Posts Tagged ‘slais’

introduction for libr559m

From the Vista Blackboard discussion forum thingy, a piece of software I am not too big a fan of, for LIBR559m.

I’m Justin and I’m in Sydney Australia doing a SLAIS co-op term – two terms in a row, I guess – as a systems librarian doing tech support for piles of special libraries. I started at SLAIS last September.

I’ve had a blog since 2002 (Wil Wheaton made me do it). When I was in journalism school in 2004 we had a New Media class and talked about how the world was changing ad nauseum. And then I participated in the change (doing interviews about crowdsourcing from the citizen-journalism fringes). So when I talk about this stuff here I’ve totally got my journalist hat on. Fair warning. I see journalism and librarianship being pretty intimately connected and like getting paparazzi flashes in their faces during their private times.

I’ve got my blog for this class set up here, but my more general library/bookish site is, my personal blog is The Dubious Monk and I’m @jjackunrau on Twitter. Those’d let you know me a bit better and from some different angles (though I cuss in all of them – again, fair warning).

Looking forward to meeting you.

If you came over here from that you’ll notice there are several months worth of other stuff on this blog already. I imported some Librarianaut posts about library school and SLAIS over because, having blogged for nine years it felt really really naked to not have an archive.

the matter of experience

I see training in Koha as one of my most marketable things I do at Prosentient. It also feels weird to be thinking about how things will look on a resume, but whatever, the job market I’m going into is competitive. If I want a job some day thinking about this stuff is probably going to be a good idea. I’ve been terrible at selling myself in the past, and while there’s a kind of bravado in saying “they didn’t hire me because I was honest” it’s probably good to be honest in positive-about-my-abilities ways along with my standard self-deprecation.

So last week I went out to the Gippsland region in Victoria to train a couple of librarians in using Koha. This is another one of those instances where working for a small company is fun. I was given a lot of trust, some accommodations and a breakdown of how long to spend on each section of the software.

The librarians I was training are attached to hospitals, and very much in the special libraries are a one-person show kind of mould. They knew each other and were very good at asking detailed questions, which was great for me, since I’m more of a responsive teacher than a dictator of holy writ. We pushed the edges of what Koha is capable so they knew what was possible and what wasn’t. I hit the limits of my knowledge several times and brought back questions to answer later.

After our two days, which felt pretty intense on my end, they’ll be going live with their new systems this month. They seemed happy with what I could teach them. It was really fun to be a field agent for a few days. I find that hanging around the office doing so much on the computer is a touch painful. I feel nerves pinching from all the sitting, so it was good to get out into the world and crouch next to some folks who don’t like MARC records but have to use them, and show them how we can make their lives easier.

I do like how directly a couple of my SLAIS courses I took impact my work here (those courses would be Cataloguing and my Instructional Role of the Information Professional). The Instructional one is kind of obvious when I’m talking about going out and running a two day workshop, but even though I’m not hardcore cataloguing, knowing that lingo and how the rules work is really goddamn useful when you’re trying to teach someone how to use the software to do it. I do find that my knowledge of the Acquisitions module of Koha is less extensive since I haven’t had the experience with acquisitions (beyond troubleshooting Koha) that I have with Circulation and Cataloguing.

So yes, I join the chorus of people who say library school students both need to get experience and need to take a fucking cataloguing course. Use. Ful.

instructional role

When I taught English in China, I wasn’t a very good teacher. I did it though. It was a good experience, doing something I knew I was bad at, trying to get better, but not really knowing how. Me blundering along through failure for a couple of years was great for everyone. Except my students. And my self-esteem. Erm.

The thing is that when I got back to Canada and especially when I started working at a library reference desk I realized I’m not too shabby at one-on-one/small group instruction, especially when everyone is speaking the same language. It was teaching people to talk I was terrible at. But I still didn’t have a good handle on how to teach better or how to develop a lesson plan or anything like that.

So for me, my hands-down most useful class in my MLIS has been LIBR535: The Instructional Role of the Information Professional. The past couple of weeks we’ve been doing our short lessons and with actual guidance on how to do this stuff (simple guidance like “plan your lesson backwards from its objectives” and “making people physically do stuff is good because…”) I felt really good about it. And man oh man does it ever help when you’re teaching something you find interesting.
Read more »

#hashtaggery & information control

Tonight I participated in a Twitter chat thingy about libraries. Interested people submitted questions and librarians/libschool students/interested in library stuff people paid attention to the #libchat hashtag which everyone participating used on their tweets. It was pretty fun. That kind of collocating is what hashtags are all about. The questions were fairly routine as far as library angst/information questions go (“Are people who’re hiring looking for Academic Credit or Library Experience?” or “Does Library School need to be a graduate program?”) but it’s interesting to see what people outside of SLAIS think about these things.
Read more »

jobs jobs jobs (and not a steve in sight)

There is disappointing news and great news in my world.

Disappointing: Last week I had an interview for a student coordinator position with the Digital Tattoo project at UBC. I was pretty excited about the opportunity. It’s a project that deals with teaching students about managing their online identities and why it’s important. Another project I’m working on recently posted a decent explanation of the concept. The interview went fine but as you can guess from me filing this under “disappointing news” I didn’t get the job. There will be more jobs and it’s not like I’m hurting for social media experience on my resume. It would be nice to get some actual project management experience though. That felt like my biggest weakness in the interview. Selah.

The really cool thing is that I’m going to be doing my practicum at the Center for Cartoon StudiesSchulz Library in April. The CCS is a tiny grad school in a tiny town with a tiny library and it’s dedicated to comics. It’s kind of amazing. I talked to the librarian the other day and she’s excited to have me out there for a couple of weeks. They’re doing cataloguing projects now but might be moving on to other things by the time I get there. I’ve been told I won’t be bored and I can’t imagine I would be.

One of the things I’ve read about library school is that you have to make it work for you and take advantage of the opportunities you have that you won’t once you graduate. Just calling up the Schulz Library to see if I could come hang out for two weeks might not fly if I was just a person who liked libraries. (Even if it might on their end, I personally wouldn’t be able to just do that.) But now that Michelle at the SLAIS office (who is awesome) did that initial contact I get to do something supercool. I mean, really, I would love to be a comics and zines librarian. There aren’t many jobs like that, but when they show up, because of this experience I’ll actually have some proof that “This dude likes comics and knows some stuff about them.” So yeah.

I’m also trying to pull comics into all my projects this term, to try and build a bit of a focus into my program here. It feels weird thinking about this stuff and crafting this whole school thing into a means to becoming the kind of librarian I want to be. Anyone who knows me knows that thinking ambitiously hasn’t been a big part of my life. But being a techie/blogging/comics & zines librarian is the kind of niche I’d like to occupy if I’m going to do this. If I could telecommute/live somewhere awesome while doing it, that’d be even better.

the end of term one

We’re down to our last week of classes for my first semester of my MLIS. I had planned to do more posts about the stuff I was reading as we went along, but that fell away as I was doing homework. The way our school is set up, this first semester is the core that gets people up to speed. Despite some people’s complaints about the teaching abilities of some of our profs I do feel like this term has given our cohort a common vocabulary, which’ll be useful going forward. I’m glad I’ll be getting into more details though. A bunch of our classes this term have basically been extended advertorials: “If you think this is interesting, take this class.”

In class yesterday we were discussing the professional images of librarians and the whole thing seemed like just so much jerking off. I don’t really see the point in worrying about professionalism, professional identities, professional associations and the like. One of the things I read for that class was about librarianism going from occupation to a profession, and how that’s not just about snobbery (it was written in 1961 if that makes a difference). It feels to me like it is. If you’re good at your job isn’t that way more important than worrying about the image of the profession? I’d rather represent myself according to my standards than represent “my profession” well, or get prestige from my profession being well-regarded. I mean, that’s why I try to write interesting things instead of bullshit PR flackery, right? I’m me more than I’m a member of any organization.

Anyway, I bring up this professional image stuff because in that discussion the idea of “professional acculturation” came up, which is more what school has been about so far. I haven’t learned a whole tonne that I wouldn’t be able to learn on the job. There are some resources I wasn’t aware of, and my vocabulary has become a bit more specialized and in tune with how library people write about things. On the whole though, I haven’t been really disabused of my notion that I’m a librarian already, just one without the paper that’ll let me get a job. Hence a librarianaut. Maybe in January.

But before January I’m heading to China for the month of December. I leave next week as soon as classes are done. Supposedly my girlfriend knows a woman who works at the public library in Nanchong, so hopefully I’ll get to talk about this stuff with her.

first months of school recap

Library school is going well. We’re over halfway through the term and I’ve done a few assignments and they’ve gone okay. I’m taking the “what I’ve learned is more important than the mark” approach so as not to stress out about things too badly, and it’s working out pretty well.

So far, I’ve done a news article review thingy about how Google Instant is an inconsistent censor (PDF link), an observation of reference interviews (PDF link), a seminar on censorship based on assigned readings (PDF link), a faceted classification of the performing arts (PDF link), and a PowerPoint presentation about nerd games. (I’m sorry if that last link doesn’t work for you; We had to do them in Office 2010. Here’s the page full of everyone’s not really library related presentations, if that makes it up to you.)

This weekend is going to be spent doing a bunch more stuff, but if you’re interested in what first-term MLIS assignments look like, there you go.

Also, in school related things, I’m the co-secretary of the UBC student chapter of Librarians Without Borders. Next week we’ve got a speaker coming in talking about a Library Initiative in Afghanistan, sponsored by the Canada Afghanistan Solidarity Committee and we’ve had speakers talking about open access to data as well as building education centres in Nicaragua. I think it’s neat stuff.

lego and the future

In our classification class the other day we learned about faceted classification systems, which sounds amazingly exciting doesn’t it? I wouldn’t have thought so, except that our in-class activity was building one of these systems for organizing Lego. Which made it awesome.

I am a bit of a Lego nerd and loved the idea of building a system that would allow you to find things based on your needs at the time. If I may say so, we built a pretty good fucking scheme which, had we had more time, could have been extended to be much better than how Bricklink does it. I was really into the whole thing. As in, it was the kind of thing I’d have fun doing a lot of.

Which is interesting because I didn’t really come into the program thinking “I’m going to be a cataloguer” or anything like that. I’m not anal about keeping everything in its right place, which I’d had the impression was a requirement. But I’m kind of excited about the puzzles sorting Lego can provide. And creating these schemes is sort of a form of describing, right? Describing stuff is why I write, and this is describing with a very controlled vocabulary. Slotting things into their place in the world.

readings: week one term one

And here begins my bloggy notes on things I’m reading for school. If you’re following along, trying to get the equivalent of an MLIS degree without going to school, this is the stuff to read.

Monopoly vs Myst and other things about technologyby Nardi and O’Day

It is not necessary to jump on the digital bandwagon. It is dangerous, disempowering, and self-limiting to stick our heads in the sand and pretend it will all go away if we don’t look. We believe that much more discussion and analysis of technology and all its attendant issues are needed.

On Information Ecologies by Nardi and O’Day:

Diversity is necessary for the health of the ecology itself, to permit the system to survive continual and perhaps chaotic change. Monoculture – a fake, brittle ecology – gives sensational results for a short time, then completely fails. Information ecologies should be teeming with different kinds of people and ideas and technologies. It is captivating to wander through a rain forest and stultifying to be stuck in a hundred acres of soybeans. A diverse information ecology is a lively, human, intensely social place, even if it incorporates very advanced technologies. It has many different resources and materials and allows for individual proclivities and interests.

There was also an interesting bit in there about how they advocate constructing good info ecologies instead of resisting harmful ones.

What else? The first chapter of Reference and Information Services in the 21st Century by Kay Ann Cassell and Uma Hiremath. That one had some ethical considerations for librarians which were not unreasonable, and some good stuff about Reader’s Advisory work.

For another course we had to read a big heavy philosophical piece on Information As Thing. Evidently this is very similar to what Plato says about art as well. The biggest weirdness I had with that article wasn’t Information as a thing, but information as a process. I don’t think of information being the same as education, but the article kind of took that as a given and then went into all sorts of details about how information is stuff. That went really well with module 2 from LIBR500

Speaking of LIBR500: Russell Ackoff, a major systems theorist, wrote that the content of the human mind can be classified into five categories:

1.Data: symbols 2.Information: data that are processed to be useful; provides answers to “who”, “what”, “where”, and “when” questions 3.Knowledge: application of data and information; answers “how” questions 4.Understanding: appreciation of “why” 5.Wisdom: evaluated understanding.

And then there’s another thing I read that argued with that categorical system, because the idea of people being involved in Wisdom Management seemed unbearably pretentious.

And at this point I think I’m at the point of being whelmed with information. Not underwhelmed anymore. I’ve got a whole ‘nother day off tomorrow to read more supplemental stuff if I feel like it. I missed school.

RSS feed

Spam prevention powered by Akismet