So it turns out this is just the academic year of conferences: ALA over the summer, ILA this past fall, and I recently received word that a paper I co-submitted to a conference in January 2014 has been accepted!
Where to? The BOBCATSSS 2014 conference (an acronym that encompasses all of the various cities that the conference rotates between), in Barcelona! BOBCATSSS, under the auspices of EUCLID (European Association for Library and Information Education and Research), is organized every year by library school students from at least two universities in Europe. The conference theme this year is “Library (r)evolution: Promoting sustainable information practices.”
I’m now busy both figuring out all of the details (transportation, lodging, cell phone, etc.) and finishing up the paper I’ll be presenting with my advisor. I’m presenting some preliminary findings on LIS marketing education in US, Canadian, Australian, and European library schools. This will be an entirely new experience for me, as I’ve never been to a conference abroad, I’ve never been to Europe, and I’ve never presented on my CAS material. More updates to come later, of course, but I just wanted to share the good news!
In October I took a trip to Phoenix, AZ and was able to check out a few of the local libraries (as one should always do when traveling). It gave me a chance to walk around the city and to check out a large public library’s main branch as well as a state library and museum. Here are the top 10 things I loved about the libraries in Phoenix:
- The main branch of the Phoenix Public Library is so wonderful! Very large, easy to get to from downtown, and the staff was super friendly!
- There was an awesome art gallery/open space on the first floor where artwork by local artists was on display. Very cool!
- So much natural light! As someone who has spent lots of time in tiny-windowed archives, I appreciate walls of windows in public libraries…
- There was a fairly extensive teen room – however, I was unable to take any photos as it was strictly teens-only and I did not want to infringe on their space!
- The public library also featured an “Arizona Room” which holds a “research collection about the heritage, lifestyle and geography of the desert Southwest from prehistoric times to the present.” It has everything from maps to historic newspapers to Arizona Territory records. Definitely a must-see for Southwest researchers.
- There was also a “College Depot” area where patrons can go for resources, programming, and collections related to the college search and application process. I’d never seen a dedicated area for this kind of service but I love the idea. Definitely a great way to draw in patrons and meet their information needs.
- The State Library is open to everyone and has a number of impressive resources.
- I was impressed by the large number of genealogy and local/family history resources; the collections must reflect the patron base needs. Yay genealogy!
- There is also a neat state history museum in the same building as the library with exhibits about local history, politics, and government.
- The museum also features a number of historic “department offices,” including a “governor’s office” which features a life-size sitting statue of the state’s first governor, George W.P. Hunt. You will think it is a real person at first; it will startle you; you will walk away too rattled to remember to snap a photo.
To visit the Phoenix Public Burton Carr Central Library:
1221 N. Central Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85004
Hours: Monday, Friday-Saturday, 9AM-5PM; Tuesday-Thursday, 9AM-9PM; Sunday, 1-5PM
To visit the Arizona State Library/Archives/Museum:
1700 W. Washington Street, Suite 300
Phoenix, AZ 85007
Hours: Monday-Friday, 8AM-5PM
In my Community Informatics class yesterday we had a short but interesting discussion about our various experiences with service learning, both at Illinois and at other schools. Most students who had done some amount of service learning (in addition to what we all are doing for Community Informatics) agreed that it is beneficial and worthwhile. This got me thinking about my own service learning experiences, as I realized quickly that I’ve had many:
- My first was at Beloit College as an undergrad; I took an introduction to women & gender studies course and a large part of our grade was participation in and reflection on a service learning placement. Many students in the class, myself included, ended up volunteering at a local after-school reading program at a nearby elementary school. The experience took me entirely outside of my comfort zone, as I don’t often work with children anymore. Also, at first I was very resentful about the time commitment and the limited selection of placements – how was I supposed to write multiple reflection papers that related our course readings to my observations and experiences? As it turns out, elementary school is a hotbed of women and gender studies issues and topics and I had no problem coming up with subjects to write about. Plus it was awesome to feel more involved in the community – as a tiny liberal arts college in a rust belt Wisconsin town we could sometimes isolate ourselves into a tiny academic bubble.
- Next came library school! My second semester I took LIS 451: Introduction to Network Systems. LIS 451 was half technical skills, half service learning. We spent classroom time developing our knowledge about hardware, software, the internet, and everything else we could cram into our brains. And then outside the classroom we spent the semester working with a local community organization to develop, assemble, and install a functioning computer lab/technology space. It was incredibly hands-on and intense and I’m still convinced it was the best way to learn the material that we did. There’s nothing like the education (and sense of accomplishment) that comes from building a computer lab from scratch. For more info (and super awesome pictures of me in safety goggles) check out our group project website.
- The following semester I took a web design course; for our final project we had to design a website for a client, and many students chose a local business or organization (I chose my sister’s photography business!). While not strictly service learning for every student, the project did represent an opportunity to volunteer our time and expertise to a local person, business, or organization to improve their web presence. Plus, it was a great way to put all of the things we learned into practice for a real purpose.
- I also spent a semester doing a practicum that involved processing, cataloging, and noting preservation concerns for a map collection at one of the local academic libraries. While practicums and service learning are not mutually exclusive, my practicum did involve using my knowledge and time to benefit a local institution.
- And last but not least, Community Informatics this semester, in which we are all Cybernavigating and contributing to the local wiki, CUWiki.
So much service learning! I have to admit though: every time I’ve seen a service learning requirement on a syllabus, I’ve initially cringed – mostly due to the time commitment! Each one of the projects above took countless hours of effort and some involved coordinating groups schedules (which can be a nightmare). BUT, I also ended up appreciating each experience immensely and do not regret my decision to stay in each class.
For more info on service learning, check out this great Hack Library School post – “Should more LIS programs have a service learning component?” - (Hint: yes, they should!) or a fantastic book published by ALA titled Service Learning: Linking Library Education and Practice, edited by Loriene Roy, Kelly Jensen, and Alex Hershey Meyers (with an entire chapter on LIS 451 here at Illinois!).
Last week I traveled to Chicago for my very first state-level library conference: the Ignite! Illinois Library Association 2013 Annual Conference. Held on Navy Pier, the conference offered an entirely different set of opportunities and information than ALA Annual did back in June. While I was only able to attend for 1.5 of the 3 days of the conference, I was able to pack my schedule with a variety of interesting programs!
Here are some of my favorite things, differences I noticed from ALA Annual, and general observations:
- There are far fewer academic librarians at state-level conferences (at least in Illinois). While it was interesting to get so many public library perspectives, I sometimes felt a bit out of place (as someone who works at an academic library and hopes to continue doing so in the future).
- Librarians are still the coolest! I remember thinking at ALA: “Wow, everyone here is so lovely and upbeat and interested in library things! This is the best!” The same held true at ILA; lots of positivity, even when discussing hard topics (e.g. budget issues, troublesome patrons, etc.).
- On that note, the keynote speaker was very positive and uplifting… but interestingly, not a librarian. She had a lot of neat points and related them to libraries here and there, but it was strange that the keynote address was less library/issues-based and more feelings-based…
- The food was better! There was so much more free food at ILA than there was at ALA! Yay for free food on a grad student budget!
- The inside of Navy Pier is gorgeous. For the semester that I lived in Chicago I never actually went inside any of the pier buildings, but the giant ballroom in particular is lovely.
Overall I had a very lovely time; it was great to tackle library issues and ideas on a more specific, local level and to hear about experiences and efforts in Illinois libraries. Would definitely recommend a state-level conference to any library student!
Now that the government shutdown is finally over, I thought I’d take a moment of my Friday to reflect on how it affected me personally and LIS institutions broadly over the last few weeks.
Many cataloging students in my library school were affected when Library of Congress sites went down at the start of the shutdown. Looking for LC subject headings? Head elsewhere! This came to a head for me when a graduate worker at my library couldn’t use the LOC site to find subject headings for an archival processing project. Luckily our university can afford to subscribe to a product called Cataloger’s Desktop (which has LC subject heading info) and I was able to direct her to it. But other smaller libraries & archives were probably out of luck for the duration of the shutdown.
I’m in a GIS (geographic information systems) course this semester and many of our assignments involve downloading data from government websites. Thus, when census.gov went down, our professor was forced to scramble to find alternative data sets and tables for us to use to complete our assignments and tutorials.
Another student in my Community Informatics class who completes his service learning at the Urbana Free Library (as I do) commented that the library saw a huge spike in patrons needing help with online social services forms (as the local in-person offices were closed due to the shutdown). An effect I had not considered: that public libraries become harbors in the uncertain/murky waters of a government shutdown.
While there are certainly many other fields that the shutdown affected in more serious ways (e.g. federal research money for medical trials), the 16-day shutdown definitely took its toll on the LIS field. We look to our national library and archive for standards, practices, and data that suddenly could not be accessed. And part of our job is to help others access information, much of which was completely cut off during the shutdown. For us, the last few weeks were a partial information blackout that affected librarians and our patrons. Hard to understand how our politicians could let us get to such a place and could consider information a “non-essential” service; I beg to differ.
Time for another University of Illinois installation of Libraries I Love! This week, it’s the Undergraduate Library (UGL) which is 1) a super cool place that is 2) not just for undergrads!
Here are the top ten reasons why you should check it out:
- As mentioned above, it’s not just for undergrads! While the name may seem a bit limiting, patrons of all ages can study, check out resources, and get help from librarians.
- Sweet, sweet loanable technology. The UGL has everything from laptops to cameras to e-readers to calculators. I recently realized I needed a camera for a class project and lamented the fact that I was limited to my phone camera. But, alas, I was able to check out a digital camera for a week from the UGL!
- The UGL has a very extensive graphic novel collection that includes rare, hard-to-find, and foreign novels.
- In addition to loanable tech, the UGl also has a newly finished Media Commons with tons of media creation and editing hardware and software.
- Reservable study/group rooms! While many libraries on campus boast group study spaces, the UGL spaces are definitely top-notch. They have jacks in the center of the table that everyone can plug their laptops into and then see all of the screens on a single monitor. Makes collaboration a breeze!
- There’s a coffee shop *just across the hall* from the main floor. So you can get your study on AND stay awake.
- Exhibits! There are new exhibits every month or so on a whole host of topics, including cancer awareness, coffee, Ireland, UFOs, and almost anything else you can think of! Click through for more past exhibits.
- As one of the hub libraries, the UGL hosts all kinds of events and services for students, including everything from free flu shots to pet therapy during finals week (you literally get to go to the library and pet a puppy and feel better about life).
- There are both physical and online “question board” services that act as anonymous question and answer services. The questions run the gambit from serious to hilarious to ridiculous. A recently answered question: “Why do public toilet seats have a gap in the front?” Click through for an audio answer.
- Since the entire library is underground it makes for a tornado-safe study location (an ever-important quality in the Midwest)…
To visit the Undergraduate Library:
Address: 1402 W.Gregory St., Urbana, IL 61801
Hours: Sun-Thu: 24 hours, Fri-Sat: 10AM – 2AM.
Phone: (217) 333-3477
Email form: http://www.library.illinois.edu/ugl/about/contact.html
It is no secret that library school is full of info about grants. Any library professor worth their salt should at least mention how and why grants are applicable to their specialty (I’ve had lectures, activities, and assignments on grant-writing and its importance in classes on everything from digital preservation to archival use and management). Thus, it should come as no surprise that so far this semester has been particularly grant-focused.
In my Administration & Management course we recently spent most of a single class period talking about grant funding, both large and small, government and private. In fact, our semester-long project for that course is a grant application for a fictional library. We had to turn in a letter of intent recently; mine is going to be for a genealogy program (complete with collection development, staff training, programming, and promotion)!
Additionally, I’m going to get my first real-life grant-writing experience this semester! The University of Illinois library system offers marketing grants each year and our branch is finally going to go for one! Ideas are still very preliminary, but we’re thinking of creating brochures/postcards that we can pass out at college-wide info fairs and events, as well as a giant backdrop poster with library features and services. I’m very excited to start working on the application and the promotional materials themselves! Should make for a fun/grant-filled semester!
On the first day of my library school orientation back in 2011, a professor gave the following amazing advice to a roomful of aspiring LIS professionals: every semester take at least one class that stretches you outside your comfort zone. She pointed out that many of us had experience in libraries, archives, and/or the humanities and, thus, in certain classes we would feel very at home and in our element. But she urged us to push ourselves to try new things; that these new things, whatever they were, would serve us well and might even become our new favorites!
Thus, I’ve tried to stick to that advice; in my case, it’s mostly meant taking tech-heavy courses. While I’m great at Microsoft products, basic photo & video editing, and social media (as many college students are), before library school I didn’t have a very extensive tech background. Thus, at the risk of a terrible GPA and lots of anxiety, I threw myself wholeheartedly into courses like Introduction to Network Systems, Web Design & Construction, and Digital Preservation. And the outcome? I loved them (and my GPA and mental state have remained intact). Sure, there were times when I was very stressed, felt way out of my depth, and considered bailing in favor of something cozier. But I ended up sticking with each difficult course, despite the fear. And honestly, the sense of accomplishment I get from finishing tech-heavy courses is unparalleled.
This semester’s manifestation of my attempt to challenge myself is a course on Geographic Information Systems or GIS. I was vaguely aware of GIS as something I should consider learning more about because many larger public libraries use GIS tools for marketing research. Also, we get a fair number of GIS-related questions at the academic library where I work (lots of regional & urban planning students) and I always felt somewhat inadequate when trying to help.
Thus, off I went; and I have to say, so far it has been amazingly fun! We’re working with a tutorial for the technical skills and I don’t feel too overwhelmed yet. Plus, we have to do an end-of-semester project that is fairly flexible, so I’ll probably end up tying it to my marketing and outreach interests.
The moral of the story: hard things aren’t the worst! They can seem like it at times, but they will stretch you and you will be better for it!