Creating and Curating Your Digital Professional Learning Network

29/01/2014 § 7 Comments

Hello, hackers! Do you have a digital PLN?

If not, this post will explain the concept and share some tips for success. I discovered the concept of the digital PLN (a web-based personal or professional learning network) through an information literacy instruction class I took in Fall 2013. One of the major class projects was to select and curate digital resources to facilitate our lifelong learning as librarians, according to our career goals.

What is a PLN?

PLN infographic

A traditional PLN consists of actual people with whom you have collaborated or shared ideas. A digital PLN is more open-ended. Digital PLNs are collections of web-based human, technological, and other resources selected judiciously, classified, and accessed using curation tools of your choice. Whereas e-portfolios showcase your own aptitudes, e-PLNs curate resources from other people that have helped you—or will help you—to enrich your LIS skills. You can organize resources into categories, create RSS feeds to monitor changing content, and demonstrate your professional engagement by sharing your PLN publically or collaborating with other librarians to build one. Teacher-librarians are likely to have PLNs because schools encourage them to do so, but anyone can create one.

Why should I have a PLN?

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A Library Student’s New Year’s Resolution List

25/12/2013 § 11 Comments

With the holiday season wrapping up (pun intended) and the New Year quickly approaching, do you have your 2014 resolutions list made yet?

I am a huge fan of making lists, so the New Year always gives me the perfect opportunity to make another. Since I will be graduating next May my list includes things I want to accomplish while I am still a library student — also because it is too scary to plan anything post-graduation. Other than applying for jobs and networking, I also want to spend my last semester taking advantage of student discounts and the flexibility of grad life. Below is a broad list of my library student wishes and goals, but feel free to steal and adapt as your own!

resolution list

“Resolutions” via puzzledmonkey, flickr CC

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Hack Your Professional Organization

23/12/2013 § 4 Comments

There is no better time than graduate school to join a professional organization. Many LIS organizations have special incentives in place to attract library school students. The offerings will vary between organizations, but this post should give you an idea of what to watch for.  


Professional organizations exist at several levels, including international, national, regional, state, and local. Smaller organizations may give you more opportunities to participate directly, but larger organizations will offer a broader spectrum of roundtables and sections. As a student, I have found national and regional organizations to be the most beneficial because I am still figuring out what I want to do with my career. Some organizations offer joint membership programs for library school students and support staff. This is a great way to make your membership dues go farther. Additionally, student chapters on your campus can be a great way to get involved with your regional and national organizations.

San Jose State University has compiled an extremely comprehensive list of professional organizations for LIS students. The list includes general national groups like the American Library Association and Society of American Archivists, but also specialized entities like the Music Library Association and the Association for Moving Image Archivists.


Membership in a professional organizations has several benefits for LIS students. Some of the tangible ones include scholarships, discounts on textbooks purchased through the organization’s store, access to job boards, continuing education courses, and (in some cases) tuition discounts at partner institutions. Other perks include opportunities to travel to new cities for conferences and learn about the field through scholarly journal articles. One of the greatest long-term benefits to membership is the chance to meet with peers, mentors, and future employers. Membership is also a great addition to your resume or C.V., especially if you make time to serve on a committee.


Many organizations offer discounts on membership dues and conference registration to students in ALA-accredited programs. While it can still be expensive to attend conferences, this is a great way to try out a few organizations before you have to commit to full dues.

Several organizations offer concurrent membership in specialized roundtables, committees, and divisions. These sub-groups serve as a microcosm of the larger organization, allowing you to engage more deeply in professional conversations and network regularly with seasoned professionals. Each group typically focuses on a specific interest, institution type, or professional status. You might consider joining a roundtable for records management, GIS librarianship, performing arts archives, or library support staff. Many organizations have groups that that cater to students and new professionals.

If you’re still skeptical about joining a professional organization, you can try it out for free first. Check your campus library for print or electronic copies of professional publications. Follow organization and roundtable accounts on social media networks. Join listservs to preview the professional conversation or follow conference hashtags on Twitter. Most importantly, talk with your professors and peers to learn which organizations they recommend.

Have you joined a professional organization in library school? Share your advice and experiences in the comments!

A Liberal Arts Major’s Guide to Coding

25/11/2013 § 8 Comments

As programmer and tech journalist Ciara Byrne noted in her op-ed “No–You Don’t Need to Learn To Code”, learning to code is not always fun, easy, or even useful for every career path. Nonetheless, programming can develop several soft skills that translate across a broad range of professions. In addition to increasing your digital literacy, learning to code teaches you to solve problems, to seek out collaborative solutions when you are stuck, and (in my experience) to endure lots of frustration for the sake of future rewards.

The benefits of learning to code are especially tangible for information science students. Programming knowledge equips you to customize content management systems, create sophisticated reports in an integrated library system, develop mobile apps, manage databases, implement open source software, navigate user experience design, customize or create a web presence for your institution, and collaborate more effectively with IT professionals.

You may be thinking, “But Sam, I am not a programmer. It just doesn’t come naturally for me.” Well, join the club. My undergraduate degrees are in history and political science! Although I grew up in a very tech-friendly home, I never had any ambition to be a programmer. After I started working in libraries, however, I found that some kind of coding knowledge is necessary for many of the jobs I want to pursue. It hasn’t always been fun and it has rarely been easy, but I have made it a priority to learn these skills. Over time, I have actually learned to enjoy coding.

Here are some guidelines that have helped me endure the tough times:
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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 »

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