to library school, but that I wanted to be an archivist. I developed my passion for archives when I was an undergrad, and that was the specialization I was going to the pursue in library school. I’ll just come right out and say it- I had no interest in becoming a librarian. Man, that feels good to get off my chest.
This doesn’t mean that I’m entirely devoid of librarian skills. Maryland requires 12 credits of core classes (out of 36 total) for all MLS students, so there are plenty of opportunities to intermingle. It’s been fascinating to learn about the different approaches librarians and archivists take to similar issues such as long-term preservation, or the differences in user interactions.
After those 12 credits, though, it’s harder to get that useful cross-specialization interaction. Many of the specializations at Maryland are adding more required courses, and becoming more strictly prescribed. Online cohorts in the general and e-government tracks, as well as the school library track and the archives/digital curation double specialization, are completely or almost completely set programs, with no chance for electives. And there are signs that the other specializations will follow suit. There are fewer and fewer opportunities to take classes with students from other cohorts as you go through the program.
“That’s excellent,” I hear you say. “Having a plan ahead of time takes the stress out of course selection, and you know from day one the sort of topics you’ll be covering. I love it.”
Whoa, Skippy. Let’s stop and think about this for a second. An entirely structured graduate program might be great in a STEM field- a you must learn X, Y, Z in that order kind of thing. But an MLS degree is much more fluid. What happens when you get into the workplace and have to work with say, an archivist, but you can’t understand why they’re more concerned about temperature controls than the serials budget? The ability to work across fields is vital, but gets lost when the student doesn’t get the chance to choose to break down those barriers. Or on a more practical level, what happens when you decide to change specializations- say when you decide you don’t want to be a school librarian anymore and want to pursue the e-government track? Are you willing to start from scratch because you haven’t taken the courses in the prescribed order?
11/10/2013 § 15 Comments
I recently received an email via my library school’s student listserv explaining that our university Provost has asked the library school and the College of Media to explore “integrating their two units.” It is very early in the exploratory process, and certainly not a sure thing yet, but it got me thinking about the possibilities. I don’t know much about the merger idea, but it seemed OK to me: easier access to more classes and professors, additional networking contacts, and perhaps a stronger focus on writing/communication for library students? What’s not to like?
However, it seems my opinion is not shared by everyone. Another library student/employee responded (to everyone): “It will be a horrible disaster for all new graduates who want jobs and will definitely destroy GSLIS itself.” After some brief online searching I found an article in the local newspaper from a few years ago when the exact same merge was proposed. In it, our former dean explained that his main reason for opposing the merge was the possibility of our rankings “plummeting”: “The decision on our side was really about, ‘How would a different structure likely affect our competitiveness?’ It wasn’t a rejection of Media.”