06/03/2014 § Leave a comment
Hack Library School’s greatest strength, in my opinion, is its changing nature. As writers come and go, the blog stays current, and the new crop of writers take HLS into the conversations that are happening in library schools across the country and around the world.
This is a longwinded way to say that I’ve been around for a while, and it’s time for me to step down.
This is my final solo post for Hack Library School. I’m excited to be starting a new job, excited to move to a new area, and excited to watch HLS continue to grow. From writing an ebook to continuing a streak of conference presentations, I’ve seen Hack Library School do some great things in the two-years-and-a-bit that I’ve been here. I know that the trend will continue, and I can’t wait to watch!
I ALSO can’t wait to see what happens in the wider library-school world. I’m convinced that library/information students are far more powerful change agents then some librarians realize, and that there is incredible value in fusing the the weight of experience with the enthusiasm of fresh eyes.
When I started writing for Hack Library School, the blog was already a voice for a new kind of library education, one in which students could determine their own pathway, and push professors into a new type of collaboration. I tried to challenge myself throughout library school, taking classes in unfamiliar areas and hacking my program from the ground up, even when I wasn’t sure I wanted to end up in libraries. (Perhaps especially because I wasn’t sure I wanted to end up in libraries.) I wasn’t alone–other HLS writers and lots of commenters also talked about wanting to bring a new practice to library work. This sort of public, transparent information work is, in my opinion, what librarianship is all about–shedding light on any subject, in any field, and creating relevant connections for all to view.
Micah mentioned “commissioning disciples” in his farewell post, and I think he wasn’t far wrong–the HLS community has been a fantastic support system as we’ve all hacked together the programs we loved. When Annie left, she mentioned how those networks can keep growing. “Don’t be a stranger” is the watchword, here.
Hack Library School might focus on hacking LIS education, but I think that the hacker attitude toward life can keep on trucking, long past your graduation date. We all get busy–good librarianship seems to require it, though work/life balance is equally vital–and the networks we’re building can persist. Keep in touch, you wonderful people, and I’ll see you around!
High fives and cheers!
05/03/2014 § 3 Comments
In today’s post, several Hackers discuss what they have learned about the challenges and benefits of working full time while in library school. Whether you are wondering if full time work is right for you or struggling to balance your obligations between work and classes, it can help to know that you are not alone. Rebecca Katz, Kara Mackeil, Lesley Looper, and Samantha Winn share their experiences, coping mechanism, and productivity tips after the break. Do you have a story about working full time while in school? Join us in the comments!
04/03/2014 § 8 Comments
If you work in teen services you are probably already elbow deep in programming, but for the rest here is a reminder: it is almost Teen Tech Week! Next week, March 9-15, libraries across the country will be celebrating YALSA’s “DIY @ your library” theme by providing programs on coding, knitting, music recording and everything in between. Unfortunately I do not (yet) work in a teen services department, but that does not mean I (or you) cannot join in on the celebration.
As a young LIS professional it is easy to get absorbed in the biggest and shiniest trends: 3D printing! Tablets! Computer programming! It is even easier as a teen librarian-in-training to get overwhelmed by feeling the need to be an expert in all-the-things to land a job. Another common factor may be a limited budget and time; making programs like TTW seem out of reach.
In a previous post I shared resources on how technology can be used effectively in the classroom, but here I want to discuss how you do not need high-tech gear and excess funds to explore emerging technology trends.
First we need to step back and ask, “What is technology?”
When defining technology I initially think of computers, smart phones and gaming consoles — devices popular in the here and now. But what about cars, televisions, typewriters, pens… are these not classified as technology as well? By definition technology is “the use of science in industry, engineering, etc., to invent useful things or to solve problems.” Breaking down TTW would mean YALSA is then taking a week to promote teens’ creativity and problem solving skills in a public service environment — and isn’t that what libraries should be about anyway?
From brainstorming with fellow colleagues in the real and virtual world, here are possible low and high-tech activities for TTW — or for your own personal creative downtime:
- DIY Crafts: Do not let the term “technology” scare you into thinking you need to dump out your wallet for a brand new 3D printer. Host a crochet-your-own phone cozy party or make jewelry from miscellaneous computer parts.
- Media literacy: Underneath all this talk about media and technology lies a very real issue needing to be discussed, most teens do not understand how mass media works or how to use technology wisely. TTW is a great time to facilitate a conversation by creating interactive media literacy lessons like analyzing photographs, creating media or watching a documentary.
- Gaming: If you already have a gaming system and videogames, plug it in and you are good to go. Otherwise, ask teens to bring in their favorite games to swap and play. For a more guided program see how you can use Minecraft as an educational tool.
- Learn to code: All you need is a computer, internet access and a program like Codecadmey, Code Year or Squeakland depending on the audience’s age and skill level.
- Visit a makerspace: Don’t have the tools to solder a portable USB charger kit? I bet your local makerspace does! These community centers invite people in to use their tools to the best of their imagination. Now plan a field trip to the nearest makerspace and create!
How is your library celebrating Teen Tech Week? What low-tech/low-cost programs have you facilitated for patrons of any age?
27/02/2014 § 5 Comments
Skype interviews are my favorite! Lo and behold my supplement to Brianna Marshall’s exceptional Phone Interview Strategies. The genesis of this post is when I presented a paper via Skype at the Graduate History Forum at UNC Charlotte in April 2013. It was a great experience! I’ve been Skyping ever since.
Talking on the phone can disorient me because I like to see people’s nonverbal cues and adjust my own communication accordingly. On the other hand, in-person interviews are strenuous situations in which your every move and word will be scrutinized and your ability to navigate unfamiliar physical and social spaces will be tested. But as fewer employers can afford to fly candidates around, Skype is displacing F2F interviews at all stages of candidacy. (So no pressure!)
With Skyping, you need not worry about traffic, handshakes, hard chairs, or what to order for lunch. Skype interviews place you in control of your environment and performance to a significant degree—and this is pressure of the productive sort.
My advice for acing your Skype interviews? Approach the entire process as if you were producing and performing a pivotal scene from a play or film.
Be sure to dress “professionally” from head to foot. Granted, the committee is not likely to notice your pajama bottoms or bare feet under the tabletop, but you’ll feel more confident and capable if you dress the part. If applicable, trim and tidy your hair and beard—remember, the committee will be staring at your unkempt talking head for the next forty minutes. And please, no hats! (You’d be surprised.)
Avoid wearing reds, blacks, whites, overly bright colors, or anything that appears harsh or washed out via webcam. I never go wrong with olive or deep blue shirts. Wardrobe choices should take into account what lighting you have and what your skin and hair tones are. And any ornaments should not dazzle the viewer.
I suggest a plain background (maybe an office wall) unlikely to excite comment. If your environment is hard to customize, consider rigging up a curtain or a roll of seamless paper, or just sitting with your back to a window. Feel free to evoke your personality without going over the top. I generally sit with my back to my bookshelves and my webcam angled slightly toward my window, making sure that my John Steinbeck collection and Starry Night painting are noticeable amid the history and LIS books. If your home is noisy or otherwise unsuitable, consider booking a library study room. Or you can do what one of my friends did—connect your phone to your car’s Bluetooth and ace your interview from the driver’s seat!
Render your lighting soft and balanced so that your face is evenly lit. Check that your lighting is flattering and does not impart a Goldfinger-esque metallic or oily gleam to your face. I mainly go for sunny natural lighting because it reflects my personality (I’m a Floridian and a kayaker, folks). If you are relying on windows instead of lamps or overhead lights (natural lighting is ideal), be sure to practice Skyping at the time of day that you will be interviewing. In Florida, west-facing rooms are dim in the morning and bright in the afternoon. Plan accordingly.
Quiet on the set! Please choose a Skyping venue without noise distractions—no talking roommates, howling children, roaring air conditioners, or vocal parakeets. Consider using a noise-canceling quality headset if you foresee distractions or if your built-in microphone fails to transmit your voice clearly and at an adequate volume (do practice thoroughly with a friend ahead of time). One final point: try to record yourself talking into your mic and then play it back to check your vocal quality. Nervousness may cause high-pitched voices to come off as squeaky, while deep voices may come off as nasal. I make an effort to talk with my throat and not with my sinuses. Otherwise, I sound like Robert De Niro’s duck.
Nonverbal communication says a lot over Skype. Refrain from rapid or sweeping hand gestures or head movements—some of us get dizzy seeing an oversized hand or forehead tracking in slow motion across the screen for the twentieth time. Nod frequently, smile, sit upright or lean forward (while keeping your head fully in the frame), and vary your facial expressions as much as you would for a F2F interview. Adjust your style and substance according to the interviewers’ nonverbal feedback, and build interpersonal warmth by mirroring any positive body language they display. Finally—and this is important—maintain the illusion of eye contact with the interviewers by looking directly into the webcam. Beware of staring too fixedly lest you miss something and have to ask the interviewer to clarify in the hope that she will repeat the question. (Fortunately, she did.)
By performance I mean not implementing cynical social manipulation but rather representing your feelings, experiences, and skills truthfully in terms that a given hiring committee will find creditable and persuasive. Practice but also improvise the way actors do, and be sincere and open, because interviewers can detect fake enthusiasm or expertise (I have sat on both sides of the hiring process). As you articulate a response, you may glance at your notes—discreetly, and only if you remembered to tape your cheat sheets alongside your webcam! To judge by my service on an academic faculty hiring committee in Jan.-Feb. 2014, interviewers distrust candidates who check their notes with anything close to frequency. As for demeanor, “be serious and smile” is my advice. Never underestimate the value of humor, especially when delivering a sample presentation. Finally, use the power pose to psyche yourself up for exemplifying the awesomeness that you are!
That said, performance or production design cannot conceal a lack of substance. Yes, you should know your material fluently. Yes, you should rehearse answers to predictable questions. Yes, your answers should be specific. Script everything that can be controlled or predicted; recognize the many limits to your control over the process; and know your technology and material well enough to handle curveball questions, technology problems, and other impromptu challenges with something resembling aplomb. Roll with the punches—effective Skyping should highlight your fluency with (basic) technology as well as your interpersonal skills.
Recognize and correct—but try not to internalize—mistakes. We all could do better sometimes. Embrace this truism and you will excel. Good luck!
Any tips or experiences with Skype interviews? Please share in the comments!
21/02/2014 § 1 Comment
If there’s one thing library students are familiar with, it’s writing. Research papers, discussion posts, slide presentations, blogs—you name it, and we’ve written it. But wouldn’t it be nice to get paid for writing papers? Fortunately for you, you can!
Scholarships are a great way to secure funding for tuition, conference travel, textbooks, software, and other school-related needs, but in order to earn these scholarships, you first have to conquer the scholarship essay. You will be hard-pressed to find a scholarship application that does not require an essay or personal statement of some sort, so it’s important to be prepared. And as a person who has written approximately 2.2 million of these essays in library school alone (and earned 2 scholarships in the process), I’m here to help you crack the code.
My system isn’t guaranteed (note the aforementioned ratio of scholarships applied for and scholarships earned), but it is definitely confidence-boosting. If nothing else, you’ll send in your application with the knowledge that you did your best and that you have the same chance of winning as everybody else, and that can be a victory all its own. Here are my tips:
- Follow the instructions. Take care to stay within the limits of word count and essay length, format the paper in the requested manner (APA, MLA, etc.), and submit the application on or before the due date. This tip seems simple, but a hastily put together paper with good ideas may not go over as well as a less interesting paper that follows all the rules. Also, if you mention in your paper that you’re organized and pay attention to details, and then you fail to follow any of the directions, what does that really say about you? Be conscious of the message you’re sending out. It’s not just what you say—it’s also how you say it.
- Write about something that interests you. Most of the essay topics are fairly open-ended, so there’s an opportunity to inject some of your own flavor. My favorite topic to research and write about is the digital divide, so I usually find a way to weave a discussion of accessibility and computer education into whatever prompt I’m given. I’m not advocating that you dump in a bunch of unrelated information about your passion for AACR2 and clowns—I’m simply saying that if you have an opportunity to discuss your relevant interests, you should go for it. Your passion will influence your tone, and the scholarship committee will be able to sense the honesty and sincerity of your words.
- Read essays from those who have won in the past. Often, organizations post an excerpt of the winning essay in a press release, and in some cases, the essay is published in its entirety in an academic journal or professional newsletter. Read it, and figure out what made it a winner. Is the writer’s tone enthusiastic and persuasive or scholarly and informative? How many sources did he or she use? Is the essay significantly below the word count, or does it meet it exactly? Something about this essay was right—it’s your job to figure out what, and to implement those same strategies in your own paper.
- Google the names of previous winners. This is mainly a confidence booster because it helps you realize that the people who have won in the past aren’t really that different from you. And then you’ll start to believe that you have what it takes to win, too. A lot of library students have an online presence via LinkedIn, Twitter, or personal blogs, so it’s relatively easy to take a peek at their résumés. I wouldn’t contact them one-on-one, especially if they’re complete strangers, but my logic is that people post résumés online so that others can read them, so what’s the harm in indulging?
- Get feedback. Whether it’s yelling into the next room to ask your sister if something makes sense or emailing a copy of the finished paper to your advisor, a second set of eyes and ears never hurt when writing an essay. Something that sounds clear to you may prove to be confusing to others, and since you won’t be there in person to explain your essay to the scholarship committee as they read it, it’s important to be sure that your essay makes sense to someone other than yourself.
Writing a scholarship essay can be scary—you’re putting yourself out there and saying, “Pick me, pick me!” But with practice (and a healthy dose of confidence), this process becomes easier and easier. And who knows, you may find yourself a few dollars richer in the process.
What do you think, fellow hackers? Do you have any tried and true rituals for acing the scholarship essay?
20/02/2014 § 8 Comments
Like any graduate program, library school is a big time commitment. Whether your program is online or in person, full time or part time, there’s just no way to get the education you need to be a librarian without putting in a significant chunk of your life. But if time isn’t something you’ve got in spades, is it reasonable to think you can work full time and still do your degree?
My answer: very often yes, but it depends. Many of my classmates work, many are parents. I have to travel once or twice a month for my full time job. Everybody has a life, and most MLS programs get that. That doesn’t mean that every MLS program is going to work with every full-time job though. So how do you go about answering this question for your own life? « Read the rest of this entry »
17/02/2014 § 5 Comments
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
The month of February is most recognized as the time we celebrate our love. It’s a time when we speak the “language” of love as a means to show our devotion to that special someone. But what happens when the language we speak to express ourselves is not the same language expressed by others? How do we communicate to one another simple tasks that feel impossible when language becomes a barrier? What can we do as library professionals, to make expressing ourselves, not necessarily in the language of love, but of compassion for those whom English is their second language?
Quite simply, a lot. Let me share with you, my story…
English is my second language. When I was six-years-old my parents divorced and my mother decided to move our family – myself and my two younger sisters – to Florida from Puerto Rico. She believed that learning English would ensure our success as adults and decided that our new home would provide us with more linguistic opportunities than in our home town of Fajardo, Puerto Rico. I had begun my elementary schooling there, but would continue the remainder of my schooling in Central Florida. When I was a first grade student, I had a hard time comprehending English. I pronounced words such as “chair” and “chicken” with a “sh” sound, rather than a “ch” sound. And I could not understand why it matter that the way I spoke was incorrect to others. I struggled a lot and did poorly in my school work. I would eventually be sent to a school for foreign language speakers, and after three days of horrific experiences (I didn’t know where my class was or how to get lunch, I was yelled at by a peer and a teacher when I couldn’t understand instruction, and I was physically pulled and tugged at when I failed to understand directions).
After many nights of crying and pleading with my mom, I was “dis-enrolled” from that school and the next best option was to return to my elementary school and take ESOL classes. It proved to be very successful and my teacher was extremely patient with me and my peers. By the latter half of elementary school, I struggled less and my grades significantly improved. It was a tough part of my early childhood, but I learned first-hand what it was like to speak a language not commonly expressed by others while trying to integrate into a new environment. I also learned what it was like to be bullied, talked down to, thought less of, and isolated from others.
So can you imagine, for a moment, when someone who does not speak or understand spoken English very well, be it due to primarily speaking a foreign language or an impairment such as being deaf, what they must feel when they need to communicate with you?
Now can you imagine what it must be like if you could understand them, their feelings, as well as, their language?