How I Got My LIS Groove Back
28/11/2013 § 8 Comments
Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Alison Peters.
I fully admit it: I was this close to dropping out.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m very happy with the 100% online LIS program at San Jose State University, which allows me to work full time and develop a freelance writing career, all while I’m in school. And the LIS degree is perfect for combining my love of books, public/customer service, and research. But after a semester ‘break’ I needed a jumpstart; something to put me back on a focused path and engage me again.
So when the call went out to join an independent study course devoted to the LIS Publications Wiki, I jumped at it. The wiki is, essentially, a database of LIS-centric publications and everything you ever wanted to know in order to write for them. Designed to be used by LIS professionals and students around the world – it’s a pretty amazing, extremely valuable research effort. Each entry details things like the publication’s submission guidelines, their audience makeup (so you’ll know who you’re tailoring your writing towards), what they’re looking for in submissions, and how to contact editors and send in your query. The goals are to encourage more LIS folks to write, to get published, and to inspire readers by showing how many publications and organizations are out there, just waiting for you. If your focus is metadata and you’re interested in writing a scholarly (i.e., research oriented and peer reviewed) piece for an acclaimed publication that might help you land a job or gain tenure, click on the Scholarly Journals section to narrow your search focus. If your library or school just developed a cool new program, the LIS professional and trade publications or LIS online forums (which is where I came across, and fell in love with, HLS in the first place) would most likely love to share your news with their readers. And if you’re like me and just want to gush over books with other aficionados, search for a Civilian publication like BookRiot, and try your luck.
Frankly, after all the scholarly, foot-noted and well-sourced reading for classes, I was beginning to think that writing an LIS article would only come well after receiving my degree, and then after working for a few years, and on top of that, I’d better have something ridiculously intelligent to write about. This research (along with a professional lecturer and writer as my guide and mentor) helped simplify the world of LIS publishing, dispelling some of the mystery around writing for the profession. And I’ve developed a good eye for what to look for in a publication I query. I’ve learned that I’m probably not the research/reference article type of writer – I like to take an experience and talk it out, conversation style. Might not lead to tons of accolades, but chances are someone out there can benefit from my experiences. It’s the old each one teach one rule, and I plan on sticking to it.
The wiki is currently in use at San Jose State, as part of a pre-req, research and writing oriented course for new students, and has been mentioned in several other sites, blogs, and research presentations. It’s gaining support, and my work is just beginning. The other members of the student team and I work on updating existing profiles to add more, current information; reach out to editors for their feedback and extend invites for them to create their own login profiles to keep their publications up to date; and constantly seek out new publications to add to our ever growing list. It’s a ton of work, but of the variety I most enjoy: using research and writing skills to create something beneficial for the community. And this work isn’t just limited to a few of us students at San Jose State. The wiki is an open-source project. Anyone with an interest and some time can login and add their knowledge. It’s encouraged. It’s what it’s there for.
Remember how I was this close to dropping out of SLIS? Working on the wiki has revitalized my passion for all things LIS. Due in part to the wiki, I’m now taking courses more in line with online searching, design and interface. Research, writing, and information sharing. And now I know how many cool things LIS professionals are out there doing – and writing about, It’s not just about picking courses that will get me a library job, it’s about expanding my knowledge and horizons through projects like this one, gaining a better understanding outside the classroom, and then carving my own space, using all the tools at my disposal. As Topher Lawton so wisely pointed out in a HLS post I will treasure forever: the degree is about amplifying your current skills and experience to better position yourself, career wise.
I’ve gained invaluable experience, insight into the world of LIS publications, and a LIS-specific database detailing a host of wonderful sites to write for. I’m continuing work on the wiki this semester (as we undertake the exhilarating, painstakingly detail-oriented task of switching platforms from MediaWiki to WordPress), and anticipate being part of it for a long time to come.
Reading and writing, research and publication. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
Alison Peters is wrapping up her fourth (but not final!) semester at San Jose State University’s Library and Information Science program, where her focus has been the LIS Publications Wiki in all its ever-changing glory. Current goals include talking herself down from querying each and every journal she’s learned about via the wiki, and delving deeper into the world of online searching and reference services. When not working, querying, or in class, Alison puts her MFA from Mills College to good use and writes, reviews and shares her love for all things bookish at Bookriot. Combining the experience of the MFA and MLIS is proving to be the yellow brick road leading to career, and personal, joy and satisfaction. You can find her serious professional side on LinkedIn.