Finally Finished!

Well, I did it. I'm now done with library school. The last of the projects has been turned in. The last of the forum messages posted. The last bits of my internship got finished up a while back. As the old schoolyard rhyme goes: "No more homework! No more books! No more teacher's dirty looks!" I'm not going to recap everything that's happened (I'll just start whining and ranting, and I don't want to do that), instead, I'll just leave it at saying that I'm overjoyed to finally be done.

I need a vacation.

Exciting News!

I have two bits of news that I've been sitting on for a while, and it looks like I can finally announce both of them. First newsbyte: For the spring semester, I will be interning at the library at the University of Arizona John E. Rogers College of Law. I'll be helping one of the reference librarians there put together an interactive learning module for one of the library's legal reference classes. I'm overjoyed about this: I'll get to do some fun geeky things, and I get to be a little bit involved in teaching, which is cool (my parents are both teachers - love of teaching is in the blood).

Second newsbyte: Election results are in, and I am now officially the Webmaster for my school's Library Student Organization. Because my school has a significant number of distance students, our online presence is important, and I'm hoping that in my time as webmaster I can come up with some ways to give our distance students more of a chance to particpiate in the organization.

Of course, between these two things, regular classes, a job search, and life in general, I'm going to be extremely busy during the spring semester. But hey, I've never done bored well, and sleep is overrated. ;-)

Next semester's gonna rock!

The 2006 SIRLS Grad Student Symposium

Hottest Ticket in Town Our second annual graduate student symposium was a rousing success. Although attendance was down from last year, we still had a pretty good sized group of people show up, and the folks who came were all interested and enthusiastic about the presentations. Speaking of presentations, the slides will be up on the LSO website soon, when they are, I'll post a link. All of the presentations I attended were great! Even though this was a smaller group this year, I actually think the overall quality of the presentations was a bit better than last year - not that last year's were bad, they weren't - but this year's were really good. Here's a brief recap of the presentations I saw:

Shana Presenting Shana Harrington's presentation, "Are Irish Public Libraries Similar and/or Different than American Public Libraries?" was great. Shana did an internship at a public library in Dublin this past summer and got some first-hand experience in the similarities and differences between public libraries here and there. Really interesting stuff - there are a lot of commonalities, but a few surprising differences. Maybe one of the most surprising is the fact that the public libraries in Dublin rotate their staff through different positions (and different libraries) every 5 years - they have a policy of not wanting people to get too specialized in their jobs.

Jeff Collins' presentation, "Digitization Projects" was also great. Jeff talked about projects like Google Print and Yahoo's Open Content Alliance project. Google Print (I think they're calling it Google Book Search now) has made a lot of news, and I've been following that story sporadically, but I haven't followed news about the Open Content Alliance much at all, so it was great to hear a bit of an overview of what they're up to. I really must spend some time learning about that soon. It was also interesting to hear some of the other worries that people have about such digitization projects beyond copyright issues. Copyright infringement issues make headlines, but issues such as how accurate the scanning is (and how much data might be lost in the scanning process) and how the constantly changing electronic formats are affecting preservation are just as important.

Wendy Begay's presentation, "Digital Divide in Navajoland" was a real eye-opener. Having grown up in the southwest, I thought I was reasonably aware of the Digital Divide issues Native Americans still face, but it was sobering to realize just how big the divide still is. Wendy talked about a program that got funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation to provide computers and internet access to a number of Native American tribes in the southwestern US, and how the program worked out for the Navajo Nation. It was fascinating to hear about the issues - both technical and cultural - involved with this program, and since Wendy is Navajo herself, she has a great perspective on this subject.

Oh, and my presentation went well too. This was the first big presentation I've ever done, and I was a little nervous. However, I maintained my outward cool, the technology I was using behaved itself, and everyone I talked to afterward said they learned something. All good things, I think. I actually enjoyed myself quite a lot. I'm going to have to do this sort of thing more often.

Michael Stephens Michael Stephens' keynote, "Library 2.0: Planning, People and Participation" was awesome. It was just the thing to get us all charged up about the profession at a point in the semester when the deadlines are coming up behind us fast and enthusiasm is starting to flag just a bit in the face of end-of-semester homework. It's great to see some of the cool stuff that's happening in libraries now. We've still got a ways to go in convincing everybody that we're about a lot more than just books these days, but I'm looking forward to being involved in the changes that are coming. So, Michael, thanks for making the jaunt down to Tucson to talk to us!

Gentle Bens The post-symposium reception was also great. I got to see some folks I haven't seen in awhile, including Andrea Lemeiux, the past LSO president who was the primary force behind getting the symposium started last year (she's now a public librarian in Los Angeles County). She came for the state library conference and stayed on in AZ a couple of days so she could come to the symposium, too. Very cool. As seems to be the case with professional development activities like this, the after-session get-togethers are usually as interesting and informative as the sessions themselves, and this was no exception. A splendid time was had by all (well, at least by me), and conversation continued on into the evening.

Not a bad way to spend a Saturday.

More photos can be found here:

My Thoughts on Library and Information Science Education

It's weird sometimes how one topic can pop up in a bunch of different places at once. There's been a debate going on in my library management class right now about library education, and the real value of the MLS degree. A few of my fellow students (and I'll admit, I include myself in this group) are frustrated that our classes are focused a lot on theory and that we're not getting very much practical experience (or that any practical experience we might have is discounted because we don't yet have our degrees). Then I come across two very thoughtful blog posts from folks about the current state of library education and the value of the MLS degree, and some of the issues that arise from a degree that's focused more on theory than practice. So, please, before you read on and hear my thoughts, go read this post by Josh Neff and this post by Nicole Engard. I'll wait. Josh made the point that as the new grad, his more experienced colleagues are fond of joking whenever some sticky situation comes up, that "I bet you didn't learn about this in library school." To which I only have one thing to say: Why in the name of God aren't we learning how to handle real-life situations in library school?!?!?! We're getting a degree that is to prepare us for professional practice, so why on Earth is it assumed that we don't need anything more than a theoretical background to enter professional practice?

Nicole mentioned, "We need to require on the job training like they do for teachers (student teaching). The professors instructing us (most of the time) haven’t been in a library in a while and don’t know about the real changes that are going on - by making students work while they go to school we can hope that they’ll get more out of their education." To which I say I absolutely agree!

To make my point a little clearer, let me offer a couple of other examples from still other professions. When you go to Medical school you have to learn theory, but to get your MD, you also have to get practical experience with, you know, real patients. When you get your nursing degree, you have to learn theory, but you are also required to to get practical, clinical experience. In my opinion, this does a lot to engender my respect for those professions. I know that even if my doctor is just out of med school or the nurse assisting with some medical procedure is just out of nursing school, I am *not* the first patient they have ever interacted with. This gives me some confidence that even if they're new, they have some experience behind them and they know what they're doing.

So, why do we send MLS grads out into the world thinking that the theoretical background we get in library school is enough? I do *not* (I emphatically do *NOT*) dispute the need for MLS grads to have the theoretical background we get - part of the point of getting an advanced degree is that it's supposed to give you that deeper, advanced theoretical background. But I think we do ourselves a disservice as a profession that we don't also see the need to give people entering the profession the same kind of practical experience that is part and parcel of the training in other professions.

It's not that we don't need the theory and the understanding of the role of librarianship that we're getting in our library education programs. We do. But if the point of being a professional, is the ability to apply theory to practice, then we're getting only half an education if all we're learning is the theory. Medicine, nursing, and education are three professions that understand the value of practical training as an integral part of the educational experience. I sincerely hope that librarianship will learn this same lesson soon and start beefing up their requirements for practical training (making internships a requirement of graduation, instead of just an optional course would be a good start) as part of library science education.