The Beginner’s Guide to the Professional Book Review

26/03/2014 § 8 Comments

Editor’s Note: In need of inspiration? You are in luck! Hack Library School plans to bring back reviews to the blog – on books, technology, and other resources in the LIS field - and will even consider guest reviews! You can check out previous books reviews on the blog here.

By now you’ve probably noticed that here at Hack Library School we are really big on a little thing called professional involvement. Just recently, we’ve covered professional organizations, conferences, committee work, and more. It’s an excellent way to develop important skills, learn about issues and conversations in the field, meet people, and demonstrate to prospective employers that you’re proactive and engaged. Book reviews are one important (and fun) avenue of professional involvement that many students aren’t aware of. HLS alumna Annie Pho first suggested book reviewing to me, and I’m so glad she did. Now that I have a few reviews under my belt, I’m here to pass it on!

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Hacking Your Career Plans: Independent Information Professionals

24/03/2014 § 3 Comments

This post came about as a result of combining in my mind the following four things:

  1. A conversation about possible directions of big legal research sites (Lexis and Westlaw, specifically but hypothetically)*, now that there are so many reliable alternatives for finding primary law (statutes, court opinions) at significantly lower cost;
  2. The worn-out trope of the “death of libraries” (to which I’m not linking any items–do we really need to give it any more press?);
  3. Musings on the term “Chief Information Officer” and how it generally has nothing to do with information and everything to do with technology; and
  4. An announcement of a conference of the Association of Independent Information Professionals.

The sum of these parts is brownies. (Yum.)

No, the sum of these parts is the role of the librarian outside the four walls of the library. (And brownies.)

Many of us are going to get our degrees, find a job in a public, academic, or special library of our choice, and live happily ever after. But some of us may not want that. Did you know that you don’t have to want that?

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Cheap Skate or Pioneering Information Professional?

21/03/2014 § 2 Comments

I’m not going to say that my graduate student budget forced me into the world of open source software, but it certainly didn’t hurt.  There was a time when “open source” was synonymous with “free of charge”, but with the proliferation of mobile technologies and free apps, the lines between for-profit and not-for-profit software are now blurred.  Therefore the distinction must be made that open source software contains a license, which allows the user to modify the code and to freely distribute the software to anyone, for any purpose.  As a result, this software is often community developed, and widely distributed.

So why should you invest your precious time in learning how to use these free alternatives?  Let me consult a recognizable mantra.  Some of the triumphs of open source software come right out of ALA’s mission statement: “Equitable Access to Information, Intellectual Freedom, Education and Lifelong Learning”.  There can be obstacles to early adoption, primarily the learning curve, but grad school is the ideal time to conquer these technological challenges.  Here are some open source software examples I have adopted in my pursuit of information literacy.

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Hack your Enthusiasm: Boosting Motivation When Torpor Hits

20/03/2014 § 4 Comments

Library school is great.  After a standard Bachelor of Arts and a few years in the workforce I’m finally making progress towards my career goals, and it’s refreshing to be in classes that I chose myself and will impact my career in real and direct ways.  On most days I approach my classwork are enthusiasm, interest, and excitement.

But there are days that this is not the case. I absolutely want to be a librarian; but sometimes being a student all over again saps my will, and even the best classes have units that are critical and practical but not inspiring or engaging.  There are days when a Netflix marathon and a craft beer or two are far more enticing than 50 pages of theory-heavy reading in 10-point font. I’m sure many of you have days just like this. Lethargy: it happens. But unless you want to give up your librarian (or archivist) dreams you’ve got to figure out a way to overcome this torpor and get your positive momentum back.

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Get Involved and Reap the Benefits: Advantages of Professional Library Membership

19/03/2014 § 6 Comments

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Sara Kelso.

This is the post where I convince you to get involved, if you aren’t already, with professional organizations as a library or information professional.  “But I don’t have time!” you say.  “But it’s expensive!” you protest.  “And what do they ever do for me anyways?  I mean, it’s great to have conferences, but those are expensive too!” you lament.

Dear reader, I hear you.  But I’m here to tell you that there are enormous advantages to professional organization membership and involvement that you may not have yet discovered.  Fellow MLIS students, I’m particularly talking to you.

Early on in my life in the library world a few years ago, when I landed my first student position, I made it a point to shell out the hundred or so bucks to get that ALA and local OLA membership.  I wasn’t making much, and this felt like a lot of money to give to an organization I knew nothing about, but I am so grateful I joined.  I have reaped so many benefits from it, I can’t imagine how my life as a library professional would look without these experiences.  Thus, this is my call to all of you to get involved and to do it now.  Organizations like the Oregon Library Association are working hard to represent and to connect library professionals on a regional and a state level, and despite all the amazing work being done and the fantastic developments that have emerged even just this year, like a mentoring program and the Passport program, membership is suffering and round tables, committees and task forces need more heads and hands to help out.

At my first ever retreat, I got a chance to see the big picture and to better understand my role in the organization, how others depend on me, how I depend on them, and how all the puzzle pieces fit together to make a group dedicated to helping libraries all over the state, and even form partnerships with other states.  It was the most supportive, collaborative, open-minded, and focused professional experience I have ever had.  It gave me the opportunity to see just how dedicated people are to the library profession, how much it really means to them and how generous people are in this profession.

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The Scariest Things We’ve Done In Library School

17/03/2014 § 5 Comments

When I was a freshly-declared English major, just beginning to flex my college reading and writing muscles, one of my professors told me something that has stuck with me ever since: “If you feel like you’re out on the tightrope and it’s swinging, that’s good. That’s where life is.”

As I recall, she meant that specifically in relation to making strong arguments and taking intellectual risks; if you feel like what you’re saying is risky, that’s good because it means you’re really making an argument. But I think we can jump easily from writing guidance to life advice (and my professor did so often). When you step out onto uncertain ground—take a risk, that is—you open to growth and new experiences. If it feels scary, good, you’re doing something important and it’s called living.

I’ve felt like I was “out on the tightrope” many times during library school and, as uncomfortable as it is, I’ve tried to embrace the feeling. Instead of letting fear cripple me, I try to use it as a motivator to find some extra courage within myself and continue on whatever nerve-wracking track I’m currently on.

Sharing the things that scare us, while adding some initial vulnerability, can be motivating and empowering. And so, some fellow hackers and I would like to share the scariest things we’ve done in library school and what we learned from the process.

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You, Too, Can Be a Change Agent

13/03/2014 § 10 Comments

With the annual release of Library Journal’s “Movers and Shakers” awards, there seems to be an attendant wave of discussion about what, exactly, it takes to be recognized and praised in our field. This year’s Movers and Shakers were just rolled out this week, so the think-pieces haven’t quite started yet, but many of last year’s posts are worth revisiting. Critics of the awards argue that lots and lots of librarians make a difference in day-to-day activities that are never valorized in the press. Like the M & S awards themselves, however, these posts are all geared toward “in-the-trenches” librarians who are already established in their career paths. The discussion left me wondering, “What about students? In what ways, big and small, do we make our mark on the field?” « Read the rest of this entry »

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