Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I'm thinking in cliches...


Cliches and song lyrics. I remember this happened to me when I graduated from my undergraduate degree too, maybe it’s the fear of the unknown. I am so sure I made the right choice with getting my MI degree, I’ve love the degree and when I look at all the possibilities for where I can go I just keep getting more and more excited. The problem, is I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. It’s all so interesting, I keep looking at jobs and thinking “yes yes yes, this is what I want” but when it comes to writing knock their socks off cover letters I just want to write “I love this. please give me a shot.” I also don’t know where I want to be – I feel drawn back to the East Coast of Canada, but I’m also tempted to stay in Ontario. Do I apply for the long shot job in Spain?

My cover letter contains the phrase “ One of my passions in both my studies, personal and work experience is towards exploring emerging trends and innovations in relation to technical services. I strongly feel that it is through these trends and innovations that libraries will better be able to serve their users.” I feel so passionately about the future of libraries – there is such an amazing movement to embrace new technologies and innovations that is rarely seen in many other career paths. The flip side of it is I’m currently working with an organization that deals with the consortium of Ontario libraries. I’m loving seeing first hand the partnerships that can grow out of creative thinking and would love to be able to work with a collaboration of libraries. As I get closer to graduating, I grow more and more interested in Academic Librarianship – I would love to be able to continue to research in the Information field, and help students and professors.

Who knows, all I know right now, is that my new puppy is four weeks old today.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I’m about 23 days away from graduating with my MI degree (but who’s counting?). I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what I want out of life, where I want to be, and what I want to do. I’m left with a world of possibilities, and all I can think about is 2003-2004, and being a freshman undergrad and going into residence. I was terrified. I had decided that I wanted to go ~away~ for school – my mom’s American and in the States, you go away for school. So, I applied away – I got in everywhere, and was left with how far away I really wanted to go. I could have either gone to U of G, about an hour away, McGill, one province away, or Mount Allison & Acadia -small liberal arts Universities in New Brunswick & Nova Scotia. I chose MTA. I was so excited, and I remember getting their welcome student in the mail. Part of that was a questionnaire to fill out to determine which residence you were going to be in.

I looked at everything, and finally decided to go into Hunton – a residence that described itself as “the family residence” in no small part because our Don’s had two young kids living with them in their first floor apartment. this was arguably the best decision I made academically wise. We were by no means the “tame” house, we had house parties, and more then let loose on Friday nights, but we always understood there were two kids sleeping downstairs. Our house had the lowest drop-out rate on campus, I imagine because our problems were dealt with by people who were parents themselves.

In my twitter feed the other day a link popped up from MTA talking about their small residence approach. If you’re going to university, have kids going to university, know someone who does, check it out. It made a huge difference to me moving across the country. http://www.mta.ca/news/index.php?id=3543#3543

Part of what being at MTA gave me was the desire for a community. I’m faced with finding a job and while most of my classmates are looking in Toronto and Southern Ontario I keep thinking back to what an amazing time I had at MTA. I still have very good friends scattered across the East Cost, 1 god-child (and another a month away!), my boyfriend still owns a house and we go out there as often as we can. I’m not just looking in Toronto and Southern Ontario. I would love to be able to go back out east, and have even just a little bit of what I had for my undergrad.

So, my advice to you is when you look at schools, don’t go safe – go away. I was pushed academically and personally and I came out a better person. A friend of mine’s daughter is going to UPEI for a music degree next year, and I hope she has an even better time then I will (and I’m 100% sure she will). When I graduate, I’m not going to go safe – I’m going to make the most out of whatever opportunity presents itself.

Friday, March 11, 2011

What I've learned in Library School

I’ve recently been contacted by several people considering library school, who are interested in the academic/ government/ management slant that I’m working towards. I was asked a variety of questions about if the choice of school mattered, and this is something that has stuck with me as I’ve answered questions like “is it hard” “is it worth it” “what if I don’t want to be a librarian” and the way more complicated “well what do you DO in Library school.” When people ask me these questions my initial instinct is to brush them off, and tell them to find someone who wants to be a ‘real’ librarian, because they can better answer these questions. The fact of the matter is that while I would love to be a librarian (preferably in an academic, or legal library) what drew me to my school is I saw the opportunities to make this degree flexible to fit my interests for my future. I could take courses in Data mining, management courses, critical thinking and deep reference. Don’t know what deep reference is? It’s basically finding information that no one else can find. The ultimate treasure hunt. I also personally have a passion for the idea of managing libraries – I know how valuable they are, and want to be a part of taking them to the new places I believe the field is going.

The question of if the choice of school mattered is a tough one for me. I do not think it matters in some senses, and in some I do. I know people from all ranks of library schools who wound up at U of T, Guelph, Acadia, and a plethora of other schools – what matters is your skills and your devotion to the field. Being a librarian is about having a desire to have a life of constant learning, in not just one field you find interesting but in a variety of fields. One thing that does nag at me, is that to some extent the school does matter – I do not mean reputation wise, but in the sense that each school offers different focus’. One of the reasons I chose University of Toronto’s iSchool was because of their focus on information as a whole, and not just within the library sphere. There are collaborative programs on Information Systems, Critical Thinking, Making and Management. I work at a law library, and have loved every minute of it. I also work for a organization that works in partnership with every library in Ontario – two very different jobs, both related to library school and using skills I have learned at the iSchool.

The skills/attributes/traits/knowledge that I consider most valuable for my work would include:

  • Communication skills, in writing and in person
  • Presentation skills
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Problem solving ability
  • Intellectual curiosity
  • Autodidacticism (yes. I can use big words. It's ok. I promise not to)
  • Knowledge of academic subjects/ scholarly communication

The above skills were learned roughly 50/50 at library school. Some came more naturally, and some (like public speaking) were ones that I had to practice. I feel that all of these skills are very transferable out of the field of Information, and I learned them/ knew them because I enjoy them. The idea of intellectual curiosity has been a trait of myself for my whole life, I enjoy reading and assimilating information. I feel this is not something I developed while training to be a librarian, but something that led me to the field at large. Similar intellectual traits such as critical thinking or problem solving ability were honed during years of college and graduate school, but follow the same intrinsic part of me that I believe led me to information as a fiel. The knowledge I have about academic subjects and everything else has increased since library school, but the foundation and development were independent of library school itself – I would argue that my undergraduate university had a much stronger development of my knowledge of academic subjects, and passion for learning and teaching.

But what did I learn in library school? As I noted above, there were things I learned before library school, but that I could have learned there. I had to write various papers, give presentations, plan projects, etc., just like everyone else. I had to do hours and hours and hours of reference research for finding government, data and legal sources. The fact that I learned a lot about writing or presenting before library school doesn’t mean that others didn’t benefit. I also learned enough about cataloging to know I didn’t want to be a cataloger. I learned enough about library management to know that it wasn’t a short-term goal. I learned that while I loved doing reference, I hated giving the information to someone else to deal with. I learned I actually liked government, data and legal research. I learned I liked academic librarianship but that I would need another Masters before it would be an option. I learned that I could write about reference as a method of competitive intelligence. I learned that ethics are more complex then I ever imagined. I learned all about public librarianship and thought I would leave that for people who LOVED it. And I learned enough about library buildings to realize how badly designed most of them are.

These might sound like bad lessons, but really they weren’t. I entered library school without much of an idea about the wide variety of things librarians actually do. I knew from talking with various professors and administration that the degree could be flexible, but I did not know just how valuable and flexible the program would be to me. That’s a benefit to library school that might go unnoticed amidst complaints that library schools don’t train people with the right skills to become librarians. Nobody who hasn’t worked in a library is going to leave library school able to do traditional library work well from day one. Library school is about exploring and eliminating possibilities, not advanced training in one particular area. It gives you a short introduction to a lot of different areas, but what it really teaches you is that only practice in those areas makes one good. In the meantime, I learned a lot about how libraries work, even in areas I didn’t want to work in.

Personally I have loved being at the iSchool. The path is not for everyone, but there are so many more options and paths then most people will ever realize.

This is also related to the oft heard complaint that library school is boring (which I rank right along with all librarians are girls, wear glasses and shush people). Parts of library school are boring, but different people find different parts boring, so it’s hard to generalize. I found cataloging boring, and liked working with students at the reference desk. Some of my friends thought working with students tedious, but loved cataloging. Much of the work at the master’s level and even above in any field will be boring, because you’re still exploring to see what you like. The trick is not to let your schooling get in the way of your education.

Monday, March 7, 2011

A little bit pregnant.

In one of the highlights of my time at the iSchool, Canadian-born, England-based science fiction author, activist, journalist and blogger, Cory Doctorow (boingboing.net, craphound.com) headlined a University of Toronto student conference, Boundaries, Frontiers & Gatekeepers, on March 5, 2011.

Want to hear it? Listen to A Little Bit Pregnant by Corey Doctorow

A little Bit Pregnant

(Below from iSchool website.)

In the keynote speech, Doctorow discussed the dangers that overzealous regulation of computers pose to our future.

The March 4 to 6 conference was organized by U of T’s Faculty of Information (also known as the iSchool) for students from both its own graduate program and those of other universities, among others.

The Saturday night keynote was highly anticipated as Canadian-born Doctorow is well respected and revered as the co-editor of Boing Boing (boingboing.net) and the author of Tor Teens/HarperCollins UK novels like FOR THE WIN and the bestselling LITTLE BROTHER. He is the former European director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and co-founded the UK Open Rights Group. Born in Toronto and is now based in London, England.

The concepts of Boundaries, Frontiers & Gatekeepers was, in the content of the conference, related back to information studies. Papers, posters and talks ranged from Collaborative Consumption: Loyalty Cards, Surveillance and Social Sorting, to Evidence and Memory into the Future of Archives.

Here are some key points from Doctorow’s speech:

“Designing general purpose computers that sneak around their owners’ backs is a terrible idea. We’ve already seen what happens when you add just a little bit of control to networks and computers – most recently we saw Iran’s and Egypt’s secret police mining Facebook to figure out whom to arrest. Virus writers and identity thieves have already figured out that when there is a technology, that is supposed to prevent copying, running on a computer, that prevents certain programs from being seen or modified by users, that those are the programs you’d want to infect with your viruses because they also cannot be seen by the user of the computer.

[...]

Once we create the facility to lawfully intercept terrorist communications, or to speedily take down copy-right-infringement or to interdict pirate software, or to remotely prevent bad radios from running, we create the tools by which tyrants, crooks, snoops and jerks will spy on and control us, even if for the best of reasons.

[...]

Building a general purpose PC that is just a little bit locked down is like finding a woman who is just a little bit pregnant. Once the facility can be used for a legitimate purpose, it can also be used for illegitimate purpose…”

Highlights and above audio (from Singularity Blog)