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.
The best boss I’ve had (with apologies to my current boss, who is a close second) learned from bad experiences he had as an employee and was conscious not to repeat the mistakes his bosses had made. The same can apply here. As librarians, we will all have to make presentations, even if we don’t go into instructional positions. Take this opportunity to consider what your less-liked professors do that make them less-liked, and practice not doing those things.
In my case, I’ve had too many classes that are primarily lecture-and-read-off-slides. Maybe easy for the professor, but not inspiring. What can I do differently? Less text. More dialogue. Skip the animation. Don’t be wedded to Powerpoint.
All of my classes have included presentations among the assignments, so I have had many chances to try different things. In one class I based my entire presentation off text-free infographic I created. I’ve used Prezi (being careful to avoid motion-sickness-inducing transitions). For my final presentation this semester, I’m considering using a whiteboard app. (Remember, Powerpoint itself is fine, as long as you don’t load your slides with text or animations!)
Inspired to try breaking out of the Powerpoint mold? Here are some tools that I’ve tried:
- Prezi (and a good guide to using Prezi)
- HaikuDeck (visual presentations with minimal text)
- educreations (whiteboard app)
2. Bad journal articles
This one’s easy. Tired of reading poorly written journal articles? Write and submit your own! Even if you don’t improve the quality of scholarship in our profession, you’ll get published. (Sorry, that’s pretty cynical.) Many library organizations have calls for student papers, but don’t limit yourself only to those.
Student papers include:
- AALL/LexisNexis Call for Papers
- ALA Government Documents Roundtable student paper issue of DttP (Documents to the People) (link is for last year)
3. Inconvenient class scheduling
Bear with me here as I do a bit of self-indulgent whining. The issue of when classes are scheduled is my biggest library school lemon and the one I can least suck up and deal with. At Catholic, courses are offered during one of three general time slots: weekday late afternoon, weekday night, or Saturday. I knew this going in, but didn’t do any sort of data analysis of past semester course schedules to make sure enough classes are offered in that weekday night time slot. I just figured “most students work, therefore most classes should be offered at night.” I was wrong.
Next semester more classes are being offered in the late afternoon time slot than the night time slot, and the realities of working a 9-5:30 job while going to school part-time and being Sabbath-observant (see that link above) are finally hitting.
The lemonade here? Lots of opportunity to practice your self-advocacy and problem-solving skills. I don’t recommend laughing in a professor’s face when she suggests speaking to the department chair, but in my defense, she was the third professor to suggest it, and the second to suggest it after I’d already spoken with the chair.
So. Self-advocacy. I’m not good at it. But this is your opportunity to become close to your advisor. Remember this: professors are not idols to be worshipped. They’re just people. So go have a conversation. If your advisor isn’t able to help, try talking to the professors who teach the classes you’re having trouble scheduling. In my case, this meant looking at old course catalogs, finding a professor I know and like who has taught one of the classes I need, and emailing him to ask if he’s teaching it again and can do so on a weekday. If (when) that doesn’t work, go talk to your dean/department chair. My dad is a department chair and my aunt is a dean. I promise you; they’re just people, too. Unfortunately, they might not have any solutions either. Offer your own suggestions. Maybe a class can be recorded? Maybe everyone in the class would prefer it to be at a different time. Ask if you can transfer credits for a similar class taught at a different library school.
When none of those work, though, enjoy the best lemonade of all. Frozen, maybe with some alcohol mixed in. No solution? Take a semester off. Use that free time to network with professionals in your area, write papers to submit to journals (see #2 above), catch up on the knitting you haven’t had time for since you started school, move to a new house…
If you need me, I’ll be packing.