life: an update

I had a major life crisis two weeks ago and am only just starting to feel “normal” again. I’m not ready to talk about it (because it’s a rather loaded subject and I’m not interested in opening myself up to trolls), but I will say that I’m fine and getting better and my mental health is much more stable than it was at the time. I had planned on posting lofty July goals, but now I’m just looking forward to getting any writing done, getting back to exercising after a two week break, and focusing on improving my mental state. It’s been difficult, but such is life and I had support from the ones I love. And Harry Potter. I’ve read and watched a lot of Harry Potter.

That’s that.

In better news, my promotion file is DONE. I just printed and added the last of the letters I was waiting on, checked my contents, and made sure it looks neat and tidy. Tomorrow, I ship it off to the other campus and sit back to wait. Until February.

This shows more details than I normally share, but I’m a public entity and google-able, so… nothing you couldn’t find with a quick search. *shrug*

Wish me luck.

Video tomorrow (just an update on shoes I reviewed a few months ago), and *fingers crossed* a more regular blog and video schedule for future posts.

life: what have I done?

It’s never a “good” time to apply for promotion… not when it’s academic and requires a sh*t-load of documentation, writing, and compiling of letters. But I applied, and now I’m in it to win it (she says with a strained smile). I’m nothing, if not committed. But it does mean that my lofty writing goals are going to become a bit more down-to-earth. Namely, there’s no way I can reach my current word goal, while also putting together a promotion file, keeping up with reviews (something I do professionally, outside the blog), and grading essays. It’s crunch time! And some things are going to have to wait. I’m glad I’m between drafts with project #1, because there’s no way I was going to get any work done. I’m going to keep writing, but I’m going to scale back. Take things slow and steady, rather than rush and try to meet some arbitrary word count (it’s a rough draft, after all, there’s always Camp NaNo in July).

Things may be a bit quiet around here, but I’ll continue to check in from time to time. Wish me luck!

on teaching and learning

I have not taught in the proper, stand-in-front-of-the-classroom-and-spend-all-weekend-grading-papers sense in a while, but there are certain aspects of teaching that I engage in every day as a librarian. Among these is the always essential ability to know when a topic is likely to produce a “workable” research question, and when it needs to be redeveloped (or tossed). It’s always difficult to help a student who refuses to believe their research subject will not yield a good paper, whether due to lack of information available (more often than not because the student waited too long to find worthwhile information), or because the topic is too broad or narrow in scope to produce a thorough discussion or analysis. Even harder is the task of helping a student whose research topic has been assigned to them by a professor that over-estimates the scope of the library’s collection. When I was teaching, I generally tried to consider the subjects that I assigned from the researcher’s point of view, asking myself if a student was likely to find a good amount of information on the subject, or if there was anything I could do to aid them in their research.

Making sure students know how to make full use of their library is a great step in the right direction, but professors also need to be aware of the resources available when assigning research projects. Ours is a small academic library with a good, multidisciplinary collection. However; it is not an all-encompassing collection and our selection of databases is limited to those areas that best support the university’s schools. Obscure topics often require sources beyond our collection, which, in turn, require time on the part of the student. Assignments requiring that students only use print sources, or sources found through the library’s databases, further limit students’ ability to find relevant, credible information. Our collection currently features more ebooks than print books, but continued resistance from professors makes it difficult for students to become familiar with the valuable information contained in this collection. Instruction can go a long way, but the ability to understand and accept changes in information retrieval can help professors support students’ research skills and develop assignments that are challenging but doable. Learning should be an active part of teaching.

I am not an expert, but I always valued professors who learned with me and helped me find the information I needed to complete my assignment. Many students are uncomfortable asking for clarification, let alone discussing their concerns regarding a topic that is hard to research. This week I have helped several students completing an assignment that they were having a hard time completing based on the items available in our collection; only one student had the tenacity to bring her professor in to the library to show him why she was having no luck finding relevant information–the assignment required that they find a book, a print book, and bring it to class. Of the 7 books available on her subject, only 4 were in print, and these were all in Reference (so she couldn’t take them to class). The professor was surprised to find all the others were ebooks, but would not accept these as a substitute for print. Sometimes, you can only get so far.

the in crowd

I’ve been sick. Infectiously so. So I’ve had a lot of free time to fill, when not falling asleep for unexpected catnaps (seriously, suddenly, I wake up and don’t remember dropping off in the first place. Anywho, I went back in to work today, after taking a couple of sick days and recuperating during the weekend. Still felt a bit droopy, but I tried to be mildly productive and caught up with some of the library trend blogs. I love the library blogs, but there is something about the way library bloggers label themselves that I don’t quite get. Being all medicined up got me thinking in tangents and wondering about these labels. It’s like the attack of the “The” bands in the mid-2000s, when every indie band had a The in their name. Web librarians seem to love the “The” names. They are all The enter catchy descriptor Librarian. Somewhere out there, there may even be a Librarian Who Makes Cheese and Sings with Goats (The Heidi Librarian??). It’s cute, to a certain degree, but I always feel that labeling oneself in such a way is a way of justifying what one does. As if, by calling myself something like The Geek Girl Librarian, I am telling others that being a librarian is not the only thing that defines me, there is more to me than that, which should be a given. Other than The Food Librarian, whose blog is so clearly food related, the names seem like yet another gimmick to get non-library folk to find the profession trendy and exciting.

I chose to go into this profession because I do find it interesting and exciting, and, best of all, I actually get to use my seemingly non-essential English major skills on the job, but I have decided that I will remain label-less.

23 things: Part 8 – Wikis

Activity 8 – Wikis 

Reflection

Wikis are a great way to publish web content without the need for HTML knowledge. Most wiki programs are WYSIWYGs (what you see is what you get); just about any user familiar with basic word processing can create, edit, and publish content to the web on a wiki. The social media functions available on wikis also make them particularly useful for collaborative work and group publications.

Like many, the first wiki that I encountered was Wikipedia. As an instructor, I often heard debates on the validity and authority of content published on Wikipedia, a debate that I continue to witness among librarians and members of the library community. I find wikis such as Wikipedia, wikiHow, and others useful for quick reference and research, especially when the information sought is generally well-established and/or fact-based. Nevertheless, I do warn students at my library against relying on Wiki content for scholarly research, and recommend that these be used only as a starting point when developing a research question (to get an overview of the topic).

As a collaborative/social tool, wikis empower web users and encourage a community approach to learning and information sharing. Want to learn how to get wine stains out of a carpet? There’s a wiki article for that. Need a quick overview of China’s dynasties? There’s an article on that too. Overall, wikis simplify the process of locating and sharing information on a variety of topics. Of course, users still need to be aware that the open nature of wikis means anything can be published on a wiki-based site, including false information.

Wikis and ILI

There are plenty of uses for wikis in information literacy instruction. For instance, the 23 things program (SLA’s 23 things) that I am following is published on a wiki , allowing for greater interaction between members and site creators through the wiki’s comment interface. Other members of the library community use wikis developed by professional organizations/associations to interact with members of the community and share knowledge, ideas, and experiences.

Some of the library wikis that I found while learning about wikis in libraries include:

And many more, just try a search for “library wiki” on Google and you will receive thousands of hits.

Based on the library wikis that I browsed, I concluded that some of the best practices for wikis in ILI include the use of wikis to create resource directories, and to publish tutorials and other helpful how-to materials that can assist students and/or patrons when learning how to conduct research asynchronously.

A few things I have learned.

As an instructor, I like to show students the basics and let them learn by doing. I don’t do gimmicks. It’s just not me. I prefer to let the topic lead the session and handle questions as they come. I prepare PowerPoints and/or notes, but ad lib most of the presentation/lecture/discussion. I have no problem standing in front of a crowd and talking about what I know; I lost any sense of timidity after my first semester as a TA back in ’06.

As a Circulation supervisor, I like to show by example. I hate the thought of being the sort of supervisor who doesn’t know what the work actually entails. I prefer to take part in the “menial” tasks from time to time (shelving, shelf reading, shifting, etc.), know what it involves, become familiar with the problem areas, then delegate tasks so that my student workers see how it’s done and learn to do it in the process. I’ve had a few great supervisors in academic libraries and some not so great ones when I was involved in teaching and tutoring. I hope to emulate the ones I liked and catch myself if I start to act like the others.

It always freaks people out when I head into the stacks to shelve, though I actually get a kick out of it… must be my weird desire to organize things. Plus, it’s a great workout for the arms 😀 .

on my first year

At the end of this semester, I’ll reach the 18 credit milestone, my first full year of library school. Recently, some of my friends have started asking me about librarianship and what it involves… it’s complicated. There are different sides to librarianship. The most obvious is the reference librarian, since this is the type of librarian that most people associate with the library experience, but there are technical service librarians, catalogers, archivists, special librarians (music, medical, law, corporate, etc.), librarians who work for museums and non-profit organizations, metadata specialists and digital librarians, and more. I chose this field because I have an MA in English and no interest in teaching (and going into the publishing industry is a moot point). I like research. I like discovering information and helping others discover information (teaching students how to research was the one aspect of teaching that I did like). I also like computers and doing all manner of techie things. Library Information Science is a pretty dynamic field if you’re into all these things, and I am. That said, I won’t lie and pretend that it’s the most stable field; with budget cuts, the role of libraries is changing. Librarians and libraries are adapting and making the best of the situation. The more classes I take, the more I am fascinated by the thought of going into one of the more technical/digital areas of librarianship (hello, metadata!), but I also know that I’ll take whatever position I can get when I officially enter the job market as a full-fledged librarian. If I start in Reference, great. If I end up in a public library, rather than an academic one (I’m a bit attached to the Ivory Tower), I’ll take it. No, going into librarianship does not mean guaranteed, lifetime job security, but it’s not so grim as it may seem either. I know chances are that I will have to adapt along the way and continue to learn new skills to remain relevant and ahead of the trend, but I think I’m up for the challenge.

the stack calls me

The time has come when, despite the best of intentions, the end of the semester has caught up with me. Just a few more edits and some finishing touches, and I can finally take a break from classwork. Though, this semester has definitely given me some food for thought… I’m seriously considering specializing in cataloging and metadata. I always knew I wanted to go for the more digital aspects of librarianship (I’m a web geek after all), but I have gotten really into the idea of cataloging information. And thinking about folksonomies and how information is described online has sparked my interest even further. I’ve never spent so much time thinking about how the tags I use might lead a user to find relevant information (especially on my book blog).

donating to the collection

I may bitch and complain about the mess I go through every day to find a parking space on campus , but I really do enjoy my job. Finally, I’m working in an environment that is relevant to my chosen field, where I can gain insight into the daily workings of a library.

And sometimes, it’s just fun.

Everyone who works in a library has interesting stories to tell, about patrons, about reference questions, about the strange things that are found in reading areas and/or books. We’re a new department within the main library, but we already have some of our own stories to tell. Among our latest reference questions: Can I donate my body to the collection?

Being a medical library, we are in the business of providing a body of medical literature… this does not mean actual human bodies. Why this person was directed to the library remains a mystery.

I’m waiting for our first mystery organ in a jar to appear.