I have been following Jane’s saga about teaching a preconference workshop at a TLA conference over at A Wandering Eyre with fascinated interest. I don’t go to many conferences (I do hope to once I’m done with graduate school), and know next to nothing about compensation for speaking, presenting, etc. It all seems rather confusing, bizarre and off putting. I have to applaud Dorothea Salo for her contribution to the discussion - The Library-Association Conference Paradox – in which she is quite up front about what she is getting for her participation. Really, these are the things nobody ever tells you – that you have to learn on your own (and probably in a rather painful way). They certainly do not teach you these things in library school.
The Liminal Librarian started this meme sometime last week. Life has been crazy, so although I thought about joining in, I didn’t. But since I was tagged by Peter Bromberg from Library Garden earlier this week, I had to participate. I’ve tried to highlight some of the blogs that haven’t already been mentioned too many times. It has been interesting to note that many of us in the world of library blogs seem to read a high percentage of the same non-library blogs!!
- Star Wars Joke-A-Day – This one is just for fun. Yes, I’m a Star Wars fanatic. There are some interesting blogs on the Star Wars Official Site – on which I have spent more time that I really want to acknowledge.
- Presentation Zen - A blog about professional presentation design.
- How to Save the World – “Dave Pollard’s environmental philosophy, creative works, business papers and essays. In search of a better way to live and make a living, and a better understanding of how the world really works. “
- Bloug- Louis Rosenfeld’s blog on information architecture.
- A List Apart – “For people who make websites.”
Did you ever have one of those days that made you want to run screaming from the library never to return? Yesterday was one of those days for me. I was utterly amazed at how easy it is for the library to be left out of important decisions and projects (like a college-wide web site redesign). I was seriously disheartened by how easily this could happen – and feeling as if I have been beating my head against a brick wall for the past several years. By the time I left work yesterday, I was seriously questioning my career choices.
A wonderful bath, some excellent alone time, a non-school book and a nice alcoholic beverage helped to give me some needed perspective – to make the world look a little less hostile and uninviting. Of course that only lasted until I read this, this, this and this all about this atrocity involving cyberbullying and death threats. I’m constantly amazed at the depth to which some people will sink. This is scary, scary stuff that can’t help but make me question the humanity of our species.
Really, I need today to be a better day!
Michael Stephens asks “Should first semester students start blogging immediately in library school?” My answer is an emphatic YES!!!!! In this post over at Tame The Web, Michael Stephens quotes a blog post from techLearning about the problem of using blogs in education as writing tools rather than tools for conversations. It is an extremely interesting post and certainly reinforces the notion of how important blogs can be to facilitate conversations and to then build community.
In this vein, I think that blogs could be a very valuable tool for LIS students – and could help to fill a void for distance LIS students in particular. Blogging could help to promote a sense of community among distance students, traditional students, faculty and even the administration if used effectively. I love the fact that the Dominican University Graduate School of Library and Information Science has started a blog (found via Michael Stephens – Tame The Web). I would love to see more of this sort of thing. The possibilities seem endless – and I think the community that would evolve could truly enhance the educational experience.
There is such a wonderful sense of relief once you pass in an assignment – especially a tough one. Even I can usually feel extremely relaxed for a couple of hours before I start worrying about how I did. So, I’m utterly enjoying a few hours of relaxation after having turned in my benchmarking exercise for ILS560-College & University Libraries. Yeah!!
The feeling is especially intense tonight since family obligations conspired to keep me from spending as much time as I would have liked on the actual paper this weekend. My parents have been on vacation in Saint Maarten for the past two weeks and were supposed to come home yesterday. Due to severe airline delays, they had to spend the night in Charlotte, NC and didn’t make it home until around 3:30PM this afternoon. My husband and I had to run errands for my parents yesterday and then had to pick them up at the airport today. Of course, their flight was slightly delayed today – and then one of their bags was lost. All in all, I had to spend a great deal of time dealing with these issues – and not on my paper. But now, everyone is safely home – and my paper has been delivered to the professor (unless there are any funky email issues abounding in cyberspace).
Recent events at SCSU have been making me think seriously about how students can optimize their distance education experience. It
is undoubtedly may well be true that students in online classes should be prepared to take greater responsibility for their own education than their counterparts in face-to-face classes and that they may be required to extremely resourceful to make the most of their program. This is an important point for people to consider before applying to a distance program. The ability to discipline oneself is critical to finding success. There are many distractions at home – family, the tv, the telephone, the refrigerator, etc. – so that finding time can be difficult.
Support for distance students can be very different than for on-campus students, especially if one attends a program where there are no residency requirements or established cohorts. At SCSU, it is extremely easy to apply and start taking classes. If accepted, one is in. It becomes more problematic when students have questions, need help and/or want to talk to someone. There is no general orientation. Students don’t really “meet” unless they are in class together. There isn’t much opportunity to officially bond outside of class. It can take one a while to get comfortable with the system and understand how it works.
However, there are advantages to a program like the one at SCSU. There are no residency requirements, so one never has to set foot on campus. Courses generally don’t require any live meeting times for chats, etc. This program is incredibly convenient, and for me that was the bottom line when choosing a program. It has been a challenge to adapt to learning online, but a rewarding one (for the most part).
So, how does one make the most of distance education? Here are some my suggestions – in no particular order:
- Create a blog- There are some wonderful online communities that can offer great support. Some of the people that I have relied most heavily upon are fellow bloggers who aren’t associated with SCSU. Other bloggers are often willing to help answer questions, offer stories of their own educational experiences and act as sounding boards. If you do know some students in your distance program, try and start blogging together. You might be surprised how quickly a community could evolve and expand. I think this would be a wonderful project for newly accepted students into any MLS program.
- Make friends with the distance education librarian – You may encounter all sorts of situations where you need some guidance. Distance education librarians can really help and not just with library questions - even if only to point you to the right person on campus. There may be problems with the course management system, questions about classes or registration, or confusion over student services and how they relate to distance students.
- Research the faculty- Relationships with faculty will be key. It can be very difficult to develop a rapport with any individuals in the program – especially faculty. Chances are you won’t learn much about professors until you actually take their classes. It will be critical that you have a good relationship with your advisor. Determining faculty research interests before you apply can help you determine which professor your interests coincide with most closely – and help you figure out where you should be going to school.
- Get to know your advisor early- You will need to rely upon your advisor a great deal. Make sure you are comfortable with the advisor you have been assigned. Don’t be afraid to ask for another advisor if you think that would be best.
- Don’t be afraid to get a bit personal in course discussions – This is really a good way to let a bit of your personality shine into the digital world. Otherwise, you may never really get to know your fellow students – or your professors. You may feel a bit left out if you don’t develop some personal ties. Honestly, I was very hesitant to join in on discussions that seemed to consist of mostly banter during my first semester. As such, I didn’t really develop any friendships in that class.
- Don’t give up – keep asking questions- Distance students can feel left out or a bit removed from things that take place on campus. Don’t be discouraged if it takes a little bit of work to get questions answered sometimes. It isn’t always straightforward to figure out where to direct questions. Fellow students sometimes may be the best resource you have.
- Create a comfortable school-work zone – You will need a place at home where you do your school work. I found it helpful to designate a spot as a study/work zone – where I had all of my books, articles and notebooks (yes, paper is still key for me). My husband quickly came to understand that when I was in this zone, I was doing homework – and should not be disturbed unless necessary (He learned that helping him locate his shoes did not qualify – and that “YES, you need to answer the phone”). I also had to learn to be clear with my family about my due dates and what days I wanted to reserve for homework. There were things I couldn’t do without adequate time for scheduling. One caveat: you don’t want your work zone to be too comfortable. I made that mistake also and learned that almost everything is more exciting that homework (including napping).
Update: I added to this list. I noticed last night that some things were missing from the original post. I would love to blame WordPress, but sadly think it was user error!
Are you currently an MLS student? Thinking about applying?
Michael Stephens – with the help of some of his LIS students – put together some Survival Tips for LIS Education on his blog, Tame The Web. These tips can definitely help!
Rachel Singer Gordon’s Oroberosity post over at The Liminal Librarian got me thinking today. Recently, people have been expressing the belief that the world of library bloggers is a bit too repetitive with little originality. Rachel Singer Gordon wrote that some respondents to her alternative career survey “find the well-known blog/bloggers to be too inbred, too repetitive, and too busy patting each other on the back.” Personally, I’ve never really noticed this – and I think that I subscribe to many of the big name blogs – The Shifted Librarian, librarian.net, Information Wants To Be Free, Free Range Librarian, Walt at Random and several others (FYI, I’m not entirely clear on the criteria for big name blogs). Yes, certainly when something like Twitter or the Library 2.0 group on Ning starts to get noticed, there are many posts (that can be somewhat repetitive) about it. However, I’ve always found this to be a good gauge about how something gets used or gets picked up. To me, it is also a good way to know when I should start paying attention to something (or at least look into it).
But more importantly, I want to ask - isn’t this repetitiveness an important part of the community building that blogging affords people? It seems to me that this is one of the ways that bloggers have conversations about things that are important to them or that interest them. I’m not terribly interested in Twitter. I’m fairly apathetic to IM, so I didn’t even want to play around with it. However, I took note of those who were playing with – those who liked it, those who didn’t and those who found some real uses for it. I admit that I didn’t read all of the posts about it, but I definitely don’t read all of the posts that show up in my aggregator either. Bottom line, I guess that I don’t particularly find the world of library blogs to be inbred or overly repetitive. I find plenty of disagreement or disparity among big name bloggers – although certainly not on every subject.
Because really, I can’t handle the pressure of it all. I mentioned being way out of my comfort zone trying to pull distance students at SCSU together – and believe me that feeling hasn’t abated. I’ve had a somewhat queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach all week – and it is just a little bit worse this morning. Without a doubt, I expected there to be some fallout, disagreement and even backlash. Trying to bring together a bunch of disparate students who all have different wishes, conerns and problems can be difficult – and very tiring. Trying to do so in a positive and constructive manner is even more exhausting – and sadly, might be somewhat impossible. I’m a big fan of peace and harmony, and things are a long way from that state at the moment. Maybe shaking things up every once in a while is a good thing, but I’m generally not the one who does the shaking. And I usually find the shaken state to be incredibly uncomfortable. At least now, I remember why I tend to prefer being in the background. I’m willing to be it will be a long, long time before I stick my neck out again.
Despite spending an inordinate amount of time on student empowerment issues, I do actually have homework to do – a great deal of it.
For ILS560 – College & University Libraries:
I have a benchmarking exercise due on March 25th. For this assignment, we are expected to choose an academic library and do a statistical comparison between the chosen library and some peer institutions. A large part of the assignment hinges upon the choice of college library and the justification of the peer institutions that we choose. I have started collecting data about the library I plan to profile and am in the process of deciding upon which peer institutions to use. The paper should include charts and diagrams and be no more than 8 pages. I think I can get a good portion done this weekend.
For ILS656 – Information Architecture:
We have one major project during the course of the semester – a redesign of a web site. I am working with one other person in my class to build a web site for a public library. So far, the majority of work that we have done has been analyzing and detailing the current site. It took a while to get approval on the projects from the Institutional Review Board – so we are just starting to get to the stage where we can talk to the people at the institution. The bottom line here??? There is lots and lots of work to be done over the next month and a half.