Saturday, June 13, 2009
We hope that you will enjoy reading some of the many perspectives on change and transistions related to graduate school and professional work.
We invite you to comment on the following stories and engage conversations with authors and the editors. How will you approach the changes and transitions you will undoubtedly experience as a part of your educational and professional experiences?
Robyn Gleasner and Tiffany Mair, Co-Newsletter Editors
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Change. It is the constant in our equation for life. Now I’m sure you’re wondering, “How exactly can change be constant?” Change and transitions have been around since the beginning of time. Without change, without evolution, languages can die, cultures can be forgotten, and ideas can be lost. Without these vital components, human life would not be as we know it. Thus, change is inevitable for success and for survival.
And yet, since the beginning of recorded time in those early Lascaux caves, people have feared change. It challenges our very core, our epigenetic beliefs and innate taxonomies, our moral compasses of right and wrong – where and how we classify things; good or bad/heaven or hell, T (Library of Congress classification for technology) or N (Library of Congress classification for visual art). For example, the printing press revolutionized life in the 1400’s, making it possible for Martin Luther to spread his ideas in the 1500’s to lead the Reformation. Martin Luther did not believe there should be an intermediary between an individual and God. This meant that people should be able to read and interpret the Bible for themselves without a priest. With Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press this was a possibility.
The technology forced people to change – common people could embrace this technology and in their minds come closer to God. Because common people now had access to information that previously had belonged only to the Church, the government and the Church's way of thinking and way of life was also challenged. The saying “knowledge is power” has been ingrained in society for a very long time. For example, between 1751 and 1772 Diderot printed his Encyclopedia or Dictionary of the Sciences, the Arts, and the Professions. While we may consider these huge volumes of information of encyclopedic knowledge outdated today, in the 1700’s they were quite revolutionary, especially with the Church. These books had information to teach people how to dye their own cloth as well as a number of other things that only the Church had access to previously. Diderot and his encyclopedia provided an opportunity for people to step onto equal ground with the authorities. It is no wonder that the Church was afraid of such a transition.
Just as in the 1500’s and the 1700’s, technology again has forced us to change today. The Internet and hypertext have opened us to a wide new realm of possibilities for the dissemination of information. Similar to Diderot’s encyclopedia, Wikipedia has been criticized and praised for its groundbreaking attempts to supply the public with the largest range of information subjects written by common people. And once again we have to grapple with our epigenetic need for authority control and our conventional and safe scholarly citations. Wikipedia is providing an opportunity for all people to exist on the same information plane, both scholars and high school students alike. Change is certainly a scary thing.
Once again technology has forced us to change and to evolve, not only as professionals and human beings, but our entire institutions – libraries, museums, and archives – as well. We must embrace change in order to exist. Are we afraid? Of course. We are predisposed to fear the unknown. But as Darwin showed us in 1864 with his theory of natural selection, only the fittest survive, only those best able to adapt to a rapidly changing environment survive and prevail. I don’t know about you, but my fear of non-existence overrides my fear of change.
And so change really is the constant in our equation for life. As a country, we have a new president with new ideas and we have many transitions to make in this coming year. We all deal with transitions and changes in our daily lives. As library students, we are constantly learning new technologies and new platforms. Some of us are transitioning from school to career, some from career to school, while others are transitioning to new cultures and new places. The Call Number is not exempt from change either. We are embarking upon the exciting realm of the blog. We encourage you to embrace this change: please have an opinion, share what you think, and contribute to the vast knowledge of our ever expanding profession.
Robyn Gleasner is co-editor of The Call Number. She will receive her MLIS in December 2009 and is currently the library assistant at Laguna College of Art Design.
“If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.”
–Giuseppe di Lampedusa
We are never in the same place twice. There will always be some factor that makes a moment or situation we experience unique. Yet, we often resist change with fervor that though unable to return us to a past moment, does have the potential to propel us forward in our lives and careers if we choose to live in the present. When we embrace changes and transitions in our lives, as di Lampedusa implies we should, we engage our capacity to create moments and experiences. By living as creators, we may possess a more positive outlook and accept unforeseen changes in our lives with greater grace.
In my opinion, this mindset and view of life is particularly important for librarians. There are many transitions that we as library students will experience as we move toward our degrees and later, when we build our careers as information professionals. These times will have unique challenges. By keeping our eyes and hearts focused on the reasons driving our work and the passionate principles, such as intellectual freedom and equal access to information, we can stay oriented on a professional journey that is actively evolving and changing. We do not need to feel lost if we center ourselves in these ethical and professional ideals. In a world where the only constant is change, it is important for us to arm ourselves with skills and techniques that will assist us in dealing with any transition. The toughest transitions are not necessarily the unexpected, but surprises can certainly shock the system and dampen our spirits if we assign them that power.
The way we respond to transitions can make all the difference in our perspectives and careers. We can spin out of control and experience the highs and lows of our dramatic lives and bemoan or resist the latest software or policy change, or we can reflect, refocus, and reconnect in order to cope with changes (positive and possibly negative) to move forward into the lives and careers we design for ourselves.
We can experience transitions as positive or negative experiences, but it is important to give ourselves time for reflection in order to acknowledge our present and let go of our past. For example, if things do not happen as we have planned or we feel we have missed the mark, reflection can help us take account of our pasts and allow us time to reassess our skills and talents. Reflection can also aide in accepting unexpected changes in our personal and professional lives.
A part of making peace with the past and living in the present moment is allowing ourselves time and space to transition from reflection to refocusing or recalibrating our mental and emotional focus on new goals. By focusing on how we can act as change agents in our own lives helps reinforce the fact that change is always with us, so we might as well embrace it.
Finally, reconnecting to our passions and working to create our dreams (as students, librarians, or individuals) allows us to accept and move with transitions. When we give up resistance, or at least investigate its source, we can be more effective in our roles – and make a difference in our own lives and in the lives of others. Considering that librarianship is a service-driven profession, I believe that taking the time to reflect, refocus, and reconnect can give us greater freedom in expressing our professional intentions and encourage creative approaches to the many transitions in our lives and careers. Reconnecting is also about building collaborative relationships with other librarians and supporting each other professionally so that we can collectively design the future of libraries and information work. It is also important that we reconnect with the library users we serve so that we can provide the services that are what users want and need.
Change may be challenging and can require significant energy to accept. Working through these processes is well worth it so that we can benefit from the attitudes and accomplishments of librarians who embrace and make change. Together, we can create opportunities from change and become powerful librarians, acting as change agents in our lives and in our profession.
Tiffany Mair is co-editor of The Call Number and plans to graduate Spring 2010. Tiffany serves as an intern at Sacramento Area Council of Governments where she works in the State Regional Data Center and is in the process of reorganizing a small transportation-focused library. She also works part-time as a Graduate Assistant for a SJSU-SLIS Professor.
“Can someone tell me the title of their favorite book?”
I’m standing in front of a group of 25 second graders, trying to set up a concrete introduction to finding books in the library. Based on past experience, two of the most likely answers to this question are “Junie B. Jones!” and “Sharks!” Well, that’s a good start. I can work with it.
“Does anyone know who writes the Junie B. Jones books?” If someone comes up with “Barbara Park,” I can ask what letter Park starts with and we’ll be off to the fiction shelves.
“Octopuses!” The really eager kid in the back row is still thinking of favorite books.
“Tell you what—we’ll look for sharks and octopuses in just a minute. Does anyone know who writes Junie B.?”
Ask any preschool or elementary school teacher, and they can tell you that the concept of transition is not just a procedure for moving the kids smoothly from one activity to the next. It’s a form of mental discipline on the adult’s part too and it applies to all sorts of work with children. Working in the children’s department of a public library is a daily series of ups, downs, crossovers, and stealth maneuvers. You have programs to plan, meetings to attend, a collection to weed, and at some point you’ll deal with the toilet paper tubes that keep appearing on your desk because months ago you said you needed boxes for something and the staff seems to associate “youth services” with “collections of random garbage.”
School tours, as a type of command performance, require particularly quick thinking. Last Halloween, knowing that we had six classes coming in back to back, a coworker and I dressed like veterinarians, grabbed our stuffed animals, and marshaled the kids in front of the library.
“Welcome to the animal hospital!”
“This is the library, silly,” said the kids. At least the adults laughed. On to the next bit.
“Do you think it’s okay to eat in the library?”
Pious expressions all around. “Oh, no.”
Gotcha! “Guess what? This isn’t your mama’s library. You can eat in here. We even have vending machines.”
This has the kids running to find the vending machines—“Hold on, guys, we’re headed this way.”
Now for the serious part. “We have a lot of books in the library, right? So we have to organize them all very carefully. How do you think we organize our books?”
“You could do it by size!”
“Put all the ones you like on one shelf and the ones you don’t like on a different shelf!”
I like that idea. But this is the library, after all. “Let me tell you how we do it here. Can anyone tell me the difference between fiction and nonfiction?”
Several hands go up. “Nonfiction is true, and fiction isn’t true.”
The inevitable truth discussion. I know what the kids mean by true—a fact, an encyclopedia entry, something they can measure, not something made up. I can’t get sidetracked by trying to define true—“Are you telling me that what Ramona Quimby feels when Beezus makes fun of her isn’t true? You’re breaking my heart, guys.” So I choose a different definition.
“Let’s say that nonfiction is mostly facts, and fiction is mostly made up stories.”
And then I go over the Dewey Decimal Classification, telling a story about an alien coming to earth and trying to find out what this place is all about, or about a guy in a cave trying to figure out the same thing. We do a simple search, maybe for Junie B., or sharks, or octopuses, and all the while my mind is running back and forth wondering if I really answered this or that question as well as I could have, or if I’m doing justice to the library in these kids’ eyes. Am I showing it in all its glory, or am I standing around dressed like a vet for nothing? I'm never sure. The kid who comes back the next week with his dad reminds me of his school visit by saying, “Hey, where’s your stuffed cat? I wanted to play with it.”
My favorite part of the tour is when we pass the children’s reference desk and I point out whoever happens to be sitting there. “You can look for stuff on the shelves,” I say, “or you can use the catalog to try to find stuff. But if you’re really having a problem and you can’t find what you’re looking for, you can always ask the person sitting at this desk. Even if they look like they’re busy doing something else, just come and ask—our number one job is to answer your questions. That’s why we’re here.”
And it’s true, by any definition of the word. No matter how many other things we might be trying to accomplish, no matter how hard it might be to stop doing one thing and start something else, it really is why we’re here. For me, the library is a place of transitioning from one task to the next, and frequently from one level to the next as I go from doing an infant program to talking up a teen book. But those transitions aren’t hard. Just when I’m running out of enthusiasm for editing our online book news, a child might come up and ask me hesitantly for a story about a "dusty row." Once I figure out that it’s really The Tale of Despereaux, we’re off—and I tell them to keep the questions coming.
Rebecca Donnelly is a first year student at SJSU-SLIS. She has been volunteering and working in libraries since 2004. Her writing has been published in Public Libraries, Info Career Trends and on LISCareer.com, and she reviews children’s books for School Library Journal.
Twice a week, I walk up 4 escalators and 1 set of stairs in the San Jose King Library to the 5th floor. I started my first library job at the San Jose King Library’s Special collections at the beginning of the year. I decided a few years ago that I wanted my career path to be in the library world, but I had never worked in one. My two favorite things are music and books. The library is one of the best places to get both free. The radio is another great place to get the former for free. Before working at SJSU, you could find me at KUSP-FM, a public radio station in Santa Cruz. So, how did I go from an office where I could blast and sing along to Nirvana to a reading room where only pencils are allowed?
Radio stations are one of the most overlooked information centers. They can compete with the internet for immediacy of access, and with the exception of satellite radio, listening is free once you have a receiver. In my experience, radio stations are loud, chaotic, crazy, and fun places to work. A somewhat surprising aspect of my former job at KUSP-FM was handling what the library field calls reference questions. I often fielded phone calls from listeners who had questions about what they had heard on air. Usually, it was a matter of looking up a show that had been on-air earlier in the day. For example, last year, a caller wanted to know what piece of classical music she had heard in 1981 on a locally produced music show. She thought it had an oboe solo, maybe with a quartet, and was written in the 20th century. She also thought the quartet was written about the Holocaust. I correctly identified the piece as French composer Olivier Messiaen’s Quatuor Pour la Fin du Temps (Quartet for the End of Time), written while he was a German prisoner of war during World War II. Almost immediately, I thought this was the correct piece, but I doubled checked Wikipedia’s description of the piece and the spelling of the composer’s name. The piece has unusual instrumentation, featuring clarinet, piano, cello and violin, and has beautiful, haunting melodies. So I understood why the caller decided to find out what it was after 25 years.
Regardless of what type of radio station - small or large, public, commercial or college, talk radio or music – there are many people coming and going. Musicians, politicians, and community activists show up, along with people simply interested in radio. The mix of people who walked through the front door of KUSP-FM was always one of my favorite things about working there. I knew when I handed in my notice to KUSP-FM, it would be one of the things I missed most.
However, every day an incredible mix of people walk through the front door of the San Jose King Library, too. I was recently at the library cafe on a sunny Sunday afternoon before the library opened. I was not only impressed with the number of people waiting outside, but the diverse age range of the patrons. Not all of them make their way up to the 5th floor to the Special Collections Reading Room, but enough do to keep it interesting. People might come by to do research for a paper on the history of San Jose State University, or to look at some of the rare art books in the collection. So far, none of the researchers are carrying guitars, but it could happen.
On the days we don’t have many visitors, we work on processing archival collections or other projects like transcribing recordings of oral history. This medium for recording historical events and biographical information fascinates me. Public radio stations are no strangers to oral history. Studs Terkel, the people’s oral historian, began his work in collecting oral histories at a public radio station in Chicago. The non-profit StoryCorps travels the country recording oral histories from everyday people, archiving them at the Library of Congress and broadcasting selections on National Public Radio weekly. Terkel and StoryCorps were my introductions to the power and grace of oral histories.
My work at the radio station concerned classification and organization, much like my work at Special Collections. In fact, processing the archival collections of the University Archives exposes me to some of the same types of files I was responsible for organizing and keeping up to date at KUSP-FM. The two institutions are very different, but keep similar records for personnel, procedures and policies. Having kept neat and organized files at KUSP-FM makes the transition to good archival practices easier.
It turns out that a noisy radio station and a quiet reading room aren’t all that different. I won’t hear any live rock and roll bands playing in the reading room any time soon, but the Beethoven Center is next door and they have a harpsichord and a fortepiano. I’m glad to be at the reading room, but I know I’ll visit KUSP-FM occasionally to get my radio station fix. And I hope people will stop by the San Jose King Library to come to the 5th floor and say hello!
Jane Gilvin is a first year SJSU-SLIS student living in Santa Cruz, CA. She’s a student assistant at SJSU Special Collections in the King library. You can also occasionally hear her on air at KUSP-FM.
Photo taken by Steve Laufer.
Have you logged into Angel today? If you're an SJSU-SLIS student, you probably have, because Angel is our new Learning Management System (LMS). How did you feel about the experience? An informal poll, discussed in this article, attempted to measure our first encounters with this application. The transition from Blackboard and other applications started in the Spring 2009 semester after the school conducted an evaluation of the best solution for our online program.
The decision to use Angel as our LMS was a carefully considered one, taking into account both the availability of as many features as possible and accessibility that meets CSU disability guidelines. Debbie Faires, Assistant Director for Distance Learning, explained that Moodle and Blackboard were also considered; Blackboard didn't have the desired features, and Moodle would have required that SJSU hire programmers to customize it.
As a result, students and faculty have found themselves immersed in learning Angel while using it for their classes. A brief poll was conducted to get a feel for how students were reacting to Angel so far. An invitation for the web-based poll was posted on the school's "quickslis" mailing list; students and faculty who were subscribed to the mailing list and were interested visited the site anonymously. IP addresses were not collected, nor were names or email addresses. The poll was set up on surveymonkey.com as a free poll, which cut off respondents after 100 people took the poll. (Student Services Coordinator Scharlee Phillips says that there are 2,700 students enrolled this semester at SJSU-SLIS, making the sample size relatively small.) The poll questions were written casually. There were multiple choice questions about Angel features and about the respondents' backgrounds, as well as open-ended questions that invited respondents to write freely about their opinions about Angel. Two faculty members responded before the poll was cut off; the other 98 respondents identified themselves as students.
Most respondents rated themselves as having moderate computer skills, defined as: "I Know What I'm Doing (I blog, I read newspapers online)", at 78%; 20% rated themselves as experts, defined as: "Expert (I can create a directory listing in an operating system, I know how to set my own cookies, I've written wiki pages with native wiki formatting)". Of these respondents, 78% had used Blackboard and were indeed making a transition to Angel (as opposed to learning an LMS for the first time).
What did they think?
40% of respondents found email the easiest feature to use (out of chat, discussion boards, email, IM, and wiki); 52% found the discussion boards to be the hardest to use. Respondents answered in a rough bell curve on the question "On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the EASIEST and 5 being the HARDEST, how easy would you say Angel is to use, overall?" with 42% choosing the middle ground, a rating of "3." 84% of respondents said they had worked through some or all of the SJSU-SLIS Angel tutorial; 16% had not worked through it at all.
What does it all mean?
One disappointing result is the evaluation of discussion boards being the hardest to use; I know that in the class I am taking, the discussion boards are the core of the classroom activity. Having only 2% of respondents define themselves as computer novices indicates that most of us should be in a reasonable position to learn a new system; however, the fact that 16% of respondents hadn't worked through the tutorial indicates that we could do more to educate ourselves about how to use Angel.
Respondents were allowed to add comments if they wanted; 68% took advantage of this. People were frustrated that the discussion board, and Angel overall, loads slowly compared to other tools. There were multiple complaints about the small size of the discussion board display and about the bottom line of the discussion board being cut off. (The SJSU-SLIS Angel FAQ has suggestions for mitigating both of those problems.) Also, students talked about the confusion caused when two professors set up their classes with different designs in Angel; if navigation between two classes is different, the student has to learn two different configurations of Angel. Several people suggested that there might be benefits from the faculty agreeing on a general design standard for classes to make it easier for students to navigate.
Most respondents had pretty strong opinions about Angel. Some people had definitely made up their minds against Angel after five (5) weeks of use: "To date, this is the worst software that I have experienced since I began using computers in 1983." Other respondents were more positive: "I haven't used many of the functions available because I'm only working on my e-portfolio this semester but I've found the Angel interface easy to use...I like that everything is one place (wiki, discussion boards, and e-portfolio) and think this is a really neat system for student's [sic] starting the program."
How will we feel about Angel after using it for a semester? By Fall 2009, we'll know better how much dislike for Angel is based on our learning curve--on not knowing how to use a tool very well when we're under pressure with classes--and how much is based on genuine problems with the tool. At the end of Spring 2009, SJSU-SLIS is collecting tips and tricks for using Angel that will help us adjust. In the meantime, Angel will continue to be part of our lives at SJSU-SLIS. Maybe we can remember that however much we are struggling with Angel, we can use these experiences to empathize with the library users we will meet in our future who may struggle with computer applications in general.
Jennifer Davis is in her second semester at SJSU-SLIS and is looking forward to changing her career from software testing to something in the information science realm.
Don’t look back: Something may be gaining on you.
LeRoy “Satchel” Paige, an African-American baseball player famous for his fastball, followed Jackie Robinson in breaking the sport’s race barrier. Nicknamed “baseball’s Methuselah” when he became a major league rookie in his forties, his age was barrier-breaking as well. Everyone understands it’s a feat to get a major-league performance out of an over-40 body. How about a new education into a 50-year-old mind used to a physical classroom?
In my second semester at SLIS, I might adapt Paige’s maxim as “Don’t blink: Something’s definitely gaining on you” and apply it to technology.
A few years ago, during a series of power and computer glitches in the newsroom where I worked, I told a young coworker how I wrote stories for my high school newspaper on a typewriter.
“How did editors know how many inches your stories were?” the young copyeditor asked me.
“We set the margins at 10 and 72,” I explained. “Every three and half lines were one column inch.”
In his mind, I think this scene was conjured in sepia, picturing us in trenchcoats and fedoras, smoking Lucky Strikes and drinking whiskey with off-duty cops.
By the time I started college in the fall of 1976, in a brand new $6 million facility at the University of Texas, the much-vaunted journalism school was training students to write news stories on computers. This was a brave new world.
In 1991, as a reporter for a rural zoned edition of The Sacramento Bee, I sent my stories to editors 50 miles away over a modem. I saw my co-workers about once a month. When I returned in 1996 after a five-year maternity leave, my young co-workers introduced me to something called “the Internet” and showed me how to use something called “email.”
Whoa! I’d be afraid to turn my back on technology for five years ever again in my lifetime! I’d have to be H.G. Wells to imagine what technology might be if I do live to be as old as Methuselah.
Last fall, more than a quarter-century after my last college degree, I started our online program. Mercifully, I had just completed a library science program at my local junior college that used the same online course management system, but I did it in their fairly-close-to-state-of-the-art computer lab. This way I dodged the expense and trauma of untangling what computer, programs, and Internet access I would need at home in the sticks. Before that, I had taken a few computer classes through our local adult education program, not so much to master new spheres, but to get a sense of what spheres exist.
To prepare for the first semester in this program, I printed out the home computing requirements from the SJSU-SLIS web site and took them to my local Apple store, 45 miles away. I did that because I didn’t really understand the rows of numbers and needed a translator. I might have wondered how I would fare in classes where my classmates probably didn’t need an intermediary to figure out whether their computer was up to the task, but it doesn’t do to think about that or you just back off from trying to catch up.
An adequate computer was in the house, but the Apple salesman explained that the speed of the required Internet access was far beyond the dial-up we had. DSL is not available here and cable would cost $10,000 or more to install. I got through my first semester using a laptop at local libraries. Since many libraries have cut their evening hours, classmates joining me in Elluminate meetings sometimes heard my comments over the hiss of an espresso machine at Starbuck’s. Thankfully, a satellite dish was installed before the start of my second semester. We were up and running within 90 minutes. Now the only equipment lacking a fast enough connection is between my ears.
Last semester, my four instructors were spread out from southern California to Washington state and I never saw a single classmate. In February, I finally met one of my instructors during a weekend on campus for a hybrid class. When I was an undergraduate, anything called a “hybrid” class would have been offered in the botany department.
Possibly encouraged by a solid performance in the four core classes I decided to tackle my bête noir and sign up for four classes, three of them about the Web and the Internet. What I learned before I dropped one of those classes - at 4:59 p.m. on the last day to drop - is that such classes tend to attract former software engineers and people who have been current with computer technology all along and spent time on computers for fun.
It doesn’t take long to fall behind the technological curve, and I can’t forecast how long it might before I feel caught up, but I do know that something’s gaining on you every minute. I now view keeping up with technology as gardening; something I dare not leave untended for more than a season. Any time a classmate suggests a new application or feature, I check it out and do my best to employ it right away. With technology, I don't feel I can wait for complete understanding and don't worry about looking like an idiot. I probably won't hit it out of the park, but I can at least take a swing.
Cynthia McCarthy, a former newspaper reporter, has written for The Sacramento Bee zoned editions, The Sacramento Business Journal, Sierra Heritage magazine and The Union newspaper in Grass Valley, Calif. She lives in the Sierra Nevada hamlet of Alta in Placer County with her husband, 17-year-old son and dog, Missy.
As I sit down to write this, I am sharing a cup of coffee with my husband and thinking about the day ahead. I plan to spend time this morning researching the popularity of manga among teens. I will surf the internet for articles about anime conventions and merchandise, and I will put together a list of important websites. After lunch I’m off to the library where I’ll help the teen librarian load projectors and decorations into her car, and then we’ll drive to the Nixon Library for Yorba Linda’s Teen Film Festival. I’ll spend the rest of the evening immersed in the worlds created by the talented teens of our community—and I’ll be getting paid to do it.
I don’t have to look very far back to wonder if this is really my life. Only six months ago I was working full time in a sales office and chipping away at my core classes for SJSU-SLIS. I was tired, stressed, and though enjoying everything I learned, I sometimes felt discouraged about my future. Perhaps getting my hopes up about library work was just another expensive romp through Dreamland—like majoring in Literature had been. I strained myself to read my textbooks in my few remaining hours of the day. Finding six units per semester to be too much for me, I lowered my course load to three. My degree was not getting any closer, and I often wondered: wouldn’t it be easier to resign myself to a life of paper pushing?
In a way, the very thing that had made SJSU-SLIS’s online program so attractive to me—taking classes while keeping my full time job—was really starting to burn me out. The tendency to make my library studies into a private goal that I pursued in my time off was only making me more afraid to take risks and embrace change.
I needed to talk to somebody, and decided it was time I called up a former elementary schoolmate who I heard got her master’s from SJSU and became a public librarian. I felt a lot better after talking to her. She encouraged me to stick with the program and to start browsing library job listings.
There weren’t many jobs available in my area at the time. I eventually found a library assistant position thirty miles away from me, and tested for it, telling my boss I was “sick” and feeling awful about the deception. When I showed up and found hundreds of other applicants competing for the same job, I felt even worse about my prospects.
But it forced me to realize something: there was no fairy godmother who was going to turn me into a librarian overnight. It didn’t matter to the library world what grades I had. I was going to have to do more to show I had something to offer.
Amazingly, once I recognized that I’d have to do more than just school, SJSU was there with open arms, providing numerous opportunities for connecting with librarians!
It started out small: I made it a point to introduce myself to the librarians I met when hunting books for class projects. I told them I was an SJSU student, and most librarians I met were alumni, willing to help me with anything I needed. I began reaching out to my classmates for more than academics; we helped each other search for jobs in our different locations.
Paying more attention to the listserv emails that had flooded my inbox for so long, I heard about the “Banned Books Read-Out” for LISSTEN and volunteered to present Huckleberry Finn. I felt instantly at home there; everybody presented the books with enthusiasm. After I read from Huck Finn we had a lively debate about its controversial language. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was networking, making friends with people who shared my interests. I was connecting with people who could help me translate those passions into possibilities.
Two of the LISSTEN officers I met invited me to volunteer in their library’s children’s department. I started going there on Saturdays to help them collect books for various displays. They were so kind to me, giving me experience doing bibliographies and other creative things. They also offered to be references for me when I applied for jobs.
I heard about an opening for a library assistant in Yorba Linda, close to where I live, and applied for it. Having these references and experiences behind me, I interviewed with newfound confidence. Although the job went to someone with years of experience, the manager asked me to substitute during the evenings whenever another librarian called in sick. Several librarians there had started out as subs, and many later got their degrees from SJSU. Knowing that made me feel I was right where I needed to be.
I came in several nights a week for training, making some of my eight-hour days into twelve-hour days. My coworkers at the office noticed I was dressing differently—more “professionally.” The library didn’t require this change. I just felt excited about life again, and wanted to show my appreciation for what I was doing.
I may actually owe my fairy godmother an apology: my transition to permanent library work was appallingly brief. I was training less than a month before another part-time position opened up and was offered to me.
It’s been four months since I said goodbye to office work, and SJSU was the catalyst that pushed me toward this change. My library schedule gives me the time and practice I need for getting the most out of school. And my school, in turn, continues to open doors for me. This summer, I’m enrolled in 294 for an internship with OCPL, and I’m very excited.
Had I not heard about SJSU’s online program, I might never have aspired to anything but secretarial work. But if I hadn’t discovered the value of participating in groups like LISSTEN, I might have stayed a secretary anyway! This program showed me a path for my life, but it was the people I met who got me there.
AnnMarie Hurtado is a second-year MLIS student emphasizing in public library services for youth. She works as a library assistant at Yorba Linda Public Library, and lives in nearby Brea with her husband.
Photo taken by John Hurtado.
In the beginning of 2008, my husband was offered a postdoctoral position at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. I am originally from Germany and was expecting my first child at the time, so I was very excited about the chance to move back to Europe to live closer to my family and friends again. As a SJSU-SLIS student, I was thrilled that I could continue with my studies from abroad. I thought I would switch to special session, keep taking online classes, and nothing much would change. Sure, special session is more expensive, but I thought we would start making Euros and life would be great. As it turns out, Denmark hasn't introduced the Euro yet, but is still holding on to its beloved Danish Krone (It is still higher than the U.S. dollar though!). But this was not the only surprise waiting for me in the new country. Little by little, I learned that there were quite a few things that made continuing the program from abroad more challenging than I had initially expected.
For instance, participating in Elluminate sessions can be difficult due to the nine hour time difference between Denmark and California. Most sessions are at around 3:00-4:00 in the morning my time—not exactly my favorite time of the day to listen to presentations or give a presentation myself. Because of this problem, I am now trying to avoid taking classes with mandatory Elluminate sessions. This is unfortunate because it not only reduces my choice of courses, but also gives me less of an opportunity to become comfortable with distance learning software applications.
Ordering course books has turned out to be more difficult as well. Naive as I was, I thought I would order everything from the Danish Amazon Web site. However, there is no Danish Amazon! Luckily, I found an easy solution to this problem. I now order my course books from the German Amazon Web site and have them shipped to my home address in Copenhagen or to my parent's place near Cologne, Germany, where I pick them up when I visit. (Many LIS titles are not available through Amazon directly, but only through "Amazon Sellers" who often don't offer international shipping).
Another problem that I have encountered is that I don’t have access to many print resources that are useful when taking certain courses. Last semester, for example, I had a hard time with my Reference & Information Services course because some standard American reference materials (e.g., Emily Post’s Etiquette) were not available electronically through SJSU King Library and I wasn't able to find print copies of them in any Danish library. I had to be more creative and spend additional time locating alternative resources in order to answer some of the practice reference questions the instructor gave us. Since I don’t speak Danish, assignments that require getting in touch with librarians or observing reference interviews have become more challenging for me as well. I am limited to a few libraries where most interactions between librarians and patrons take place in either English (e.g., Copenhagen Business School Library) or German (e.g., Goethe Institute Library). Language problems, of course, also make it more difficult for me to find an internship or part-time work in a library.
As a SJSU-SLIS student, it was particularly interesting for me to get to know the local library system after I moved to Denmark. Danish libraries don’t use Dewey Decimal or Library of Congress classification, which made it more difficult for me to find my way around in the beginning. But I also encountered some strange things about the Danish library system that really baffled me. For example, when I first went to my neighborhood branch of the Copenhagen Public Library to borrow some novels to read, I noticed that the blurb pages of all hardcover books were missing. For some reason not obvious to me, the library’s technical services had removed those pages when processing the materials for circulation. Now you wonder, how are you supposed to know what a book is about? Well, you don’t. You start reading a few pages and borrow it in hope that it might be interesting. It’s like a lottery, really. Let me assure you, though, that the Danish library system also has its advantages. For instance, Denmark has a very well developed interlibrary loan system. Patrons can order a book from any public library in the country online and have it delivered to the branch nearest to them. Free of charge!
All practical problems aside, the most significant change for me when moving abroad was more of a social and psychological one. I soon started feeling less connected to the school as well as the American library community. Before moving, I lived in Davis, California which is about 100 miles north of San José. I was able to visit the SJSU campus, including King Library, occasionally and meet personally with other SLIS students in my area to work on course projects or chat about the program. Now that I live abroad, that’s not possible anymore. Sure, there are many ways for social networking on the Web (e.g., SLISLife), but, for me, this will never really substitute face-to-face interaction. Living abroad and not knowing if I will ever return to the States, I’ve started to become less interested in what is going on in the American library community. I read American library science newsletters and blogs regularly, but feel that many things don’t concern me as much anymore (e.g., the impact of the current financial crisis on American public libraries). I suppose other SJSU-SLIS students who live outside the U.S. may feel the same way.
While moving to Denmark has been the right decision for me in my personal life, as a student it has been a difficult transition. Yes, we do live in a globalized, networked environment which provides many of us with new and exciting opportunities to live, work, and study anywhere in the world. But moving abroad can have its challenges as well and it is not always as glamorous as it may seem.
Claudia Peters holds an M.A. in History from Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf, Germany. She is specializing in Academic Libraries in the SJSU-SLIS program and hopes to graduate in Fall 2010. She currently lives with her husband and eight month old son in Copenhagen, Denmark.
When I first began my quest for a master’s degree, my main concern was financing the costs involved. My future looked bleak as a single mother supporting two children, with a low-paying job. I knew I had to set high goals to gain financial independence in order to stop the cycle of poverty and need for state aid. At that time I did not realize that with minimal effort on my part, I would be able to get my education paid for and be debt free. Regardless of what many students may think, a debt-free education can be a reality for students who are willing to devote time and effort to secure scholarships and grants.
How is this possible?
At this point, you may be asking how this is possible. The answer is by using available resources like scholarships and grants that do not have to be repaid. There is an abundance of free money available to graduate students of all types. A common misconception for many students is that the majority of scholarships out there are based solely on need or merit. When trying to convince fellow students to apply for scholarships, I have been told, “It takes too long” or “I am not a minority.”
Do a little research to get cash
My first step was to conduct research and that involved borrowing books from the library. One of my favorites is How to Go to College Almost for Free by Ben Kaplan. Kaplan graduated from Harvard and won more than $90,000 in scholarships. He explains in simple language where to look for scholarships, and how to win them. Kaplan’s advice netted me more than $27,000 for educational expenses. One chapter in particular covers interview techniques, which I reviewed before participating in a tele-conference interview. I won the scholarship and attribute my success to Kaplan’s advice.
The Internet = Money
Kaplan recommends using Internet scholarship databases in order to locate the widest variety of scholarships. Some examples are: scholarships for re-entry students, students of Italian decent or law librarians. Internet databases can return numerous selections. Locating specific scholarships with limited applicants increases the odds of winning.
The Internet scholarship site I found to be the most valuable is FastWeb, which matches students with prospective scholarships and sends notices when deadlines are approaching. I was fortunate to be awarded a $2,500 scholarship as a
direct result of a FastWeb notice.
Lisa Valdez, the grant coordinator for SJSU-SLIS reports, “SLIS currently awards five scholarships each year to SLIS students, as well as six awards to graduating students. In addition, SLIS students are able to apply for a range of scholarships offered by the university.” These awards are specifically for LIS students.
Winning an SJSU scholarship identifies you as an up-and-coming information professional to school administrators, faculty and staff. It is also a source of pride to obtain a scholarship from your school of attendance.
Another easy way of applying for a multitude of scholarships at once is by completing a SJSU Spartan Scholarship online application. These scholarships are in addition to departmental scholarships. Students need to complete only one online application to be considered for over 900 general and departmental scholarships.
Additional funding sources
Additional sources like travel grants and funding to pursue research are also available. Travel grants help new information professionals with the cost of conference attendance and also foster networking opportunities.
I looked into the ALA scholarship website and was rewarded with the prestigious ALA Spectrum Scholarship. Spectrum has a financial award of $5,000, a three-day leadership conference and continuing opportunities to network with library and information professionals. This award convinced me of the power that can be derived from winning a scholarship. This scholarship forced me to define my goals, narrow my focus, create my curriculum vitae, and it thrust me into a bevy of leaders who would end up influencing the rest of my LIS education. I found a new sense of responsibility to the profession and to creating diversity within the profession. I am now a member of two diversity committees.
Another source is the Inland Empire Individual Development Account through the Community Action Partnership (CAP). I participated in the program and received $8,000 in funds. I used the money towards course fees, books, and supplies. The program requires individuals to save $2,000.00 and they match the funds 2:1. Participants attend twelve workshops that focus on financial knowledge, life skills, and educational goals. Programs like these may be available through other counties as well.
Sally Gomez, a SJSU-SLIS student, is a recipient of almost $15,000 in scholarships and travel stipends. Gomez advises looking at organizations within the community. Gomez says that these scholarships “...won't have nearly as much competition as a national scholarship.” An example of one in her area is the Fresno Friends of the Library group. They award $2,500 each year to a local student attending library school.
Some employers have tuition reimbursement programs. SJSU-SLIS student, Cathleen Baxter, receives funds from the San Diego Public Library Staff Education Grant and applies yearly. Baxter says, “With the high prices of classes, I could not manage on my own. I work two jobs to support myself and my two children and I pay for their education. The grant makes it possible for me to attend college and earn my MLIS.”
The big payoff
Over time I noticed that the more scholarships I applied for, the easier it became. Students who complain about time factors may be interested to know that with each essay, the process becomes quicker and their writing skills improve.
With a little effort, research and time, it is possible to win scholarships. The programs I have mentioned not only provide financial assistance, but help to develop guidance in the profession, networking opportunities and ease the burden of expenses. The result for students who win scholarships can be a means to finance their education and reduce the financial burden many face.
Teresa Mares is an MLIS candidate and works as a school librarian in Southern California. She hopes to graduate debt free in December 2009!
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Why did I feel this is of value? First, participants attend a series of excellent presentations, with mixed programs of various subject department staff presenting on diverse topics such as: maximizing the reference interview, leveraging US Census data for demographic and genealogy application, resources for small businesses, homework help and college prep resources for teens, advanced strategies for searching the internet for artwork and images. We received training in deep level use of the LAPL online catalog, its available databases and lesser known indexes. We heard from a panel of Children’s Librarians, drawn from different LAPL branches, on their individual experiences making the transition from library school to their current position, and their work at their respective branches as well as within the LAPL system.
The other component of the Reference Institute is that you will participate in two-hour shifts in rotating subject departments at Central Library, receiving hands-on experience at these reference desks, as well as spending valuable time with LAPL staff and touring their departments.
The Reference Institute is also an excellent opportunity to meet and network with your fellow SJSU-SLIS peers, as well as colleagues from other programs such as UCLA, Clarion and Drexel Universities. For any students considering a career in public libraries, generally, and LAPL specifically, this opportunity is too good to miss. The Reference Institute will be an asset on your resume, allow you to talk about your experiences, and if you are looking for work at LAPL will certainly stand out. In addition, not only is the Reference Institute free of charge, but as what they call a stipend student, you will receive $200 for attending the institute. If all of the valuable information that you will learn isn’t enough to draw you to the Institute, the LAPL staff made home-baked brownies and cookies for us! Contact: Linda Moussa, firstname.lastname@example.org or 213-228-7401.
Evan Carlson is in his second year in the SJSU-SLIS program.
On Sunday, May 3, 2009 LISSTEN and the SJSU-SLIS Alumni Association hosted its annual Resume and Interview Workshop on the CSU Fullerton Campus from 1-4 pm. The afternoon began with Jeanette Contreas, Library Director of Placentia Library District, giving successful interview tips. She was followed by Jayne Sinegal from Irvine Valley College,speaking about successful resumes. One-on-one resume critiques and mock interviews followed the speakers. Many participating librarians represented a broad spectrum of librarianship, providing valuable feedback on student resumes and tips on interviewing skills. The workshop ended with a panel of three SJSU-SLIS alumni sharing their experiences in getting their first jobs. There were over 60 people in attendance, including students, alumni, and librarians. From the comments received, many students found the workshop very useful to know what to expect from the interview process. The Resume and Interview Workshop committee is highly praised for all its hard work in planning the workshop.
Please keep an eye on the SLIS Admin List for future workshops from LISSTEN.
Christy Nini is excited to have had the opportunity to work with wonderful students and professional librarians for LISSTEN activities. Graduating in December 2010, she looks forward to the days ahead as she conquers an exciting career path in music or public librarianship.
Melanie Quinn is an active member of LISSTEN and is grateful for the networking opportunities it provides. She hopes to work as a Children's or Youth Services Librarian after she graduates in December 2009.
Photo taken by Coleen Wakai.
Following the presentation, students were provided a complimentary drink from Dean Kochan at the new library Starbucks. Vicky Munda, Access Services Coordinator, then led half of the group onto the ORCA tour. ORCA, the robotic storage system, is an innovative system that stores a large portion of the collection that could be accessed by submitting an online request. ORCA is primarily used for less frequently circulated materials, such as monographs and bound journals. After the second group completed their ORCA tour, Catherine Lewis Ida, Director of Outreach for the Children's Collection, led the group through the Children’s collection. Students had the opportunity to learn about the functions of the children’s collection in an academic library setting.
The tour continued into the Special Collections Department. Archivist Kristie French gave a wonderful explanation of the mission of the Special Collection and its users. Visit CSULB's Special Collection to view a full descriptive listing of the materials held. The collection included pieces by Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Daumier, Virginia Woolf, and several more. One of the highlights of the tour was the rare fore-edge book. Kristie brought out a fore-edge book which had an incredible painting on the edge of the book which could only be seen when the pages are fanned. When turned around and fanned the opposite way, another painting could be seen. For a demonstration of what a fore-edge book looks like, click here.
The tour was concluded with lunch at the Nugget Grill and Pub on the CSULB campus. Participants had the opportunity to socialize and discuss classes, experiences, and future goals. Hema answered questions and provided students with helpful tips and advice. The tour was a great success and provided participants the opportunity to become familiar with the academic library system. A special thanks goes out to Hema Ramachandran for organizing the tour and to Dean Roman Kochan who provided complimentary Starbucks and lunch to all of the participants. Visit CSULB University Library for more information.
Organizing a LISSTEN library tour was an awesome opportunity to build connections with librarians and students. Anyone who is interested in planning a library tour can contact LISSTEN co-President Matthew T. Davis. If interested in attending the next library tour, keep an eye out on the SLIS ADMIN emails. Tours fill up quicky so respond ASAP.
Marisa Reyes, LISSTEN co-treasurer for the L.A. hub, worked with Hema Ramachandran to organize the CSULB tour. Currently, she is a children’s librarian at South Pasadena Public Library and a college assistant at Pasadena City College Library. She plans to graduate from the SJSU-SLIS program in December of 2009.