After graduating at Pitt and having some extra free time (so much extra free time--it's almost alien), I decided to find a unique way to volunteer in libraries. With that, I went to Volunteer Match to find virtual opportunities. Surprisingly, it was not too hard to connect with someone and begin. I ended up finding a great gig with the San Mateo County Library system in California.
SMCL asked that I write 2-3 blog posts a month, focusing on my hobbies. They have organized their blogs into three categories: adults, teens, and parents/kids. I had the freedom to write about anything I wanted, as long as I could relate it to the library's services, programs, or resources. Because they had a shortage of teen posts, I try to focus in that area. I have created blog posts on video games vs. board games, the zombie fad, ESRB ratings in games, and for adults, I've written about knitting and arm knitting. My goal has been to try to branch out in what I write, but to also be entertaining and intriguing to my audience.
I have volunteered for a few months, and my first post was recently published. I discussed NaNoWriMo--National Novel Writing Month, a movement encouraging writers to compose a 50,000 word novel throughout November. The blog post was fun to write, and I enjoyed perusing the NaNoWriMo site to see how they support potential writers. Although I have not been able to write my own novel this month, I hope my blog post encouraged others to at least begin writing. See the post here.
While sometimes I get discouraged or don't feel like writing, I think this volunteer opportunity has been a mutually beneficial experience. I can volunteer at my own pace, challenge myself to analyze what I do and think about how that can be conveyed to audiences, and I get to put my Bachelor's degree to use. Also, I keep up on the other blog posts and am always seeking advice or help about what people would like to read.
Finally, the encouragement from the SMCL staff is great. They set me up with their policies and procedures through virtual training, have stayed in contact with me despite busy schedules, and are responsive to whatever I write. I am not sure others would be so helpful to a volunteer thousands of miles away. I have been able to build small networks in a new library, get my thoughts and words out there, and keep volunteering for a cause I love. I can only hope more posts will be posted and people will be interested in my writing! This has been a delightful virtual volunteer opportunity.
Last week, I had an old neighbor contact me out of the blue (the wonders of Facebook). The neighbor, a mother of two teenagers, returned to college to get her degree in nursing. After getting a new assignment to evaluate a short story in her Composition course, she was struggling and needed some guidance. While I was a little stressed because working two jobs has had me strapped for time lately, I was excited at the prospect of helping her. I remember the frustrations I faced during my first year of college—from finishing an assignment I barely understood to juggling multiple tasks and projects along with my personal life.
So, within a few days, we had a study room reserved at our local library and an hour set aside for me to help her. And, it was wonderful. After forty minutes, she had a few pages worth of notes, an understanding of how to formulate her essay, and an eased mind. I was able to catch up with someone I haven’t chatted with in a few years, and I put my paper writing skills to use. Although I was not on the clock, I was able to use everything I had worked hard for in college in a positive way and help someone in the process.
I’m often searching for formal means of volunteering and working, and I was surprised to find that some of the most rewarding work was done spontaneously with an old friend. I am sure she will have future assignments that may plague her, so I recommended she contact me with any other questions. These are the small moments that allow us to build relationships, brush up on our skills, and share what knowledge we have learned with another.
Although it is not something I will add to my resume or do during work at the library, it was just as gratifying. My recommendation for readers is to always have some spare time open to help out someone else on the spot, to keep an open mind and door, and be ready to potentially learn more from those informal meetings than the grand, well-planned events. I look forward to the next time I can help someone just as much as they can help me.
Last month I decided to take a MOOC through UNC-Chapel Hill and Courser about Metadata. Initially, I was really excited. I wanted something that blended review of what I knew with some helpful information that I hadn't yet learned, especially in the realm of HTML and XML.
In my final semester at U. Pittsburgh, I took a really helpful course on Metadata and learned so much about the subject. My learning there coincided with what I learned in the MOOC so much so that everything felt like review--4 weeks of it. I didn't want to do any of the homework questions, because they seemed too simple (multiple choice does when you're talking about XML). I realize these questions are necessary when 32,000 people are in a class, but I wanted some intense work in XML.
To be fair, I was warned: Jeff mentioned that he'd expected course-goers to have no history in metadata and library science. So, the fault was nearly all mine. So why didn't I just keep trying and finish the course? It's only 8 weeks, right? Well, when you're a job hunter who graduated two months ago, time is of the essence. It's a blend of keeping updated, applying for jobs, regaining that sense of identity you lost during the program, and relaxing.
I recently got a new job (YES) as a Circulation Clerk at our local public library, and I love it for the most part (next blog, much?). This means I am back to two jobs, and spending the time each week on a course I can't even get in has been more than difficult.
It's made me really consider what things are more important to me right now. I want to take a MOOC to keep my brain fresh and keep updated in libraryland and, of course, be more appealing to employers, but I don't want to push through something I'm not gaining things from. It's only made me more focused on what things should matter to me and my professional development.
So, if you have any insights, recommendations for where to follow through, or thoughts, send them my way!
If you're following me on Twitter or my friend on Facebook (insert any other social media here), you'll see many of my shares of articles, job pages, and advice from the I Need a Library Job (INALJ) site. This site, created by Naomi House (and others, I believe) and maintained by her and a group of volunteers, is a helpful resource for any job hunter. Although I am not expert on the hunt, I do my best to thoroughly prepare for every step of the process.
I've done this by creating this portfolio, updating my resume, practicing with interview questions, checking out resume books from the library, conferring with friends and classmates, and following blogs like INALJ. The reason I want to give a personal shout-out to this site is because it is a unique and beneficial resource for any job hunter.
Although I could write about the site for pages, I'll highlight my favorite aspect of the site: the collection of articles with advice, job hunting experiences and opinions, interviews, and success stories. Although I have not found a specific schedule of blog posts by INALJ volunteers, it would seem that volunteers each post once monthly so that there are new articles daily. With the option to have the articles emailed to me, I have a slew of resources at my fingertips.
The articles are greatfor a few reasons. First, the amount of contributors to the blog indicates a variety of opinions, subjects, issues, considerations, etc. so that you will never feel bored by the posts. Second, the posts are relatively short so that I can finish an article in a few minutes. If a writer has a particularly deep subject, then s/he separates it into parts and takes time to focus on each section. With this brevity, the articles get straight to the point with little filler. I'm constantly adding a new article to my favorites, and I seem to remember the content much better.
It could be the time of day or just my style, but I really feel as though I'm not giving INALJ the justice it deserves. One other aspect I want to note is the currency of INALJ: the site is updated multiple times (constantly?) daily, and is tied to a Twitter and Facebook account that also keep me updated with encouraging messages to "try a new job search this morning!".
INALJ is like a cool aunt--she cares, so she reminds you to keep your head up, keep searching for that job, and she provides great, sensible advice that you're actually willing to listen to. I recommend anyone check it out (here's another link) for advice on increasing marketability and writing cover letters, as well as lists of libraries that need to be on everyone's bucket list.
[side note]- I always seek to be accurate and honest in my reflections. If I have posted incorrect information, please let me know!
I recently came upon an article from American Libraries about 40 great mobile apps for outreach and reference. (See here). Because I usually have a queue of articles to read taller than I am, I almost put it at the bottom. Then, I remembered the session at ALA one of my colleagues attended and shared with me.
The American Libraries article was beneficial, because it reiterated the message and resources from a small session months ago. I am tempted to download at least all of the free apps to be prepared for myself, but having the list seems to be more than enough. There are apps from homework help and language learning to lawyer advice and first aid information. My favorite app, for the simplicity and uniqueness, is Sit N Squat- an app that allows you to input your location and find the nearest open bathrooms. Funny now, but when you really need it, I bet it helps.
Why is this noteworthy? It again shows that librarians are no longer contained in the four walls of their library. We don't just help with finding books or homework questions, we are there to help users get the information they need whenever they need it. Elizabeth Mahoney, my professor of many courses, said when you're a librarian, other people know it just by your demeanor. When you're in the grocery store, people are likely to come up and ask where the water chestnuts are and when you're at the gas station, they'll ask for directions to the movie theater. If you're like me, you have no clue when it comes to directions, but you always have the resources at your fingertips to find the information fast.
Although I have yet to procure a career in the field, I am still hopeful I can be of help to people when I'm serving at work, at the farmers market, or in the park. I suppose this further illustrates my niche in library world.
Disclaimer: I realize library outreach isn't new, but I still appreciate being reminded how easy it is to help people pretty much any time and any where. Also, the image is from the article, and links to it. :)
Next post: Blogging for the San Mateo County Library
In other words, I graduated!
This time last year, I was scurrying around town gathering boxes and tape to move to Pittsburgh. I had turned down a library assistant job and an online MLS program to attend U.Pitt, begin an internship in ILL-land, and to live in a new city.
Now, I have faithfully returned in hopes of procuring another career opportunity in one of the many amazing libraries in central Ohio. Although I pledged not to limit myself geographically, I cannot help but want to stay here--near my family and in an area that supports libraries so fully. In the event that nothing happens for me in the near future, I'll expand my horizons, but we'll see for now.
So, graduation... The ceremony lasted 30 minutes for a program of 111 graduates, and I have no clue how they accomplished that. Everyone was happier for it, though. And despite feeling sad and somber about saying goodbye to some really genuine people with creative minds whom I am sure will have great influence over the library profession in the future, it is safe to say that we were all ready to say goodbye. A one-year program is intense, and having final assignments due as well as wrapping up internships and jobs the day before our ceremony was the end point.
Although my thoughts on graduation are tied up with frustration with a lack of a career, I am excited to put what I have learned to use. I am finishing my MOOC (love it!), catching up on webinars, downloading articles before my access ends at Pitt, and catching up on the listserv emails I stored this past semester. Lots to do, and lots of time to do it.
I'm also doing non-library activities as well, to keep sane and remind myself about what is out there. I have bought a new video game (Sid Meyer's Civilization V), am spending time with my grandmother, and will begin working out again tomorrow (I know--that's what they always say).
All in all, I am happy to be finished, excited at the prospects that lie ahead, and cautious that everything won't work out exactly as I had planned. I hope this blog will help me use that English degree and stay engaged with the issues and discussions in the profession both now and in the future.
I started my first MOOC this semester, and I think I'm making the same progress as many others in the course--minimal. The MOOC--New Librarianship--covers a new way of looking at the profession as the needs of society are changing, and the videos I have viewed are at the very least, thought-provoking. While the course separates the content into four weeks, each week is divided into modules focusing on different topics, such as Knowledge Creation.
Unfortunately, my experience with the text, David Lankes' Atlas of New Librarianship (the professor wrote the text) has been sporadic. I'm wondering now if I should have signed up for the class that lasts the final three weeks of my semester in the MLIS program and a week after I graduate. It's rough.
But, I think my own struggles with time and effort in the class highlights a common issue with MOOCS on a fundamental level. When you have little invested in the class, do you make the time and put forth the effort required? It isn't the fault of the course, because the work is hardly difficult, but a psychological process in my head. At the very least, the videos and short views I have seen in the Discussion Board (last count: over 1200 posts) have ignited discussion with fellow classmaters and made me jot down notes of aspects I'd like to further explore.
Since I have two (TWO!) assignments left in my program, I'm hoping I can devote more time and effort into the course and at least lend more participation and voice to the conversation. I'm grateful for the experience (Thanks Syracuse!) , and I think it will inspire me to b e more active when I have--if I have--more time and energy in the future.
Dorian, my cat, didn't want me to go.
I've been meaning to write this since I got
back a week and a half ago, but alas, here it is.
There's so much to say about attending ALA, but I'll try to focus on the logistical parts and perhaps unwrap the learning parts at a later date. First,
I have to say ALA was a whirlwind. After finishing an entire class workload the weekend before leaving, alongside preparing for the conference on my own and with my student chapter of ALA, I was exhausted before we hit the road.
And, the trip itself, as well as navigating the city was telling. I learned that you can never underestimate your ignorance of how a new city works: from traffic to special events to best routes and diners. It was my fourth time visiting Chicago, and I've always loved the city. My only personal goal for the trip outside of ALA was to visit the aquarium. Check.
As for the conference, they were right when they recommended walking shoes and a water bottle (see: any person who writes about a conference). I bought new flats for this purpose and have since wore them out.
I'm extremely glad I brought a new notebook with me. Because I have trouble focusing on people talk for that long (Who wouldn't?), the notebook let me take notes without having to lug around a heavy laptop or waste phone battery. And it proved useful in more ways than one. After attending back to back sessions, I began forgetting what I attended after a few hours and had to go back to the notebook to remember.
It may just be me, but the recommendation to purchase 250 business cards was...off. I more than enough left after the conference and found it to be awkward/weird to just offer business cards even after chatting with someone for a while. Very few people were forward about it, indicating that either they didn't care to exchange, or that it wasn't a common occurrence. I'll likely research this before going to another conference soon .
The exhibit hall: I never realized that some people could be so easily rude. It's a free book, not a free vacation. Not to mention, it's an advanced reader copy, so you can't circulate it. I had people grab every item in sight and not care who they knocked down. How on earth is it a good decision to take 7 books from one vendor? I'm glad I followed advice and was selective in my new materials. I do believe I stole this cute finger puppet though... Sorry vendors!
Librarians can party...hard. At least, that's what the Twitter feed said and what I overheard in the lunch line. I was too busy sleeping after the conference to even consider going out to a party until 2am. I'm lame, I know. But I don't really regret it, as I wanted to attend as many sessions as I could.
All in all, it was a very valuable experience. I went to a Tweet-up happy hour, iSchool reception, attended more sessions than I care to share, and I got to connect with other students and professionals in the field. Every day, I made small goals to keep me out of my comfort zone and constantly exploring. Although I doubt I'll be able to attend the conference any time in the near future, I'm already researching other opportunities.
Next post: My Education at the Conference
With ALA just around the bend (Thursday!!), I thought it'd be good to write a bit about my preparation for the conference. In September 2012, my professor emphasized the importance of attending professional conferences--networking, job hunting, understanding big topics in the field, feeling the throes of thousands of librarians gathering to embrace their careers as resources to their communities and the changes within... Immediately, I knew I wanted to attend. Why?
1. I could get funding (and I did!)
2. It gave me five days off in the midst of my final semester (mini professional vacation)
3. I could go somewhere and really see how library land operates on a larger level--no matter what they teach you in your program, you can't begin to understand librarianship until you're with librarians and in the field.
So, I did. And, I wanted other people to attend. As Co-President for our Student Chapter of ALA, I recruited seven other students from Pitt to attend ALA in Chicago this year.
Then, I joined NMRT committees to prepare for next year, and I volunteered to write a piece for NMRT's Footnotes recapping my experience at the conference. I'll be discussing how my preparation shaped up against my experience. I suppose this post is preparing me for that article.
Next? #nmrtchat . First Twitter chat ever, and first time discussing library stuff with librarians whom I don't know. Extremely exciting. I even gushed when people responded to my questions and yelled at my boyfriend to come look. Of course, he couldn't feel the excitement I did.
I also signed up for the NMRT Mentor/Mentee program, and I am happily paired with a recent librarian from Loyola Marymount University. We'll be meeting up at the conference.
Now... I am reading Footnotes, blogposts from Librarian Wardrobe, asking professors at Pitt, watching webinars about attending the conference. I'm also reading the million emails from the Information Literacy, NMRT, and College Libraries listservs and scanning the #ala2013 feed for any recommendations.
I'm pretty sure that the other students are getting tired of my "You have to check this out!" emails at this point. We're doing our final preparation meeting tonight, where we'll share tips with one another.
So, am I prepared? Well, after looking at the Scheduler and being frustrated there are 7 things I want to do at 8:30 Sunday morning, I'm hoping so. I'm going in with an open mind, business cards, walking shoes, an extra bag, and my phone charger, as well as a spare book if I have time. I've also finished all of my assignments due during the conference, so no worries there.
I'll at least be happy to return and share everything I've learned since attending. Hope to see everyone there!
As I'm nearly finished with my library science education, I try to focus my extracurricular reading--LinkedIn discussions, INALJ articles, listserv emails, and other publications-- on best practice guidelines for professionals. Last month's NMRT discussion focused on Professional Branding and creating a brand for networking.
It's difficult as a student with no professional (paid, non-student) position to feel that I have a grasp on how I'll do in the library world or even my personal brand (or identity). However, difficulty rarely stops a good librarian, so I do my best. Things I've realized that are a part of my Librarian identity: the focus on the user--libraries and service professions/institutions are nonexistent without a user base to support--as well as encouraging the adaptation of libraries to a changing society. I want to be aware of what's out there, be able to effectively evaluate the changes and potential technologies, and make the decisions that will most positively impact my library users. And, I'm doing this by guiding my research, attending various sessions at ALA, searching for continuing education opportunities, and exploring the literature.
But what about my identity?
Holy cannoli, that's a big question. I've spent so much time on preparing to be a librarian and learning the tricks of the trade that I've had little time for me. Sure, I relax once in awhile with a good read, learning a new board game, volunteering, or playing a video game. I also take walks and read the news when I can. Yet, I regret to inform you that I have not explore any amazing unique hobbies or challenges since August when I started the program. No Zumba classes, no gardening (that's probably a good idea--I'm horrid although I love it), and no creative writing (until now).
What else makes me "me?"
I suppose my librarian brand or identity feeds into everything else that makes me who I am. And, I don't think I can complain about that. I look forward to ALA Annual, graduation, and the procuring of a career to help me figure out the library stuff so I can work on the rest. In the mean time, I welcome recommendations :)
Recent MLIS graduate & lover of writing. This is a narrative of my first look into the librarian profession.