Thanks to @fsayre, I was recently reading Breaking the barriers of time and space: the dawning of the great age of librarians by T. Scott Plutchak. It’s an interesting look back on the past, how the printed book changed libraries, and how we can be entering “the great age of librarians” with the shift to digital. I thought I would reflect on this a little more. I’m not sure I will come to any better conclusion, but perhaps how this might apply to myself and others. It’s a smattering of thoughts, so I may have to rewrite this later, but I hope this will get some people thinking and discussing. Continue reading
Just yesterday, Valerie (@vforrestal) posted an article on the culture in library land of achievements and recognition. To summarize, my takeaway from it is that our focus as librarians should not be winning awards and getting into the “in” crowd, but to do our work well and that we should strive for recognition from colleagues recognizing our everyday contributions as our achievements. Being a fairly new librarian, reading the article was a great reminder that getting awards and proposals accepted is not as important as we might make it out to be. Continue reading
Stuck in a Bubble?
So often working in a library, I feel like we’re stuck in the bubble that is the “library world”. While there are many aspects that are “special” to libraries or information/collection based organizations, so many aspects of librarianship are not: customer service, teaching, marketing/communications, space usage/design, web and IT services, etc. Yet for whatever reason, I find so many that are reluctant or never think to look outside the little bubble that we live in. Working in academic libraries, at least many people will think to expand into the higher ed world sometimes, but then stop there. Continue reading
So I started at CILS 3 weeks ago, and oh boy does it feel longer. My first week was a lot of getting settled in sort of thing (which means orientation and a lot of paperwork), and being given the simplest of stuff. After the first week, I was thrown into the deep end. Continue reading
Morning presentations Continue reading
The librarians had a half-day workshop where the activities focused on how we can communicate the value of librarians and the library to the rest of the university. Continue reading
Recently on Hack Library School, Amy Frazier posted about her idea of the ideal library school with higher-level technology classes and require more tech skills for librarians-to-be.
The post generated quite a lot of comments including my own. It’s definitely an issue that I have seen discussed more often in the last year or two. When I was in school, a number of students (including myself) expressed the desire for more technology courses in our program.
Including More Technology Courses
One side of the discussion is getting MLIS programs to offer more tech courses. While personally, I could have used more tech courses, I don’t necessarily think that it’s viable for a lot of schools. It’s difficult enough for schools that librarianship is very broad, add to that that many MLIS type jobs are not in libraries, and you get the basic problem of “how do you offer courses to cover all topics of interest in a single library school?”
Basically, you can’t. It’s impossible. At my school, there is a PhD program, so at the Master’s level, it even needs to cover all the research side of things.
Option 1: Partner with the CS department
One way is to possibly have the faculty partner with the CS department to allow students to take lower level programming classes or recommend CS classes that aren’t programming heavy. Unfortunately, like at my school, universities will normally not allow credit to be given for lower level courses when in a master’s program.
Option 2: Partner with other LIS schools
There is always the option of partnering with other schools to offer classes (this includes non-technology related courses). This already happens in many schools, but due to different schedules and the difficulty of getting through other schools’ admissions for classes and such, it is traditionally not particularly convenient. Improving the shared courses system would definitely help though.
Option 3: Offer 2-3 introductory courses
I would say that, at the least, LIS schools should at least have introductory courses (again possibly in partnership). At my school, they offered a 1-credit class as an introductory course (a regular class is 3 credits). I think for its first time, it did quite well and a lot of students had signed up. What I would like to see is for additional 1-credit classes to be offered to introduce the basics of other languages or a 3-credit course, which can almost be a survey type course where you’re introduced to the basics of a couple of languages and taught the process in making decisions on which to use when. An existing class covers technology management and what we dubbed “systems 101″. Schools might consider partnering with professional associations to offer these sorts of classes.
But if you want tech…
In the end though, if students want a library program that is very tech heavy, then perhaps they should do more research into which schools already offer that sort of program before applying. Much like at the undergraduate level, different schools emphasize different things, so it’s up to a student to do the research and do their best to get in.
Requiring More Technology Skills
The other big idea that came up in the discussion is requiring the completion of a course which involves a higher level of technology skills. While I think library students need to graduate with at least a basic amount of technology skills, I think what’s more important is knowing how and when to integrate technology into library services to best support users.
Solution?: Technology Integration
Some of the commenters also proposed this idea, at least to a degree (I admit that I have not read every single answer though).
The biggest issue I had with my required technology class (other than the fact that we couldn’t be exempted even if you had a CS background) was that much of what we learnt was not put into a practical context.
If you want students to learn how to make a PowerPoint presentation, don’t make them do something that involves lots of different animations (no one does this, or at least should do this in a real presentation), but instead, tell them to make a presentation that pitches an idea or teaches a skill for example.
In an instructional class, have students make a video a la research minute for example. Get them to work with a real library and upload it to their YouTube channel when done.
My favourite classes were ones where we got a practical project that involved learning a new technology. For example, I took a class on digital collections, so we read all the usual papers, sat through all the lectures, and we learned how to use DBTextWorks and ContentDM. That means that I now can (with a bit of wrangling) build a digital collection should I see the need (or become responsible for that sort of thing).
More than anything, I think students need to learn the situations where it would be beneficial for them and patrons to integrate technology, and if they need help, then to go ask their systems team.
While I admit that I have not gone to many library conferences, I thought I would reflect on attending my recent outing to Seattle.
Funding & Limitations
Fairly obvious, but it was important for me to know how many conferences I might be able to attend in a year. If hired as a permanent position, most librarians get a set budget for attending conferences and other events, but on contract, it’s a per-event approval process (as it tends to be at most institutions).
Based on what I heard from others, I think it is key to know what kind of policy administration usually has. I’ve heard from some that non-permanent full-time librarians get absolutely no funding, and even permanent full-time librarians sometimes have to wait 1-2 years before getting funding.
There is, of course, the choice of funding a trip yourself on your own time, but these costs can be prohibitive for new graduates or those with lesser financial means.
Choosing the Right Conferences
On a bit of a side note, I think it is also up to the individual to pick and choose what’s right for them. There are so many conferences being held all the time, it can be very difficult to choose. Being able to only choose 1-2 conferences in a year, I decided against the larger, more general conferences (such as CLA, ALA, or the provincial ones) because I felt that many of the sessions were just not relevant to my interests and position. Instead, I decided to focus on technology related conferences, namely Access and Code4Lib.
Other more local events, which only involves work time, with little or no fees and travel costs can help to supplement or be alternatives to larger events as well, especially regional versions of larger events. Once again though, depending on the policies of the organization, this might involve an individual paying their own way and using vacation time to attend.
How Can We Help?
One of the discussions I got involved with while in Seattle was, how can we help new graduates/librarians (and librarians in more restrictive positions perhaps) attend conferences?
While many conferences offer discounts on registration fees or free attendance for volunteers, registration fees are not usually that high (at least not at library conferences). Even airline tickets are fairly low cost when flying within the US (though admittedly to/from/within Canada can be quite expensive). What makes a trip prohibitive then is usually the hotel, which generally costs at least $100/night.
Then, what can be done to help with these costs?
- Scholarships: many have student scholarships, which is great, but maybe they can be opened up or a couple can be made for those in need (who are not necessarily students) – it was the only reason I could attend Code4Lib this year
- Roomshare/Rideshare: while we had this at Code4Lib, I’m not sure how well it was advertised (but then I got in late in the game). Maybe if it was advertised on the main webpage or somewhere in the registration process, a list of people willing to share can be generated.
- Hostel Room: Similarly, facilitate a way for a group to get a hostel room together (while they might still be strangers, personally, I would not mind so much with fellow conference attendees as opposed to complete, possibly unfriendly strangers).
- Ask Locals to Offer a Couch/Floor/etc.: I admit that this would be probably difficult for large conferences, but if locals could offer a place to sleep to those in need, I think it would be a great way to encourage new folks to attend. (Organizers can consider writing a simple guideline, such as only if a person doesn’t have any funding sources to attend.)
I’d love to hear other ideas, which might be passed on to conference organizers, especially for Code4Lib 2013.
The afternoon pre-conference session was Digging into Metadata: Context, Code, and Collaboration presented by:
- Becky Yoose, Grinnell College
- Corey Harper, New York University
- Shana L. McDanold, University of Pennsylvania via Skype, and
- Laura Smart, Caltech.
It was great seeing a big mix of people, many of them neither cataloguers or coders. I have put in below my annotated version of the slides (see presentation link for link to original slides).
I apologize that this is actually a set of images (WP doesn’t support embedding of PDFs and I didn’t want to put it on slideshare/issuu), but the PDF version is also available.