PJ

Archive for the ‘dedication’ Category

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).