What A Good Idea

February 19, 2007

Over at the Free Range Librarian, K.G. Schneider discusses her need for a training plan– or BOPSIASK (Bibliographically-oriented Prism on Sequential and Intentional Acquisition of Scholarly Knowledge – see original blog post for proper pronunciation). Schneider has given this plan a whole lot of thought – it is broken down into several categories: reading, hands-on education, conference programs, vendor schmoozing, teaching and training and writing. What an excellent idea. I find that sometimes life seems to spin a bit out of control – and I’m usually left wondering exactly where I’m going. For me, this means that there seems to be no real direction to what I’m doing (for more, read my What Am I Doing Here? post).

While I may not exactly be ready for a training plan (because school is actually dictating my current training regime and I can’t bear to add anything else to the mix at this point), I think that an overall plan might be a good idea. This may help me feel as if I’m a bit more in control over things happening in my life. At the very least, I really need to be giving more thought to my school work, what I’m doing and what I want to get out of the experience. After this semester, I will only have 4 classes left. I guess I can float through or try and find a way to get the most out of the time I have left. A plan – I’ll have to give this some thought.

What Am I Doing Here?

February 18, 2007

I hope that it is pretty normal for people to have doubts about their graduate school experience. I can say that I don’t think that the time off from school over winter break was sufficient time for me to be reinvigorated. And then, I went ahead and took two classes. One of my arguments to convince myself of this was that I tend to spend the same amount of time on my coursework whether I take one or two classes. So, why not take two? Plus, with two classes, I would be 3/4 of the way done with my coursework at the end of the semester. I couldn’t resist my own arguments.

So, here I find myself feeling very ambivalent about what this all will do for me. When I started the program, I needed to declare a track in the MLS program. I think I somewhat got funnelled into the academic track given that is where my work experience is – and given that this is where I see myself continuing to work. I had thought that maybe I would like to take classes that dealt with other types of libraries – public or special. Part of me thought that taking classes about things I didn’t have experience in would be a better use of my time. I kind of allowed myself to be talked out of this – and here I find myself taking College & University Libraries. Now, I definitely am not an expert – and there are certainly many things that I could learn about the academic library. However,  it is too much. I have a good work background in academic libraries – and think that work experience would mean more than having taken the academic track in library school. The course material isn’t new – and it hits a bit close to home. This was also the case with one of the classes that I took last semester – ILS565-Library Management. In some ways, I wish I hadn’t followed the academic track. I think that my work experience in the academic area would give me sufficient credentials for my resume.

The assignment that was due today required us to visit a couple of academic libraries and compare some specific facilities. Honestly, I find this such a burden. I’m studying online because I don’t have time to commute to a school, – because I don’t have time for a traditional program.  I don’t want to do these kind of assignments (this isn’t a commentary on the value of the assignment, just a personal perspective). I already am struggling to keep things together at work, at home and at school. I have NO time for anything that isn’t dealing with problems at work, writing papers or being a wife. The bottom line is that being a wife comes first, the rest of my family is second, work comes next and then school – way at the bottom. But in reality, school is taking up WAY too much of my time. It is a sacrifice that others don’t necessarily appreciate to the same extent that I do. My husband often gets irritated that I need to do school work (when he thinks I really should be cleaning the house or something more constructive than sitting in front of my laptop). My niece and nephew get very upset that I have to miss family events because I have homework to do (although it is so cute and heartwarming when my five year old niece allows me to be one of the kids and play with her because I am in graduating school). I’m 36 years old – and I get very disgruntled at how much school disrupts my life.

You may have noticed in my priority listing that one important element was missing. What is it you ask? It’s time for me!! My family, my job and school are taking almost everything that I have. Granted, I’m getting to the point where I can see the light at the end of the tunnel as far as my MLS. Yet, the end isn’t close enough. I have at least a year left before I will be able to finish. So, I’m sitting here on a Sunday evening feeling pretty bummed about the assignment that I turned in today and I can’t help wondering if this is all worth it. Am I really getting enough out of my program to justify not only the $16,000 that this will cost me, but also my time? Is this making me better at my job or is actually taking away from what I can give to work? Am I getting tired and if so, is this making me less effective at work? I can say that I think it is a good thing that tomorrow is a holiday. My husband will be working – and I will have the day to myself – no homework and hopefully there will be no problems at work. I’m looking for a day to myself. Maybe things will seem a bit less overwhelming then!

Another Assignment Down The Drain

February 18, 2007

I just turned in my latest assignment – a paper examining two information commons spaces at two different academic libraries for ILS560-College & University Libraries. I’m not sure how I am feeling about it. Because I had an assignment due last week for this class, I didn’t spend as much time on it as I should have. I don’t feel like I totally got the assignment – there was a great deal of room for personal reaction in the paper. The idea was to visit two libraries and judge the spaces. I’m totally much more comfortable doing research about a topic and then writing a paper about it. I don’t like having to make value judgements about things and write about it. It makes me unsure and nervous – even more so than I normally am about my school work. ARGH!!!! The only upside is that tomorrow is a holiday – and I definitely need a day off from school.

A Thursday Afternoon Pet Peeve

February 15, 2007

It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that in order to participate in the world of distance education, more usernames and passwords are required. Ok, I can deal with this – after all, I use the course management system, the email/portal and library resources quite frequently. This helps ensure that I don’t forget my usernames and passwords. However, as many places do, SCSU requires that one change their email/portal system password every 90 days. This username and password is also the one used for the course management system (which is new this semester). What I would like to know is why every 90 days? I know this is a standard time frame – I run across it all the time. But, why can’t an educational institution make the time frame run for a whole semester. I hate changing my password in the middle of the semester. I had to change it yesterday – and I know it will take me a good 1-2 weeks to stop typing in my old one!! It would be much easier if we had to change our passwords at the beginning of each semester – or even if we had the option of developing our own password aging scheme. This I would like. It really, really is the little things that can drive one insane . . . . . .

Facilities Project – ILS560

February 14, 2007

Without a doubt the semester is in full swing. Last week, I had my first assignment due for ILS560-College & University Libraries – and I have my second paper for the same class due on Sunday. For this facilities project, we have to research one physical aspect of the academic library (classrooms, information commons, digital library facilities, etc.) and then visit at least two libraries which have the physical aspect. Ultimately, we are to write a 6-8 page paper critiquing the space – looking at things like logic of space design, acoustics, lighting, etc. I will admit to being a bit rushed given that I had to turn in my annotations assignment last Friday. Although, the information commons is a hot topic, I am really, really interested in the concept and what it actually encompasses. As such, this is the physical aspect that I have been researching. I am sitting under a virtual mountain of articles and URLs, trying to put my thoughts together in a cohesive manner. Back to work, I go!

Some Steps to Information Architecture

February 10, 2007

Since we are in the processing of working on a web site project for my ILS-656 Information Architecture, anything about IA catches my attention (especially if it is written by Louis Rosenfeld). In a post entitled The No-Knead Approach to Information Architecture (#1 of 5), Rosenfeld asks “Why can’t information architecture be as simple and straightforward? And even as enjoyable?[as simple, etc. as kneading bread]” You can bet that this caught my eye. I want it to be straightforward and enjoyable. I know that I always think about information architecture as a massively complex procedure – and maybe this is why it becomes some difficult. If we think of it as a complex concept then any end result must therefore be some type of complex structure of information. Isn’t that what we want to avoid?

In advocating a simpler approach, Rosenfeld suggests four easier steps to take to information architecture. These include

Step #1: Ban the word “redesign” from your meetings.
Step #2: Determine who your most important audiences are.
Step #3: Determine each primary audience’s 3-5 major needs.
Step #4: Make damned sure your site addresses each of those needs.

In the course of my project, I’m going to try to keep these steps in mind. I think these are some great guidelines to go by. Hopefully, every time I start getting bogged down (and start making things overly complicated), I’ll look back at these steps and reassess the situation.

Innovative Thinking – Why Is It So Hard?

February 9, 2007

Without a doubt, there are some really innovative people in the library world who are doing some amazing things. But are these people the norm or are they the exception? How many of us do innovative things or have innovative ideas on a daily basis (or a weekly one)? I know that I have this perception that innovation is a difficult task – too difficult for me to accomplish. Trying to figure out how to change a culture that doesn’t foster innovation is even more challenging. I was intrigued by a post by Stephen Abram in which he has some some ideas about what kills innovation. He links to a post by Jeffrey Phillips from a blog called Innovate on Purpose. Phillip suggests that lack of sustained feedback is one of the biggest barriers to innovation. In response, Abram asks “Now does that ring true in libraryland?” In my experience, definitely. Even when we do tackle innovative projects, they are often just that – projects. Life returns to normal after they have been completed. They have a beginning and an end. We don’t have a continually evolving innovative attitude. And, we don’t necessarily have good mechanisms to encourage spontaneous feedback. People don’t generally come up and say “I have a great idea.” More often than not, they only voice an opinion when asked about something.

Abram asks some other tough questions about behaviors that can kill innovative thought. He adds: “Do our management processes require every idea to be fully formed. Do we have difficulty with new ideas and pilots and experiments. Do new ideas get crushed under the weight of a single user’s negative feedback…?” I have certainly seen these types of things happen. I don’t really have any concrete answers about encouraging innovative thinking, but I do agree that as a whole those of us in the library world aren’t very good at it. How do we get staff to be excited about the library, to voice their thoughts and opinions, to think creatively? I do believe that innovation has to be a team effort -something that everyone buys into. It seems to me this is a culture that needs to be cultivated.