In library school, we learn about LC subject headings and other structured, formalized ways of categorizing information. This is important, and no one is arguing that we should give up on subject headings altogether, but I think librarians need to at least understand the way users are organizing their own information. Tagging, exemplified by social bookmarking sites such as del.icio.us, allows users to create their own labels and then compare them to the labels that others have used.

Library school student Kirsten of Into the Stacks has some interesting thoughts about tagging:

When I browse through the bookmarks in my network, I use the tags to help decide whether it’s something in which I’m interested. Since site titles can be misleading or uninformative, and most people do not regularly add user notes for their bookmarks, tags are often the only way I have of judging the usefulness of a site without clicking through.

Unofficial guide to library school

I’ve been reading Jason Hammond’s excellent blog for a while now, but because I view it straight from my RSS reader, it took me until now to discover his Unofficial Guide to UWO FIMS Library School. Although some of it focuses on the University of Western Ontario’s library program, there’s a lot of insight that current and prospective students of any school will find useful (not to mention entertaining). One of my favourite articles is The Twelve Types of Library School Students:

    Summary: Angry at everything, this person has a cause that they will gladly share with you (whether you ask or not.)
    Dress: Tie-dye.  A bandanna is a distinct possibility as well.
    Typical Quote: “I’m boycotting <fill in the blank> because <fill in the other blank>.”
Favourite Book:
No Logo – Naomi Klein
    Ideal Library Role: Community Outreach

    Summary: Men are a minority at library school, filling anywhere from 1/4 to 1/3 of the spots.  Yet, they are a majority in terms of library                 upper-level management positions (this stat is based on my sample size of the four upper level managers I know.  But I suspect it’s pretty             accurate.)  Male library students, being more sensitive than typical men (we cry during the national anthem before Hockey Night in Canada),     tend to feel sincerely guilty about this imbalance.
    Dress: Jean, t-shirts, backwards ball cap. 
    Typical Quote: (about men in library school) “If you’re a man in library school, it’s likely that you’re either gay, married or weird.  Possibly all t       three.”
    Favourite Book: Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
    Ideal Library Role: Reference (since so many men think they know everything anyhow)

ILSS Book Club: Rethinking Information Work

Today’s offering is Rethinking Information Work: A Career Guide for Librarians and Other Information Professionals by G. Kim Dority.

The middle chapters are divided into three sections: the traditional path, the nontraditional path, and the independent path. These sections are included to remind readers of the diversity of opportunities in the field, but the main focus of the book is on the issues that apply to all information professionals. Much of this involves self exploration, including exercises such as charts to fill in with your career goals – I find this a bit hokey, but I’m sure some readers find it useful.

This one includes salary information – it doesn’t go into too much detail, but I feel it’s still worth noting. You’ll find figures (from 2005, so fairly fresh) for school, academic, public, and special librarians, and I’m awarding it major bonus points for including Canadian salaries.

The biggest strength of this book is its resources. Each chapter ends with a list of books, articles, and online resources, and these are generally useful and current. In fact, the sheer volume of resources is almost a hindrance – you really have to wade through the lists.

It includes basic information about the variety of careers available, but it doesn’t go into detail about any of them. Blurbs such as “why you might love being an academic librarian” are helpful but brief, so in terms of exploring possible jobs, consider this a starting point. It encourages readers to “think outside the box” when it comes to traditional career paths, so it may be most useful for readers interested in special libraries and independent work.

Overall, this is not the most exciting book – it focuses on things like marketing yourself, which is important when starting the job hunt but probably not interesting for students who have a while to wait before graduation. On the other hand, the resources are so appropriate and plentiful that I would recommend checking this one out, even if you only skim through it.

Guest Post – LIS & Us: Keeping Students Excited about LIS thru Student Associations

Today’s post is from a classmate of mine, Ahniwa Ferrari, President of the McGill Library and Information Studies Students’ Association (MLISSA) (and be sure to check out his personal blog, ahniwa de montréal). He’s kindly given us his thoughts on how to stay motivated throughout library school, and in particular, the role student groups can play:

Everyone who attends library school is excited, initially. At least, I like to think that’s the case. Whether they come because they love books, or public service, or because they feel passionately about the free transfer of information, or for any other reason. The point is that people who attend library school often feel strongly, about something, at least initially.

And there’s the rub. Maintaining that initial enthusiasm is difficult. By all accounts, being a librarian or other information professional is unequivocally awesome. Being a student, though. Well that’s being a student, and it has its ups and downs but can often be less than exciting. So how does one try to maintain that initial enthusiasm, or how does one foster renewed energies throughout the term? In short, how do we keep the idea of LIS shiny when we’re writing our umpteenth paper reviewing online information resources?

I could offer multiple suggestions, but for now I’m just going to talk about what student associations can do, in particular, to try and help student maintain interest in the LIS field as they pursue their studies. As President of the McGill Library and Information Studies Students’ Association, some of these are things that I’ve actively had a hand in. Some of them are things that I wish we, as an association, had done. Certainly there are plenty other things that I’ll forget to mention, that hopefully other people may bring up in future posts on the subject.

In my opinion, one of the best things about being an LIS student is that you’re surrounded by other LIS students. Seriously, these people are awesome, and they’re dorks too, in their own ways, just like you. As such, I think that the first mandate of any student association should be to foster communication within the LIS student body. Knowing that we’re all in this together, and helping people build connections with their peers, can take a lot of the drudgery out of being a student. Associations can be involved in this process by giving students the tools to communicate. MLISSA runs an MLIS listserv, which allows students to email each other en masse. We’ve also created a blog, but unfortunately it’s buried in the official SIS webpage hierarchy and gets used infrequently. Still, blogs, listservs, wikis, and other technological tools can be a great way to keep students communicating and involved with each other. And if you can, host them yourself. Being on the school’s servers is free and all, but not without constraints, and everything should be done to ensure that students feel free to express themselves openly.

Throw parties. LIS students need to let off steam, need to have some fun, and need to dance. MLISSA throws one large rumpus per term, and they’re by far our most well-attended events.

Hold a career fair. Our second-best attended event, after our parties, is our career fair. Career fairs provide multiple benefits. They help potential employers remain aware of us, students, and potential employees. More important, they help us, as students, become aware and get excited about the very real job opportunities that are available, even just outside our doors. Remember, no one goes to library school because they want to go to library school. People go to library school because they want to become information professionals. Career fairs help remind them that they’re on their way, and demonstrate to them some of the exciting possibilities they can pursue once they graduate.

Get COOL guest speakers. LIS students have numerous opportunities to hear numerous presentations on numerous subjects. Unfortunately, a lot of these presentations are lackluster, PowerPoint-heavy, class lecture clones. Student associations can help counter this by bringing in interesting speakers, who perform dynamic presentations and who have unique things to say. Find a local library celebrity, if you have one, and invite them up. If there isn’t anyone local to draw a crowd, offer to fly someone in. Seriously, they have grants for this sort of thing. MLISSA had the pleasure of hosting Jessamyn West for an informal chat on a Thursday evening, and the event was a hit. Speakers like Jessamyn have such vitality, and such a fun perspective on our careers as information professionals, that one can’t help but be influenced by her enthusiasm. If at all possible, take your speaker out for nachos and beer afterwards. They appreciate it, and you get a chance to chat with them “off the record.”

Hold silly contests. Go dancing. Engage students artistically. Draw people out of themselves. Have a karaoke night / talent show / poetry reading / all of the above. Create a student newsletter. MLISSA manages The Marginal, which appears two to three times per year, and which allows students to express themselves, sometimes prosaically, often artistically, in ways that they might not otherwise indulge. Give students as many opportunities as possible to come out of their shells, and eventually they may find that they’re even having fun being students, again.

Helping students maintain their interest over the course of two grueling years can be a tough job. In the end, students have to do for themselves, but student associations like MLISSA can do their part, creating events and activities that pull students out of their heads and remind them that we live in an engaging world, and that we’re involved in a fun, fascinating, and incredibly cool profession.

‘Speare: The Literacy Arcade Game

Do you have trouble choosing between computer games that are educational and ones that involve doing battle in outer space? Now you can have it all! My daily dose of dino doggerel at Dinosaur Comics brought me face to face with ‘Speare: The Literacy Arcade Game, and yes, you choose a type of ship (I chose Star Crossed) and shoot at other ships while “collecting the poetic code.”

I didn’t play long enough to really understand much of what was going on, but it involves identifying words that are contained in excerpts from Shakespeare (as well as synonyms and antonyms of these words). I don’t think kids will give up Halo or Spore for this game, but it’s a fun idea.

World Book Day

We all know that librarians today deal with physical resources less than they did in the past, but many of us still came to library school because we love books – not just the information inside, but the feel and the smell of the hard copy. Well, hot on the heels of Freedom to Read Week, this Thursday is World Book Day (brought to my attention by LISNews). Despite the arguably misleading name, most countries other than Britain actually celebrate on April 23rd, but there’s no reason not to get an early start!