Getting Ready For Fall

August 16, 2007

Grades for the summer were available yesterday. Both summer classes went well. Today, I finally remembered to order the text book for my fall class – ILS519 – Collection Development. I keep thinking that I have plenty of time, but that isn’t the case. As I started scrambling like a mad woman to get ready for the fall in my work life, I should have remembered that also meant my classes would be starting soon too!!! The break was too short, but I will comfort myself with the fact that I only have two classes to go (and no, I don’t think I will get tired of writing this).


Coming Full Circle?

August 16, 2007

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time reading, thinking, and writing about the state of libraries and librarianship. This isn’t by accident. After all, I decided to return to school to pursue my MLS because I had a real sense that I was stagnating in my professional life, and I had a general sense of frustration with what I was accomplishing. Many things had become quite routine. I thought going to school would help motivate me to grow and to expand my horizons. I was right that returning to school would do this. I have made an incredible effort to learn more about libraries and about those external forces that affect libraries, to be more aware of current trends and to understand where technology fits in. This has undoubtedly been worth the effort. I sometimes feel quite overwhelmed with it all, but believe that I will be better off for the effort.

However, there has been an interesting consequence to my attempt to broaden my horizons by returning to school. As part of the process of becoming a student again, I have naturally assumed a more subordinate role – a role in which I have expected to learn more from others as opposed to a role in which I educate others. At first glance, this seems to be a normal part of the educational process, especially the formal educational process. But, it seems that I have in many ways taken on the role beyond school. I have been questioning too much, spending too much time researching ideas and concepts and subjugating my own experiential knowledge. I have allowed conversations in the world of library blogs and listservs to make me question myself and what I have accomplished in my professional life. As I think back, this is definitely something that happened after going back to school. Before this point, I was fairly confident in my own abilities and my own knowledge. I was more secure in my place as the technology advocate and expert at my place of work.

My awareness of my recent tendency to subjugate my thoughts and opinions to those of others began when I read the August issue of Cites and Insights by Walt Crawford. Although Walt was not writing about this issue, I was quite struck by the following quote from the On Ethics and Transparency article: “I have faith in my own ethical standards.” A bit later on, I read a blog post entitled Self-Reliance by Laura Cohen on Library 2.0: An Academic’s Perspective. In the post, Laura is arguing that people can’t entirely rely upon others to teach them what they need to know. After reading both pieces, it dawned on me that although I haven’t lost faith in my own skills, I have stopped relying upon that faith in myself. I have allowed the debates surrounding library 2.0, next-generation catalogs, and the like to make me question whether I am being effective or not. This is particularly scary because most of these debates are not grounded in day to day library business. I’m not trying to say that they aren’t important just that they should be taken with several grains of salt. I actually need to unsubscribe from several listservs where these types of debates rage in order to preserve my own sanity.

While I do believe it is important to be able to question one’s thoughts and beliefs and to be open to new ideas, it is possibly more important to be able to have confidence in one’s own position. I do have faith in my own skills, my own ability to judge what is appropriate for my library and my ability to learn from others. I guess that I forgot that for a little while – and maybe this is why I tend to feel so ambivalent about the 2006-2007 academic year (school and work-wise). I may be a library student, but I am also a library professional with a good deal of experience in my field. I guess I allowed the student persona to take over. However, both Walt Crawford and Laura Cohen reminded me about faith in oneself and self reliance. Thanks, I needed that!

Library 2.0 In Retrospect

August 15, 2007

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the library 2.0 movement and what is has meant now that much of the hype surrounding it has died down. Imagine my surprise when I saw Ryan Deschamps’ We Asked for 2.0 Libraries and We Got 2.0 Librarians post over at The Other Librarian. I find it a pretty fair and accurate assessment of where we stand with library 2.0 at the moment. I agree with Ryan that the use of library 2.0 has waned – and I think that is a good thing. When a concept is new, we tend to focus too much on defining it, arguing or disagreeing about it and even thinking about it. At some point, people get tired of hearing about it. Personally, I think more is accomplished after we stop hyping things – and get back to business.

I find the following to be the most important points of Ryan’s post:

  • “There’s no doubt that Library 2.0 got librarians to learn about themselves and the world of information they live in.”
  • Change in the ILS has been (and I think will continue) to be slow. There have been some exciting developments that may bode well for the future of our systems.
  • The changes that have taken place are not very visible to library patrons.
  • The most radical changes have taken place in librarians – hence the librarian 2.0.

To end his post, Ryan writes: 

So, while the term and hype dies down or changes to something else, rest assured that change has occurred in big ways and that libraries are adapting to the world.   They are not doing this through the institutions themselves, but through a steadily increasing change of heart in librarians on the whole. Harp on hype all you want — Library 2.0 needed to happen and the world is better off because of it.

Ryan makes some great points about library 2.0, what it has meant to libraries and about its importance. For me, the most important part of library 2.0 has been the discussions that have taken place around it. It has made me work to view the library and its services from a different angle, to take a step outside of my comfort zone and to challenge my previously held thoughts and beliefs. Has it created significant changes in the way that I do things? Honestly, no. It has altered the ways in which I think about end goals of my projects – but not necessarily changed the projects themselves. To me, this means that I agree with Ryan about the importance of library 2.0. However, I would not elevate it above other, earlier trends in librarianship – ripe with their own buzzwords that made the rounds of library literature and conferences. It was the time for library 2.0 – and in the near future it will be time for the next movement.

Library Education In The Online Environment

August 12, 2007

In a comment on my I’m Ready To Throw In The Towel post, Joe wrote:

As someone considering a degree in library science via an online program, I would like you to perhaps post on what problems exist and how they relate in a larger sense to the problem of educating librarians in cyberspace. I’m very familiar with online courses and have taken many over the years. I always feel the instructor makes the course. I’m just wondering about the problems of library education in online environments.

I didn’t really want my response to be buried in the comments, so decided to respond in a separate post.

First, it is important for me to note that the only type of online classes I have taken have been library science ones. When I decided to pursue my MLS, I knew I would be doing so in an online program. There was no question of this. I chose to study at SCSU for several reasons – there were no residency requirements, the cost was affordable, and finally, the school was within driving distance in case something happened and I did need to go to campus. Because I was nervous about the online format, I registered for a class in the fall of 2005 before I was accepted into the program. This turned out the be both the best and worst thing that I did. The best because I took the class with the professor who would turn out to be my advisor – with whom I have tried to take as many classes as possible. The worst because the class was so well taught that I assumed this would be the norm. It wasn’t. I decided to attend SCSU’s program based upon how excellent this online class was.

Despite the fact that I haven’t taken other types of online classes, it seems to me that the challenges in providing a decent online programs are probably fairly consistent across disciplines. I have no reason to assume that some of the problems in my distance program are solely confined to the ILS department. There aren’t any forums, services, programs, etc. that bring together all distance students at SCSU, so I haven’t discussed this with any students outside of the MLS program. However, the fact that there aren’t any forums, services or programs targeted to distance student indicates that the distance programs don’t have a strong infrastructure.

As for Joe’s comment about the professor making the course, I do have to agree. Professors have the most control over specific classes – and they have the ability to make a class an agonizing experience (as well as a fabulous one). But, one thing I have learned over the past couple of years is that there is much more than the class experience to a program. Programs need administrative support – and they need support for student services. Without this type of committed infrastructure, distance students have no means of feeling grounded within the program – no means of feeling as if they are a part of the larger school community. This is what I think is missing at Southern.

With all this in mind, my recommendation to people considering enrolling a distance MLS program is to understand what one needs out of a program. Do you have experience working in libraries? Do you need to develop contacts in the library world? It may be more difficult to do some of these things in an online environment. I have found that it is much harder to foster relationships with professors, librarians and administrators online. It may not be easy for distance students to use some of the job placement, resume and job fair services. It can be harder for distance students to network with their professors and with their peers. All of this can be done, but some schools offer more support to distance students than others.

I would think the best way to know how much support is available for distance students would be to try to talk to current students. How do you find them? Southern has a listserv that prospective students can join – I’m sure others have similar things. Join the newlib listserv. There are many current students and recent graduates on this list. Join the LIS students network on Ning. Try and talk to several students – people all have different reactions to things. Get the name of good professors – email them and see what the response is. If I were to apply to an MLS program again, I would definitely do more research. Of course, the best way to learn is probably to take a class.

Joe, I hope this provides some helpful information. I would think that your experience with online classes will give you an idea of what is important to you in your education. Best of luck!

My Digital Library Project

August 10, 2007

I got my digital library project grade today – and I’m very happy with it. The one comment the professor made was that added metadata and more consistent metadata would aid the project. So, I have passed another class – ok, I don’t have final grade for the class, but I think passing is a safe assumption based upon the grading scheme. Yeah!!!! Now, I can enjoy what little time is left of summer break.

I’m Ready To Throw In The Towel

August 9, 2007

I’ve spent a bit of time detailing some efforts that I have made in order to get some type of discussion started at between the ILS department and online students at SCSU – hoping to address some issues that exist with the distance program. This effort began in mid-March with a letter that I wrote to the ILS department chair accompanied by a list of concerns that I compiled with the help of about 50-60 students (and alums, I believe). While the department chair was responsive and open to input, my efforts have seriously led to naught. Ok, that isn’t totally true, I think I ticked some people off along the way despite the fact that this wasn’t my goal at all. I also think that I may have inadvertantly started a schism between online students and the faculty/administration. Anyway, after I emailed the department chair and was disappointed to not get a formal response from the ILS department, I sent an email with my concerns to the dean of the ILS school. I sent the first email on May 24th. After waiting way too long, I followed up with my advisor and decided to send another email to the dean. I sent this second email on July 17th. There has been no response from the dean – NOTHING. Throughout all of this, I have been in contact with various students in the program who wanted to know if there had been any reaction. A couple of students are extremely close to leaving the program due to the lack of response.

At this point, I am extremely frustrated and even a bit angry over the relative lack of response or interest from the school as a whole. The sad part is that this situation now overshadows almost everything else from my educational experience at Southern. Honestly, I will not remember my time at Southern fondly. There will be some fond memories – some people that I will feel honored to have met and a few professors with whom I will have been very fortunate to study. However, I will for the most part remember that there were serious problems with the distance program and a deep reluctance on the part of the school to deal with them. I don’t know why there is such reluctance – maybe I approached this all wrong – maybe the school just isn’t ready – maybe there is too much else going on – maybe there are many overlapping reasons. It doesn’t really matter what the reason, there are some serious problems with the distance MLS program from the student viewpoint – and I think that the unwillingness to even discuss it is THE ultimate example of how problematic things are.

Having said that, I must say that the program is not unfixable nor is it inherently bad. When I graduate, I will have received a decent library school education – one for which I did not go into debt. This is a highly important to me. My experience will have been successful, just lacking something that could have made it fulfilling. My point in writing this post is not necessarily to discourage people from going to Southern. Obviously, there is a contingent of unhappy students. However, I can understand there are valid reasons for people to go to Southern – and I wouldn’t argue about the validity of the program. The issues are predominately about support services for distance/online students and procedures for these classes.

I’m not sure where to go or what to do next. The next person to go to logically is the dean of the graduate school – and I’m not sure that I want to do this. I’ve also thought about emailing the list of students that I worked with initially to develop the list of concerns that we sent to the ILS department chair to see if there is still interest in pursuing this topic. However, a part of me just wants to melt away into the background, finish my last two classes and graduate with minimum fuss. I admit that this option feels wrong, but I may have pushed as far I can.

Eight More Random Things

August 8, 2007

I’ve been tagged by Diane over at Journeys for an Eight Random Things meme. I did this one back in May. However, I’m sure you are all dying to learn eight more random things about me.

First, the Rules:
1) Post these rules before you give your facts
2) List 8 random facts about yourself
3) At the end of your post, choose (tag) 8 people and list their names, linking to them
4) Leave a comment on their blog, letting them know they’ve been tagged

Ok, I gave you the rules – despite the fact that I’m going to ignore number 3 & number 4 (reasons explained here and yes, I am aware that in many instances this means that I am no fun. Sadly, I hear this quite regularly. This is a bonus random fact).

  • I haven’t been wearing my wedding/engagement rings for the past several weeks due to ring rot. I seem to get all sorts of itchy, bumpy crud under my ring at times – it is worse when it is hot and humid. I feel like I am naked without it, but my finger feels better.
  • Green is my favorite color. My engagement ring is a marquis cut diamond with emeralds on the side – that my husband designed himself. My wedding band has emeralds also. I love emeralds!
  • I have to sleep with my feet, hands and head outside of the covers – nor can I wear socks to bed. If my feet, hands or head are covered, I overheat and then cannot sleep. I prefer my appendages to be cold. My husband often refers to me as the cold, dead hand (or foot) monster.
  • I threw up in public once at a bar/restaurant – right at the table where I was sitting in front of many members of my extended family. I had been out in the sun all day without a hat, had been drinking some alcohol and had a nervous stomach due to some dude who wanted to dance with me. After the dance, I returned to the table and promptly got sick. I tried to aim for my cup, but let’s just say that didn’t go so well. Fortunately, my uncle and aunt were there to help me clean up my mess. This is still one of my most embarrassing moments ever.
  • I am becoming a huge fan of the new USA network show Burn Notice. Some of the acting isn’t the best, but Gabrielle Anwar, Sharon Gless and Bruce Campbell are excellent. I hope it doesn’t get cancelled. Some of my favorite tv shows of all time have been on USA – Counterstrike, Silk Stalkings, Pacific Blue, La Femme Nikita and Psych.
  • In high school, I cheated on a quiz where we were supposed to have memorized Hamlet’s to be or not to be soliloquy. It wasn’t intentional. However, I hadn’t learned it as well as I should have and the guy who sat in front of my put his copy under his desk in the perfect spot for me to see. It seemed like divine providence at the time. This was my one experience with academic dishonesty.
  • I can’t swim and really don’t like the water. It has to be incredibly hot for me to want to get into a pool or go into the ocean. This bugs my niece and nephews – and my husband too.
  • I have a deep fear of colored toilet paper – and am quite happy that no one ever seems to use it anymore. As a child (in the 1970s), I asked my parents why we always had only boring, old, white toilet paper. They explained to me that this was because colored toilet paper was bad for our septic system. In all of my infinite wisdom (I’m not sure how I old was at this point), I decided that a septic system was the anatomical system for personal waste management – and that using colored toilet paper would give me cancer of my septic system. I spent years avoiding the bathroom at people’s houses if they had colored toilet paper – and I mean that I went to some great lengths to avoid using the facilities. When I did have to break down and use colored toilet paper, I spent days waiting for my septic system to become cancerous and for the more private parts of my anatomy to fall off. I seriously can’t explain how traumatic this was. I’m not entirely sure when I figured out what a septic system was and that most of my relatives were able to use colored toilet paper because they lived in areas with sewage, but it was definitely by the time I was about 10 years old or thereabouts. And no, I never mentioned any of these fears to my parents (who obviously used my relatives’ bathrooms without incident or worry) – nor did I feel compelled to warn others about the dangers of colored toilet paper. I guess I figured if my parents wanted them to know, they would have told them. Anyway, if I do happen to be someplace that has colored toilet paper, I still find it difficult to use – and will prefer to wait if possible. I always found blue toilet paper to be especially heinous because I thought it would give me cancer faster than pink. One of my coworkers gave me a couple of roles of blue toilet paper at my wedding shower. I promptly discarded the offending item.

This was as difficult as it was the first time!