For my ILS565 – Library Management class, I have a 2-3 page paper due tomorrow. The assignment is to research ways in which libraries can improve the quality of their service to their patrons using between 6 and 10 articles on TQM (total quality management) or other service issues. We are supposed to consider staffing, training, evaluation, incentives along with other issues and then summarize 10 to 20 recommendations or techniques for providing quality service. All this in 2-3 pages??? This is a tough one. I have about 50 articles, but none of them seem quite right. ARGH!! I have started to actually select some articles and begin the paper – and now, I think it is time to quit for the night. I think I have been reading too many articles, second guessing my choices, getting more articles and just generally driving myself insane. Hopefully, things will look clearer in the morning. Please, please, please!!!!! These assignments are killer!!!
I’ve been contemplating it for years. I usually get a packet from ALA every year, at work, inviting me to join. I’ve always hesitated – and admittedly have thought about more of late because I’m eligible for the student discount. That is probably awful – but sadly is the truth. I also joined LITA. What will it all mean?? I have no clue – for whatever reason, it just seemed like the right time to join. But now, it is bed time!
Over on Tame The Web, Michael Stephens asks “How does/did your LIS program measure up?” Stephens discusses an article in Library Journal on Michael Gorman by John Berry. In the article, Berry writes “Librarianship requires graduates from programs designed to respond to national trends in information, leisure, technology, and entertainment and the need for civic awareness and community.” I believe that it is in relation to this quote that Michael Stephens is asking about LIS programs. I’m really not sure how to assess my LIS program in relation to this quote. Really the question is, will all students graduating with their MLS from SCSU be able to “respond to national trends in information leisure, technology, and entertainment and the need for civic awareness and community?” I would have to say no – but I doubt that any graduate program would be able to claim that all of their graduates have the knowledge needed for this. So much of this comes down to what the student wants to learn and what type of librarian the student wants to be. In the course of my studies, I have run across students who want to learn about new technologies, want to learn about the ways that people use technologies and seem to care about the people they will serve as librarians. However, I have also run across students who only seem to want to do the required work with as little effort as possible. One doesn’t normally interact with these types of students much. I can’t definitively tell what type of student they will be, but I suspect that they will simply want to go through the motions of any future library job.
Personally, I feel as if I am getting quite a bit out of my educational experience. I’m not sure how much of this I attribute to the actual program and how much I attribute to my own initiative and desire to be a better and more responsive librarian. Ok, that statement isn’t really true. Honestly, I have to attribute most of it to my own desire to make connections, to widen my horizons, to learn something beyond the lectures and textbooks. I can say that in only two of the six classes that I have taken (or are taking) have we discussed the types of issues or strategies that I would consider to be beyond the bounds of traditional librarianship. In a third class, the focus was primarily issues relating to the traditional librarianship concepts of freedom of information, privacy, ethics, etc. – and I think that was appropriate. However, the other three classes could have been so much more. In the reference class, there was no discussion of the impact of technology on reference services. Internet sources were treated as if they were simply sources of information. We didn’t discuss search strategies for finding pertinent information, use of instant messaging, social software, ways to engage patrons or ways in which patrons look for information. The class could have been so much more.
I have to admit that because I have lots of practical library experience, it is difficult (maybe impossible) for me to judge how well my LIS program would prepare people without any prior library knowledge for a job. I’m pretty secure in the path that I want to take, and have the experience to support my chosen path – thus, practical knowledge is not an issue for me. The MLS program definitely does not impart practical, day-to-day knowledge of library operations (exceptions are field studies and internships of which not everyone takes advantage). It is definitely much more theoretical in nature. So, really what do students need from an MLS program? I think the difficult part of this equation is that students differ in their learning styles – and they need different things. Students with significant library experience could use a different course of study from those without any experience. How do we assess these types of issues? I’m not entirely sure. I do believe that those of us who are graduate students need to take some responsibility for the education that we receive. The information that we need to know is out there. We have to find out how to harvest it. We should all be discussing LIS education and what it does well and what it does poorly. I could certainly have done without several of the classes I have taken so far – so there is certainly room for improvement.
Laura Crossett has a thought provoking blog post, women and altruism: prelimlinary thoughts, with some reactions to Roy Tenant’s recent Library Journal article on the gender imbalance in areas of library technology and conferences. She asks “Do we really believe that women are more civilized than men?” I added my thoughts as a comment on this post. This topic fascinates me.
Angel has a different perspective on IM in his post On IM and Libraries, some musings. He writes “This also leads me to believe that use of IM as a form of virtual reference by the library may not succeed, at least not anytime soon and not as long as IM is not something on the student’s radar.” This post caught my eye because we do not use IM at the library where I work because the students just don’t seem interested. They are interested in IM and conduct most of their conversations via IM – just not with the library staff.
Ross Day discusses the depth of Library 2.0 in a post, Scaling Library 2.0 over at library of primitive art. While talking about this third dimension of Library 2.0, he writes “In the end, it’s not so much a question of scaling down what Library 2.0 has to offer in deference to your narrow audience, yet taking advantage of Library 2.0 to discover and address an untapped and potentially much larger audience with the same economies of scale.” This is an important observation about Library 2.0 and really exemplifies why libraries need to think hard about their customer base and how it now goes beyond the walls of our physical spaces.
Do you feel like a librarian? What makes you feel like one? With a recent blog post on the subject (Joy Weese Moll’s Feeling like a librarian from Wanderings of a Student Librarian) and a comment left on one of my posts (from Corey of the Tech Explorer blog), I have been thinking about how one comes to identify oneself as a “librarian.” Joy Weese Moll discusses teaching in her post and concludes that “I feel more like a librarian when I’m working on those prep assignments than I do at any other time.” I would imagine that this is true for many librarians. But Corey’s recent comments are making me think about systems people and how they come to identify themselves as librarians or if they even do. Corey has recently become a systems librarian and is interested in furthering his systems education. He writes that “Essentially I’m looking for post graduate studies that will train me to be a better Systems Librarian, not a course that will train be to be a better reference / research / liason librarian as that’s not who I want to be.” I can admit to feeling the same way that Corey does – I’m not really looking to be a reference / research / liason librarian – good or otherwise.
MLS graduate schools focus on several core tenets or principles of librarianship of which reference and research are a large part. I am not arguing that these aren’t important nor that everyone in an MLS program shouldn’t have some exposure to these principles. However, I don’t necessarily think that current MLS programs of study provide the best curriculum for systems librarians. I think this is in part due to the fact that colleges and universities tend to focus on theory and not practical experience. I personally don’t expect to learn skills in my MLS program that will help me be a better systems person. I would certainly be interested in being able to take a broader range of courses on systems (especially ILS), web page design / creation / maintenance, information architecture, internet search engine strategies, database design, etc. Currently, SCSU has many of these classes – yet, I will not be able to take most of them due to the way that courses are offers, professors that I do not want to take classes with and time constraints. But the question is, will I feel like a librarian when I graduate?
Ultimately, I am wondering if the majority of librarians feel like they are librarians when working on reference or research projects for patrons. I don’t do this, don’t intend to do this nor do I want to. Has anybody heard of someone feeling like a librarian when they finally get their Ariel computer configured and working or finally get ColdFusion set up for an Interlibrary Loan automated system? Is it even important to identify oneself as a librarian? Is there often a divide between systems librarians and other librarians? I know that in many cases, the systems librarians participate in regular reference rotations – but just as often, they do not. Systems jobs can be significantly different from other jobs in the library. In my job, I often feel as if I have much more in common with the IT staff than my colleagues in the library. I somewhat suspect that I may never really feel like a librarian. I have no clue whether that is good thing or a bad thing.
There has been a great deal of buzz surrounding Zotero and it’s capabilities. Billed as the “next generation research tool,” it sounds like it has some great features. As a student, handling citations is a royal pain in my backside. Online sources and web sites have only made citation collection complicated. I agree that Refworks can be a bit cumbersome and difficult to use. I have an account, but haven’t used it in several months. Social bookmarking sites are great for web sites, but not for article or book citations. I’m so jealous of those who have been part of the private beta (see Dan Chudnov’s post Zotero: First impressions). I’m really looking forward to being able to try it out at some point in the future.
Garrett Hungerford is planning to do a mini-blog series titled “The Purple Library” over at Library Zen. This mini-blog series is based upon Seth Godin’s book – The Big Moo: Stop Trying To Be Perfect and Start Being Remarkable. In the series, he plans to “offer ideas to create anything but a run-of-the-mill library.” Cool! I’m looking forward to reading his thoughts on this topic.