Committee Work: Not So Scary After All

14/02/2014 § 6 Comments

Here at Hack Library School we talk a lot about ways to further our LIS educations outside of the classroom, including pursuing part-time work, completing internships and practicums, joining student and professional organizations, and attending conferences. These kinds of experience are essential for shaping professional interests and developing skills. Throughout my time in library school I’ve tried to consider new opportunities to learn and grow as a librarian-in-training, and I want to share an option that I hadn’t thought about until more recently: joining a committee.

Initially, the idea of joining a committee sounded a little scary to me. Up until a few months ago, I had a fairly formal mental image of committees; I imagined intense, stately people talking about intense, stately things (when I thought about committees at all, which wasn’t too often). I hadn’t really considered the possibility of taking part in a committee as a student, so when one of my supervisors suggested that I join the conference planning committee for the librarians’ association at UNC, I was a little taken aback. But, not wanting to turn down an opportunity, I decided to give committee work a try.

My experience on the conference planning committee has been really great so far, and certainly not the intimidating endeavor I might have imagined. During our first meeting I realized that a committee can be as simple as a group of people trying to figure something out and get something done. Not scary, right? Too often I imagine that the professional librarians around me have everything together and know exactly what they’re doing all the time. Serving on a committee has been a good reminder for me that even the most brilliant librarians are constantly figuring things out. We all experience new challenges and problems to solve all the time and I think that’s a good thing.

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Working, Volunteering, or Interning Before Library School

23/09/2013 § 6 Comments

If you’re considering library school, if you’ve been accepted, and especially if you’re already there, I would strongly recommend getting hands-on experience as soon as possible. An internship or even just a bit of volunteering will help you to build a foundation of knowledge and skills as you pursue your degree. Other hackers have written on finding opportunities and making the most of them, but I’d like to address some key benefits of getting pre-library school experience in the first place:

Identifying Interests and Goals

Before starting library school I had never been paid to work in a library. However, I had spent considerable time interning and volunteering in them and had been an enthusiastic patron for as long as I could remember. During college, I spent two summers in a small academic library and one semester in my college archives, building an understanding of various kinds of library work. In addition to providing me with a basic ’how things work’ familiarity with many areas of academic libraries, my internships helped me to identify some of my interests and strengths, and to identify areas of librarianship I wanted to explore further. For example, after spending a lot of time by myself with boxes and files of papers in one internship, I decided that it would be important for me to pursue positions with more collaboration and patron interaction in the future. Figuring out what you don’t enjoy can be just as useful as discovering what you do.

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MLIS beyond borders

10/08/2012 § 25 Comments

“reads by the sea” By Joseph Robertson – CC – via Flickr

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Sarah McClung.

When most people hear the term “study abroad,” they think of a semester or even a year overseas their junior year of college. Outside of spending your whole masters program at an international university, most people don’t think of study abroad in graduate school, let alone study abroad for an MLS or MIS. Imagine the surprise then when I tell others that my very first information sciences class was in Prague. Yes, the capital of the Czech Republic.

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Gaining Experience in School

14/10/2011 § 1 Comment

For graduate students, ‘practical experience’ can mean a lot of
different things. For some of us this means traveling to foreign
countries for digs and research, volunteering in labs, internships at
potential employers, or simply participation in conferences and
papers. Regardless, practical participation in our fields is extremely
important to our future success.

Jensie Simkins:

These days it seems like even “entry-level” jobs are asking for
candidates with experience. It’s a little tricky, but not impossible,
to round out your resume and skill set while you’re in school. This
semester, I have been working as an intern for a marketing/design
firm. I’m not paid, but was able to get some credits toward my
Master’s for my work while I’m there. The work I do for my internship
is invaluable and is giving me experience in lots of areas I’m
interested in pursuing for my career. Many places take interns, and
many more would probably be willing to make an internship if you ask.
It’s also definitely worth doing the legwork to find out how to get
school credit for the position! Although a little clichéd, volunteer
work is another way to get experience while in school — especially if
you can be involved with the organization for a longer term than just
a semester. Work your way into a position that can be applicable to
your career, and always look for opportunities to take leadership
positions. Finally, it is relatively quick, easy, and non-committal to
job shadow someone in your field. You can see what the day to day of
the job is like and hopefully learn a few tips or skills that will
help you in the future!

Chris Stawski:

As a graduate student (or as my partner likes to call me, a “lifelong
learner”) I soon realized early in my career that in order to be
successful, I had to leave my classroom comfort zone. I had that part
down pat. But in order to gain professional experience, I needed to
learn how to write, present, and research outside the classroom.
Ultimately, this means presenting at conferences, submitting articles
to journals, and doing multi-disciplinary research.

A vital aspect that underlies all these out-of-classroom experiences
is collaboration. The professional experience that you will need to
accumulate derives from the ability to work and do research with your
peers, faculty, and advisors. Collaboration is essential to the
process of becoming a professional in your field, and it is vital to
the learning experience. By collaborating with someone on, lets say a
journal manuscript, it
not only gives you experience in research, writing, editing, and
ultimately getting your name in print, but also shows that you work
well with others. And this isn’t limited to multi-authored papers.
Read any acknowledgement section in a book, article, or dissertation
and you will see successful collaboration at work. For me, the road to
experience starts with collaboration.

Katy Meyers
Practical experience for my discipline is a little different than other peoples. As an archaeologist we are expected to do field work. This means an extended excavation, potentially in a foreign country. We need to show that we can plan an excavation, know the steps for gathering primary data, and use our theories in a practical sense. Doing field work is extremely rewarding in that we gain a wide range of experience, deeply connect with a range of individuals in the profession, and work from the ground up on data and interpretation. However, the requirement to be away in the field for months at a time can be very draining and stressful. It is difficult to balance having a life here and be away for a large amount of time. Once in the field we are faced with uncommon languages, foreign cultures, and in general faced with an unknown world (See Charlotte’s post on fieldwork for more information on what we face). Right now I’m faced with the problem of deciding whether to have a library based dissertation, or one that will take me out of the country for a couple months but will give me both primary data and practical experience. Getting this experience is not necessarily part of our program, so its up to us to be proactive and gain that experience. I’ve been involved in fieldwork where I’ve paid to attend, been a volunteer teaching assistant for, and also been paid to conduct. It is often this range of experience that gets noticed on my CV. In the end, our discipline is known for getting in the dirt and doing field work, so its essential for us to get this practical experience however we can and to get a wide variety of it.

Terry Brock
Gaining experience in your discipline is one of the most critical parts of being in graduate school. For PhD students, the obvious training comes in research: the majority of our time is spent on learning how to conduct, structure, and write about research. However, this is really only part of the battle: getting an advanced degree is also about learning how to be a professional. Included in this is how to teach, how to present your research, how to engage with the public (who likely supports your research), begin active in your professional societies, and how to work effectively with your colleagues. No matter how good you are at your research, these other components of becoming a professional will be critical to your success. Most graduate programs don’t work these elements into their programs, although the training can be found elsewhere. In some cases it comes through your advisor or another faculty mentor, through programming offered by your graduate school, or through your involvement with professional organizations. If your discipline is like mine (I’m in anthropology and archaeology), there may also be opportunities to work professionally in your field, or to gain additional experience through teaching at a community college, assisting in a lab, or getting an internship of some sort. Regardless, it is important to remember that getting an advanced degree is more than just learning about how to be an effective researcher, it’s about learning to be a professional, and that includes a wide array of experiences and skills.

Internship Tips and Insights

26/08/2011 § 16 Comments

If you’re a brand new library school student, you may feel it’s a little early to start thinking about internships/practicums. While I do think you need a few weeks to get settled in and feel less overwhelmed by the new atmosphere (and information overload), it’s a good idea to begin thinking about internships as soon as you’re able. My number 1 tip for new students is to start perusing job ads – subscribe to job lists in Google Reader, and save the ones that interest you. You don’t have to have your “track” figured out yet, but if you know some of the skills you will need to meet job requirements, you will feel a bit more focused when it comes to choosing classes and internships.

LIS programs vary when it comes to internships and practicums; some are required, some are optional. At UA, internships are optional, but students are strongly encouraged to do at least one semester-long, 150-hour internship for pass/fail credit. It doesn’t hurt that SLIS has an amazing internship coordinator who is not afraid to call any library – students talk to her about their interests, she names off some choices, and they go from there.

First things first: if an internship is not required, DO ONE. There are some exceptions to this. If you’re already working in a library part-time or full-time, you may not need an internship. If you can’t physically fit one in your schedule due to life conflicts, it’s understandable. Otherwise — do it. I can’t stress this enough.

Now for the other tips: « Read the rest of this entry »

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