I’m Still Suffering From Blogger’s Block

October 30, 2007

Several weeks ago, I wrote about the fact that I was suffering from blogger’s block. I was really interested in writing. I started between 15 and 20 different posts, had several posts that I wanted to comment on, but was just not able to put together any coherent thoughts. I deleted all of the drafts that I started. Since then, I’ve been steadily losing interest. I’m hoping this is normal – that blogging is something that should really have its ups and downs – much like other things in life.

Now, having said that, I have to add that right now I put the blame on this lack of desire squarely on the shoulders of baseball – and in particular the Boston Red Sox. Although I hope today’s Rolling Rally in Boston was wonderful (and it is an absolutely beautiful day for such an event), the trip to the playoffs has decimated my mental state. Since the Red Sox entered the playoffs, sleep has been fairly non-existent. The World Series in particular was gruesome. I’m quite thankful for my sanity that it only lasted 4 games. Saturday night’s game – at 4hrs and 19 mns – ended just before 1AM. Yikes! I turn into a pumpkin at about 10PM. Fortunately, I didn’t have to work on Sunday. However, I was a mess on Monday – and would seriously have done almost anything to be able to stay in bed. As a fan, I’m in a state of euphoria that the Sox managed to win their second series in 4 years – it is a  too bad that I’m too tired to actually enjoy it.

I Need To Write More On This

October 22, 2007

There has been much discussion about library school of late – with some great comments on each of these posts. I need to comment more – especially in light of the fact that sometimes opinions seem to be one sided (and I’m referring to my own). One commenter in particular (Michael Sutherland who has commented on all of the posts, I think) makes some important points about how some posts might be rather discouraging to potential students. I will say here that I don’t believe that library school  is useless. I wouldn’t still be going if I thought this was true. I need to elaborate more – and do intend to at some point.

Mid-Way Through The Semester

October 22, 2007

I just turned in my midterm exam for ILS519-Collection Development. As usual, I’m not sure how I did. It wasn’t that the exam was difficult, I just worry about whether or not I got the point. One of the nice things about this professor is that so many of her assignments are practical in nature. For this exam, we had to answer three questions relating to ethical concerns in collection development. While we are expected to justify our answers, we need to answer the questions based on personal opinion. I really like these assignments. They require a great deal of time and thought.

Last Thursday, our fourth assignment of the semester was due. The assignment dealt with researching serials and electronic resources vendors. Again, it wasn’t terribly difficult, but somewhat time consuming. I have been quite busy with school over the past week. I also have to answer three discussion questions by this Thursday night. I am looking forward to having a bit of time to relax once I have answered the discussion questions.

One a related note, I registered for my last class this morning – ILS680 Evaluation and Research. Wow! It is really starting to sink in that next semester should be it. I filled out my request to graduate in May of 2008. I have to do some follow up because although I have updated my planned program, the changes don’t seem to be reflected in the online systems at school. I would hate for a clerical type error to delay completion of the program. I get so nervous about whether or not I will have completed the graduation requirements. Hopefully, if I get some answers, I will be able to relax for a little while. Here’s hoping!

Hmm, I’m Not Sure What To Make Of This

October 14, 2007

I am one of the people who was eagerly awaiting Nicole Engard’s promised What I Learned in Library School post. I read it fairly soon after it was published and have been thinking about it since. The post evokes several emotions in me. On one hand, I feel better about things at SCSU because the issues and problems I have experienced echo those that Nicole Engard seems to have experienced. On the other hand, this is incredibly disheartening. This means that these types of problems are more pervasive than I believed – especially in the distance education arena.

Engard’s summary of what she learned isn’t positive. She writes:

What did I Learn

I learned that I don’t ever want to do a degree online again ;)I learned a bit more about myself and time-management. I learned that having an MLIS does not make you better off than the person who doesn’t have the MLIS, but has 6+ years of experience in a library.

I don’t feel much different than I did before I went to school. My job has changed and so I’ve learned more about other areas of the library that way – but the classes on research theory, searching, statistics, management, systems, digital libraries and so on didn’t prepare me any more than jumping in and doing the job myself would have.

Wow! I feel as if I could have written the same things myself. I absolutely LOVE the convenience of online classes. However, I have slowly come to realize that I am unwilling to put up with the difficulties and problems that exist in distance education. I do not want to ever do another online program if student services and programs are not improved exponentially. Engard also makes an important point about the value of the MLS/MLIS versus work experience. The roughly 15 years that I have spent working in a library are what has helped me get to the place that I am today – and they are much more important to my overall development than what I have learned in library school.

I do feel as if I must add that I have had some excellent experiences during my program. I’ve had some wonderful classes where I feel that I did in fact learn useful things. I have had wonderful classes where I believe that the material being taught was important, but was information that I already knew and understood. And, yes, I have had some of the most miserable classroom experiences of my life. I’m still too involved in my program to be able to make generalizations about how useful the entire program will be to me. I’m enjoying my class this semester – and have high hopes for my class next semester (ILS680-Evaluation and Research). We shall see!

Anyway, a big thank you to Nicole Engard for her post. It has given me much to ponder.

This Semester So Far

October 8, 2007

This semester is quite a bit different from most that I have experienced while in graduate school. Since, I’m only taking one class (ILS519-Collection Development), the workload is less intense – something for which I am extremely grateful. However, the class itself is a bit different in structure than most that I have taken. As per the syllabus, there are 7 assignments, 10 discussions, 1 midterm and a final project. This past Thursday our 3rd assignment was due – an assignment where we had to determine which specialty publisher would best suit for specific purposes. Our 4th assignment which deals with choosing vendors for serial and electronic publications is due on October 17th.

So far, we have only had one discussion question to answer – and that was due the second week of class. Since then, the only need to log into the class has been to get assignments, post assignments and read emails from the professor. The professor does send emails quite frequently. There is no need to log into class several times a day to keep up with discussion postings. This is kind of weird – and I often feel as if there is no cohesiveness to the class. It is a good class – with very interesting assignments. However, I do miss regular class discussions. They have a way of keeping one involved in the class.

On another subject, courses for spring 2008 were posted today. I knew things would be problematic at this stage because I only have one class left to take and it is a requirement. As it is a required course, it will definitely be offered. However, there may be a problem with who teaches it. This could definitely be a problem. I shouldn’t really be surprised that finishing the program may be the most difficult part of this entire experience!

This Might Be The Cure

October 7, 2007

I actually had to get myself out of a nice, relaxing bath tonight in order to write this post. For some reason, I kept mulling over this post while I should have been emptying my mind. Since my last post about my blogger’s block, I have deliberately stayed away from blogging. I found that trying to write a blog post was driving me nuts. I decided that inspiration would come when it wanted, not when I wanted. If anyone with any type of divine power is listening to me, I would prefer inspiration wait until I have finished my bath next time.

Anyway, Meredith Farkas is responding to a post written by Dorothea Salo titled Training-Wheels Culture – and to some responses by other bloggers. I have to admit that I was immediately bothered by Dorothea Salo’s original post. I responded with my own post – one with which I am not overly happy and wished I hadn’t written. This isn’t because I disagree with what I wrote, but because I don’t think that I spent the time to put together a coherent post (I still don’t understand how cataloging figures in here). Hopefully, this one will better capture what I want to say – hope springs eternal!

The problem being discussed here is people who work in libraries who seem to be unwilling to try and figure out many technical problems on their own. Rather than trying to read the screen, look up the answer or try, they prefer to ask someone to help – hence the “training-wheels culture” moniker. As I mentioned before, I have found myself irritated by a question to which I believed the asker should have known the answer. I have helped people with simple problems that I may not have believed to be worth the time that I spent answering them. But in my years offering technical support to library staff, I have come to realize that we have a real problem in this area. Blaming library staff for their inefficiency or their need to cling to a “training-wheels culture” is not productive – nor do I believe it is a solution to help solve the problem at hand.

One of the things that I really like about Meredith’s post is the fact that she is asking questions about this. She writes:

I really want to understand what is at the root of this training-wheels culture, because we can’t combat it until we understand the cause(s). What do you think it is? Cultural? Laziness? Lack of interest? A difference in learning styles?

I firmly agree with Meredith that we need to understand what is happening here.  Are people afraid of technology? Are people discouraged from trying to figure things out? Are those of us who are making judgements about what other people should be able to do on their own wrong? There are so many potential explanations, and yet, technophiles seem to want to blame people for not being technologically savvy. Is this really fair?

In my experience, people are not encouraged to play, to try new things, or to figure things out on their own. As technology becomes more pervasive and more complicated, IT departments are desperate to prevent users from being able to cause major disruptions. They are employing security software, firewall rules, etc. in order to prevent users from doing damage. Software manufacturers are following suit by locking down operating systems, software packages, etc. Certain programs actually require certain screen resolutions – using ones that make the icons as small as possible (why is this???). People are discouraged from doing things that may cause problems or may go against the norm – and are thus, fearful of getting viruses, corrupting their computers or making a move without tech support. Can you blame them?

We have a big problem. There is a digital divide in libraries – staff who understand and adapt to technology and staff who do not (the same can be said of patrons – but that is another story). We can get as frustrated as we want with this, but that is not productive. We are not going to change people’s behaviors by complaining or by demeaning them. There has to be a better way.

I Think I Have Blogger’s Block

October 1, 2007

Of late, I have been finding it extremely difficult to put any coherent thoughts together to form a blog post. I have started so many blog posts, only to decide that my thoughts were all garbled messes with little worth. I have deleted most posts that I have started over the past several weeks. And, I have spent countless hours staring at a blank WordPress editor screen. It has been quite disconcerting. It isn’t that life has gotten in the way, that school has gotten in the way or that I didn’t want to write.

One of the biggest problems is that I’m feeling extremely unsettled about school – which has traditionally been my primary motivator for blogging. I’m generally unhappy about my school experience, am reluctant to allow myself free reign to vent about my frustrations and am then left with nothing significant about which to write. Nothing specific has happened. I have had some recent contact with students who have echoed some of the same frustrations that I have experienced. This makes me sad – and makes me believe that the school, the ILS department, the administration and even the students are not able to get together to address any issues at this point. I just want to be done – be at a point where I can put this entire experience behind me.

I need to find another motivation for blogging. I need to be thinking beyond school. I will be in school until at least early May of 2008, but I can’t allow myself to be in a blue funk until then. I need to focus on the positive, to remember the good experiences at school, and to find motivation elsewhere. Unfortunately, I don’t think this will be easy.