PJ

Archive for 2010|Yearly archive page

Two more weeks, LIBR 203!

In Uncategorized on September 8, 2010 at 8:50 pm

Even considering that about half of the students in our course have completed all of the modules, the holiday weekend saw very little activity!!  Somehow, I’m not surprised.  😉  The ball started rolling again yesterday with a few submissions and one more student finishing up.  For the rest of you, keep up the steady progress and you’ll have 203 off your plate soon in order to focus on your other Fall course(s).

In other news, today is International Literacy Day (ILD).  Today’s news results for ILD paint an interesting picture of literacy movements around the globe.  As far as celebrating ILD, I feel a little sheepish in admitting that I am currently reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (I finally caved to the constant recommendations, and I see they’re also making a movie out of it now), but then again I am grateful to be able to read most anything I want to (as long as it’s printed in English and isn’t a tech manual or Cortázar’s Hopscotch, which I will manage some other day in the far distant future when I can give it my full attention).

I was pleased, while packing my house up to move, to find that my daughter (3.5 yrs old) has quite a collection of books!  Somehow it seems there are a lot more when they are packed in a pile of boxes than standing neatly in their bookshelf (to be fair, when she plays “bookstore” and dumps them all onto the floor, there is certainly a lot to pick up).  All the same, I’d like to be more mindful of developing a library for her that presents many different perspectives, and so I am grateful to a peer of mine who shared this page today of World Folktales for children.  As an undergraduate, I enjoyed a course on the representation of women in mythology and fairytales which proved to analyze gender through a historical, cultural, and theological lens.  I would love to foster my own child’s literacy with such a wide scope. 

So, Happy Literacy Day!  May you have the pleasure of reading something other than a textbook today. 🙂

Why? Why? Why? Why?

In dedication, PJ on August 25, 2010 at 5:48 am

During my undergraduate studies I took a course in Ethics/Philosophy which required us students to complete a series of activities designed to determine our ultimate motivation for doing different things.  “Why did you do it?”  The aim of the assignment was to determine if our interests were altruistic, self-centered, or somewhere in between.  The expectation was that almost every one of these exercises, even ones that explored what appeared to be completely altruistic actions, would end with something along the lines of “because it makes me happy” or “because it avoids unhappiness.”

There are some fuzzy lines at the reference desk where I work.  We are not supposed to have any money at the desk, despite the fact that we do sell pencils and pens and can often make small change.  Inevitably, a student needs to print something and doesn’t have their student ID (which also serves as their print card).  We’re testing a system right now where they can borrow a print card, load their own money on it, and print what they need to with the caveat that we will not give change (if they load a dollar then they’ve donated that dollar) and they have to return it on the honor system.  This benefited a student yesterday who only had 25cents on her but found that the previous user had left 90cents on the card.  Occasionally a student has neither their ID nor any money, and I have seen them leave without the needed pages.  It’s a defeating moment that leaves me feeling both helpless and also indignant.  You wonder – why weren’t you better prepared?! 

I worked with another adjunct yesterday who has actually been in the field for a long time.  She informed me that the IT staff at her former job (which is in charge of printers and print cards anyway) would give the ref desk print cards with credit pre-loaded onto them for students who needed it. 

Now, on one hand – you want the students to be self-reliant and prepared, you don’t want to establish a pattern of “come to the ref desk for free printing/copying!”, and somebody walking away with a card that had a $40 credit on it would be a more impacting loss than a 90cent credit.  However, the adjunct just shrugged and said, “Why should the cost of a printout be a barrier to a student’s education?” 

Simple, powerful, important logic, especially in a diverse environment with economically disadvantaged students. 

Giving students “free” copies would feel good, it would seem altruistic, but it would also relieve that nagging voice in the back my mind on the rare occasion that I see a student leave the library without their materials.  Further, when you get down to it, in providing services to students we strive to meet their educational needs – and that just feels good!  It is a service, have no doubt that we are a service oriented bunch, and sometimes you have to find your own rewards when appreciation from your patrons is not forthcoming, but I love my job. 

Marilyn Johnson, in This Book Is Overdue, relates the saga of a LMS (Library Management System) migration: the movement of records from one housing system to another.  An imperfect analogy would be like trying to move all of your documents from a PC to a Mac, except multiplied by many thousand records and fields for information.  In the case Ms. Johnson discusses, there is a repeated failure of the new system to retain hold records – the list of patrons who have reserved a book and the order in which they will get to check it out.  Long after the migration completed, the issue causing this loss was finally uncovered – some of the librarians themselves were inadvertently deleting the holds by accessing the records to, get this, move themselves or friends to the top of the lists.  Johnson writes:

“The sweethearts of free culture, the helpmates of the mind, this selfless profession turned out to harbor individuals who couldn’t wait their turn to consume” titles “that drove them mad with longing, mad enough to forget their ethical principles and vows to serve the public…”

The gentleman in charge of this migration, head of IT Wayne Hay, is quoted as saying, “[Librarians] should have to work retail for a year! I don’t want to do things through technology for the benefit of the librarian.  I want to benefit the patron…it’s not about what makes the librarian’s life better.”  More simple, powerful, important logic. 

Part of our journey in SLIS is to formulate a personal philosophy.  I think mine has its foundations in the above.  And yes – that does make me happy.

A degree in “Shhhh”

In dedication, evolution on August 18, 2010 at 6:14 am

Oh boy, do librarians ever have a PR problem.  We are the generation, ladies and gentlemen, with our mentors and our mentorees, who will need to redefine our own genre.  The inherent job description of a banker or lawyer or teacher hasn’t changed much over time, and neither has librarian (as many forms that all of those things take).  The way the job gets done has certainly evolved, but something unique is happening as the public perception of a librarian becomes almost archaic in comparison.  We’re just changing with the times like everybody else.

Hot topic on my mind lately: ebooks.  As a student in the core 200, 202, 204 classes, I encountered many discussions on the future of books, generally, and libraries, specifically.  There was a general unease partnered with stubborn advocacy when pondering the prospect of the library as one big automated vending machine, or the outright extinction of printed books altogether.  If Google is going to organize all of humanity’s knowledge, then who will bother to use the library? 

Well, first of all, Google is not likely to be successful there, despite valiant efforts.  A vast majority of information, even online, is behind firewalls and passwords and prompts to enter your credit card information.  Libraries strive to get patrons past these barriers – for free.  Secondly, people still prefer human interaction over artificial intelligence.  Thirdly, what about people who don’t even use the internet?

It’s an interesting time to be entering the field, and I don’t know of one SLIS student who hasn’t been peppered by well-meaning friends with questions about the stability (sanity) of studying a field which is often perceived as stuffy and out-dated.  The possible replies are endless, and you will come to build your own arsenal towards changing those misperceptions one by one, but returning to the realm of ebooks I offer this blog post (despite the wealth of typos) as more food for thought.

Input/Output

In dedication on August 11, 2010 at 2:57 am

With 16 17! students enrolled so far in my 203 course, we have a great little group and I’m really pleased to see some of the exchanges going on in the forums as well as your blogs. 

It has already been fairly well acknowledged that in the online environment, you really need to invest yourself in the program – you will get out of it as much as  you put into it.  Or, depending on your perspective, you will get vastly more out of it than you ever anticipated if you are willing to ENGAGE – with the material (knowledge and confidence), with your peers (friends and support), and with your instructors (expert insight and references).

I’ve been trying to reflect on what attitude I have approached the program with.  Initially, as new students are prone to feel, it was with equal parts excitement and trepidation.  Fortunately, the former buffered the latter enough to get me through LIBR 203.  Then, as I’ve mentioned before, in my first semester Enid Irwin (rest in peace) fostered a No Fear motto.  This largely centered around the concept of being afraid of things we don’t know, which in an educational environment can be a real limitation because it becomes apparent rather quickly how much we don’t know.  The learning, especially in this program, is largely in the doing.

Then, my second semester, I had an instructor who kept telling us to HAVE FUN!  Whenever I started to feel overwhelmed or uncertain, I would reflect on No Fear and then assess my level of enjoyment.  After all, we should be pursuing a course of study because we enjoy it, right?  It was, and still is, often hard to back-pedal out of the self-induced intensity I could build myself into over a project (silly as I know that is), but if you can remember to have fun then you’re halfway there.   This instructor had a flip side to the work-ethic required of students, and this got to the crux of a term that students see/hear again and again: Graduate Level Work.  The breakdown [for this instructor specifically] is thus:

Everyone begins the class with a grade of “B”, the standard grade for graduate level work (which, for SLIS, means an 88% – 90%).

Students who complete the assignments and participate in all discussions will receive the B
provided the quality of written work meets the standard of rigorous scholarly work for the University.

Above standard work is defined clearly. The breakdown for your course grade,
based on the SJSU SLIS Grading Scale, is as meeting the following criteria:

• Originality in the approach to the assignment.
• Greater depth of analysis than the written assignment expects
• Critical evaluation readings by comparing them to other authors or sources.
• Ability to organize information for themselves and others plus create tools for life-long
learning and knowledge retrieval.

If you plan to take part in an internship while in SLIS (and I am a strong proponent of doing so), or even if you aren’t really, you should become familiar with Bloom’s Taxonomy.  You will recognize it in the learning objectives of every course you take in SLIS, and you should strive on a personal level to get to the tip of that pyramid whenever possible. 

This post is less a conversation starter than a thought provoker I suppose, but I would love to read your thoughts in the comments section (hint, hint, nudge, nudge).

Who is PJ?

In PJ on August 1, 2010 at 8:12 pm

Four years ago this month I was at the apex of a new arc in life and I didn’t have the slimmest idea exactly how different things would be today.  I say this both professionally and personally.  Here is a listing of just some of the landmark events that have marked this time frame:

  • I became pregnant in July 2006 (planned, joyous, this I of course knew would change things)
  • The economy faltered, and the position I held at my job of five years ended up on the layoff list
  • We moved
  • We set up a nursery, and I was repeatedly caught in a state of awe by the attentiveness of friends and family; this was the most beloved baby in the world and it hadn’t even arrived yet
  • I used the word “surreal” a lot
  • A dear, sweet, amazing relative in poor health decided to make the trip down from Oregon for the baby shower to surprise us, was hospitalized en route, and passed away that same day
  • I completed my work at the office one month before my due date and said my good-byes, knowing I would not be returning, as I began my “disability” leave to wait for the baby to arrive
  • On March 29th, 2007, after 25 hours of labor, I had an emergency c-section and baby girl Zoe (Greek: Life) finally entered the world
  • I was a stay-at-home mom listening to NPR streaming on my laptop in order to feel connected and informed
  • We decided there was no time like the present to do what I’d always wanted to do, and I applied to SJSU in order to pursue my MLIS
  • Having outgrown the small home we’d moved into, with the addition of a step-son and a dog, we arranged to move again into a larger home – this was to happen in May 2008, well before my first semester began
  • Our move was delayed, and delayed again, and delayed again. 
  • I began the SJSU SLIS program in August
  • We finally moved in September – my step-son did not move with us, he went the way of his brother instead
  • Thanks to neighbors with scary dogs and Comcast agents who couldn’t access the right power pole, it took EIGHT weeks to set up internet at our new house
  • I had a lot of online meetings with professors and classmates, using a headset, in various coffee houses (thank goodness for noise-cancelling microphones!)
  • We got married
  • My grandmother-in-law passed away at the end of the semester, and I was not to be disappointed by the compassion and generosity of my professors who granted me even just a few extra days to wrap up my final projects
  • I pondered the insanity of my first semester and, after a recovery period, I looked forward to the next

2009 and what we’ve had of 2010 are now a blur of time management, working late into the night, new friends, the inspiring D’oh! moment of discovery when I realized what I really want to do with this degree, an amazing internship, my first venture into teaching, and working on at least three different laptops due to the terminal illness of my own (I can not stress enough the importance of BACKUP files). 

It’s important to note that I don’t consider my life to be one that is dramatic…though perhaps life itself simply is by definition.  I tend towards optimism and blind faith that all will be well, but I have certainly been challenged – and I have arrived at today.  Another landmark.

This semester, starting tomorrow, I will have the pleasure of mentoring new students; something I have aimed to do since I met my own peer mentor two years ago.  I will compose my eportfolio and I will finish the MLIS program, receive my degree, and be thusly dubbed “librarian.”  As further proof of this, I will work as an adjunct faculty librarian at the community college I fell in love with as an intern.  I will turn 35 (in three days from this writing as a matter of fact).  I will celebrate the 10 year anniversary of a kiss that would prove to be just the first of millions.  We will buy a house and move (the power pole will be in our own backyard, so hopefully that part will go more smoothly).  I will consider 2011, I will approach it with my head up and my eyes open, and I will toast the next chapter of my life with giddy anticipation.

Edited to add this link to a blog post, by fellow peer mentor Phoebe, which I read shortly after posting this entry and which seemed quite relevant.   I like to think that I talk about life’s pressures and events not so much as a streak of narcissism (as social media has oft been criticized for) as much as to validate to myself why I feel so crazy sometimes.  It’s a bit of realism in my otherwise idealistic world.

A second chance for Second Life

In Hilarity, Second Life on July 25, 2010 at 9:44 pm

In the Fall of 2008, the first semester that the SLIS Libr 203 course was officially enacted, our quest to successfully satisfy the Red Pill option for the Immersive Environments module involved getting in, designing our SL Residents (or avatars), and taking a picture of ourselves. I will admit that I initially selected the Blue Pill – choosing instead to review the selected resources and take a quiz (which proved to not necessarily be the easier route).  It was only later, after I had gotten more of the other modules out-of-the-way, that I returned with an adventurous spirit and entered the world of Second Life.  I met with minimal success -bare minimum – despite, or perhaps in part due to, the flailing nature of my laptop. I also didn’t get it. The module did not require exploration, as it does now, and after some frustration on Welcome Island I closed it out and never returned.  I developed some erroneous preconceived notions of which SLIS tracks would probably utilize SL, and quickly determined that I was not of that ilk. I had not yet made the connection between environments like SL and what they could mean for librarianship and networking. I incorrectly determined SL was something for the techies, for the gamers, and maybe for those who just had a lot more of that illusive rumor we call free time.

Over the next two years I would see numerous slisadmin emails go by involving activities in SL; lectures, parties, archive collections, Banned Books Week events, and many more things that sounded quite fun.  I often felt that I was  missing out on something.  I had replaced my laptop, but my first experience still haunted me, and I continued to think the time investment was a hurdle; I was embarrassed to risk being the obvious newbie at a function where everyone else had their finger on the pulse of their second lives.  I saw that some SLIS professors utilized SL in their courses and I secretly hoped I would end up in one of those classes.  That way, my time spent in SL would be class time, and not time taken away from my studies or my daughter and family.

Recently, as a Libr 203 Peer Mentor, I have had to go through the Immersive Environments module again.  I was reminded of the basic tenet that Enid Irwin effectively embedded into the fabric of my being during Libr 202: No Fear.  Anxiety about learning new things is simply a fear of the unknown, and more often than not once you get over the hurdle of doing something new you begin to realize your anxiety was unwarranted.  Plus, as of the this post, there are nearly 20 million SL accounts (although only 1,381,824 have been active in the last 60 days).  So, really, if it was that hard, it wouldn’t be so popular.  Right?  Well, SL has crashed my computer once in the last week, but I’m electing to rule that out as user error at this time since that’s one out of about 10.  Needless to say, my Second Life has been born again (does that make it my third life?).  Please meet Sylvan Qendra:

A fellow 203 mentor extraordinaire, Lynee, recently blogged about some adventures we had together in Second Life, strolling around and, well, shopping. I wanted to fill in some details of that story a little bit, particularly for others who may be new to SL (and because it’s funny):

Lynee wanted to see if we, as female Residents, could buy items in a men’s store. She found some clogs that worked, I managed to put on a box (yes, that’s as absurd as it sounds – if you buy a boxed item and put it on then you literally end up wearing a box…I haven’t figured that out just yet), and she discovered the “Jack in A Box.” It was designed to be a starter kit with an entire shape and skin and outfit, just as it said – a “Jack” in a box.  Lynee thought she was getting a toy…

The hilarity ensued when putting “Jack” on did not supercede the items Lynee’s hourglass-figure sim was already wearing – so she ended up with her long blond locks, his facial hair, a serious Mr. Universe weight lifter’s physique under her feminine red sweater, men’s trousers emerging under her tartan skirt, and her dainty purse backpack hanging off the broadest back I’ve ever seen, on a sim or otherwise. I think she’d put the clogs on before this, otherwise she’d also have been wearing spiky high-heeled boots.  If I’d been more on top of things, and if I could have seen through my tears of mirth, I would have thought to take a picture.  Between wearing a box, Lynee’s Jack, and the mini-bunny outfit I found that made me about one foot tall and gave me a tail, my cheeks seriously ached.

The moral of the story is that she was, of course, able to remove “Jack” and get back to her prior shape. If we hadn’t been poking around, it wouldn’t have happened – but then we wouldn’t have laughed so hard either.  So, New Students: explore, try new things, set out to make mistakes, see what you can find, what you can learn, and remember to laugh at yourself.  Even better, bring a friend to laugh with you – SL is a social environment after all!

Definition and Design

In aphasia, definitions on July 17, 2010 at 6:46 pm
To begin, a definition from Merriam Webster:
Pronunciation: \ˌvā-dē-ˈmē-kəm, ˌvä-dē-ˈmā-\
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural vade mecums
Etymology: Latin, go with me
Date: 1629
1 : a book for ready reference : manual
2 : something regularly carried about by a person

I occasionally reflect on the oral traditions of our ancestors – or of  various current cultures for that matter; what the advent of the written word has meant for the myriad of developments we take for granted today.   I wonder how much we would be able to continue to foster if the human race were to be struck by a sudden aphasia that left us unable to read or continue recording our words.  I imagine it spreading akin to Jose Saramago’s Blindness, and I suppose it could form the basis of an interesting novel. 

In this psuedo-sci-fi/fantasy/horror world, I like to visualize an amazing job-growth opportunity in apprenticeships as we race to pass our expert knowledge on to the next generations.  Granted, those who prefer to learn by reading would be at a disadvantage to those who learn best through doing, which might create a new kind of divide between classes.  Would we be able to maintain the specialized nature of individual knowledge that we have evolved to possess, or would we begin to swing back to having more generalized knowledge – needing to know more about a lot of things rather than a lot about one thing?

My point, before I veer too far from it, is that we are vade mecum.  We all have our own individualized reference guides, and even in the event of some pandemic of aphasia in the modern world we could always phone a friend who has a specialty of knowledge in something we do not.  After all, that is what we already do if we have a friend who is good with autos/computers/gardening/interpersonal crises, right?  Assuming that the friend is also happy to share their expertise and time at least.

I am a librarian.  Rather than spark plugs/hard drives/germination rates/in-laws, my specialty is the organization and retrieval of information in its myriad forms.  While I would energetically help you locate a manual for how to manage your car/software/plant/rude co-worker, I most likely could not assist you in any process outlined in that manual.  In my vade mecum, I keep track of where the information is, how to access it, how to evaluate it, and – at the crux of my job in a community college – how to help you learn to navigate those processes as well. 

So. What if there was no written word?  Would I still have a job? 
If I ever get around to writing that book, you’ll have to read it to find out. (I sense a satirical angle.)