Hack Your Study Space

18/11/2013 § 4 Comments

Although I’ve been working on an MLS for a little over two years, I’m still trying to improve my study space. While I plan to work IN a library when I graduate, my default study space is at home.  One thing I’ve learned in talking to my library school classmates is that there isn’t necessarily one best study space for every LIS student, or even for every assignment. How do you figure out your best study environment?

Where do you do your most productive studying?

During my first year of library school, I spent more time studying in the library, especially for the classes in cataloging and reference. Since then, I haven’t spent as much time in the library, studying instead in my home office, my cubicle at work, or at the home of one of my classmates.  I’ve tried other places too, from coffee shops to parks to different libraries, in an effort to balance the need to focus with a change of scenery.  The change of scenery is motivating sometimes, but distracting at other times. I never paid much attention to the music in coffee shops until I tried studying in one.  In my neck of the woods, the coffee shop music is too loud for my studying style.  I was surprised—and a little disappointed. So, I spend most of my study time at the desk in my home office.

The desk in my home office is a wide one (my sister says it’s perfect for writing The Great American Novel–maybe after I finish library school!), with a lamp near the right corner and lovely painting of colorful flower pots hanging above it.  My laptop is flanked by office supplies in a cup, my iPhone, and either a diet soft drink (one of the vices I’m having trouble giving up) or a cup of hot tea. My desktop is rarely as neat as it should be, but I try to start each new semester with a clear desk.

Does music help you find your study zone? (If so, what’s on your playlist?)  Do you study with the television or other background noise? Or do you insist on quiet when you’re studying? I usually prefer to have a quiet environment, unless it’s a breezy assignment. When I’m studying at home, sometime I find that a running washing machine and dishwasher help provide a comfortably domestic “white noise” while knocking out some chores at the same time.

Do you study better alone or with others?

Being an introvert (but just barely) on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I’m usually more productive studying alone.  Sometimes, having a study buddy has been motivating and helpful, but other times, we’ve ended up chatting about school and other things. One of the best decisions I’ve made in library school, though, was becoming part of a study group during my first semester.  The conversation started with one classmate, and the group grew and morphed as we took different classes over the past two years. Our group has small, ranging from 4-6 classmates, which helped keep study sessions manageable and often fun, meeting for dinner before our study sessions.  Although only three from our original study group (including me) are still in library school, we still meet for a “study group reunion” lunch when we can, a great way to network by staying in touch in person, encouraging each other, and celebrating graduations and new jobs.

What are your favorite tools of the (study) trade?

I do most of my word processing and spreadsheet work on a laptop at my desk, with my iPhone often nearby. Sometimes the iPhone can be a distraction (in which case I put it in another room), but often it helps. Right now, I have the Pomodoro Technique timer iPhone app running to help me stay on task, and it usually helps a lot. I also use Remember the Milk (the app and the website, which sync with each other) for task management, often creating tabs/lists for specific classes or projects.  I love checking things off a to-do list.

For almost as long as I can remember, I’ve had a thing for school supplies, especially pens! I must’ve enjoyed back-to-school school supply shopping from the get-go (who doesn’t love a fresh box of Crayolas?!), and I remember it being a big deal when we were finally allowed to use ink pens in school. So, I always have a cup of colored pens and highlighters, as well as pencils, near my laptop. I do get the irony of having writing utensils next to my laptop, but I also keep Post-its nearby too, for that fleeting idea that needs writing out, rather than typing on a list. My favorite pens? The Sharpie Ultra Fine Point and the Pentel R.S.V.P. are my tops on my list right now.  Much like reading a print book instead of an e-book, I still enjoy holding a pen and writing things out by hand sometimes.

What tools do you use for studying? What supplies do you like to keep nearby?


While a fair number of “Study Space” resources online are geared toward children’s spaces, here are some of my favorites that other grad students may find useful too:

27 Inspirational Homework Stations and Study Areas

How to Make a Study Space

Pinterest “Study Space” Keyword Search Results

YouTube Results for “How to Create a Study Space”

Where’s your favorite place to study?

Technology in Education: Too Much or Not Enough?

11/11/2013 § 18 Comments

My first interaction with a computer was in my second grade public school classroom. Each day we had a set rotation where students either spent the afternoon reading a book, writing in a journal, or playing in the “computer lab.” The latter rotation section was a favorite because a handful of us were able to, nay required to, play games on this device most of us probably did not have access to outside the classroom. I cannot recall the specific programs available on the computers, but remember thinking we were so lucky to not have to do “school stuff” for a couple hours like everyone else.

That was 1996, fast-forward 17 years and think of how far technology has advanced! Schools are no longer lucky just to have a couple green screen computers, yet some have a whole room of flat screen computers, tablets in the classroom, or personal laptops for every student. Even libraries have jumped on board by offering access to public computers, free wi-fi and makerspaces. But how has this influx of technology changed how our youth learn? Has technology become a great addition or a mere distraction in an education setting?

students today

“Students Today” via ransomtech, flickr CC

Currently I volunteer at an elementary school library and with a teen makerspace where technology is a common connection. The majority of my time at both locations is spent helping students with something as simple as logging into a computer to more complex activities like using the UP! 3D printer. While I always leave each site even more energized about working with youth, I have to wonder if increasing technology in the classroom is actually increasing learning opportunities. In the end my answer is always the same, “Definitely yes… if done correctly.”

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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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Library School Resolutions

09/01/2013 § 6 Comments

Happy New Year, hackers!  I hope that everyone had a nice, relaxing holiday break, and that you’re all refreshed and ready for a new semester.  With classes starting next week for me, I thought I would take some time to come up with a few resolutions to guide me through this next year of library school.  So without further ado, here they are:

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[Series] So What Do You Do? Interning for Government Website Usability

28/12/2012 § 7 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 Steve Ammidown, and I’m a student in the Archives, Records and Information Management specialization at the University of Maryland’s iSchool.  My undergraduate background is in sociology and gender studies; prior to that I spent nine years working in the corporate sector as a paralegal and office administrator.

So what do you do?

I’m just finishing up as a Usability and User Experience intern at the U.S. General Services Administration’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies (and people wonder why acronyms are so popular in the federal government?) here in Washington, D.C.

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