The Year so Far

Back in August I wrote a post setting forth a few key goals for myself in my second year of graduate school. During my first year my plan was just to figure out how to survive in the library school world and hopefully get a summer internship. This year I wanted to set some more ambitious goals that I’d really have to put forth some effort to accomplish. Well now that I’ve finished up my winter quarter and therefor over half way through the school year, I thought it would be great time to check in on my goals and see what I should concentrate on in my final quarter.

So as a refresher course here are the goals I set back in September before my school year started.

  • Volunteer at ALA Midwinter – This year it is taking place in Seattle so I’m assuming UW’s iSchool will be hijacked during the conference. Who wouldn’t sneak off to an ALA conference when it is just a bus ride across town? Once school starts I should start asking around about how I can get involved.
  • Complete a DFW – This is a Directed Field Work or to some a practicum or an unpaid internship for credit. Now I know many students dislike unpaid internships for credit since the student ends up in the red, but our DFW system at UW allows me to get in on the ground floor with some local organizations that usually don’t offer intern positions otherwise. This is great for me since I am tied geographically to this area after grad school (I can’t complain my husband has a great job!). I’m hoping for a position that allows me to interact with archive patrons, donors, or at least fellow colleagues. I’ve had too many jobs where I just sit alone in a room and do my own thing.
  • Present at a conference (either a paper or poster) – Right now I’m thinking a smaller conference like the Washington Library Association or Northwest Archivists, but who knows maybe something interesting will cross my path and I’ll take a leap and submit something to SAA or ALA. I really have no ideas right now, but I’m not sweating it (yet).
  • Keep expanding my knowledge of archives, digital services, digital humanities, metadata, & cataloging – So besides taking classes geared toward this, I’m planning on learning more about the Digital Humanities via this awesome LibGuide from Boston College. I’ve also recently discovered iTunesU which is free and has free lectures series about tons of different topics. I have several downloaded (some from the Library of Congress) that I’m trying to fit in. Also I’m going to learn the basics of HTML/XML from this book recommended by my programmer husband so I can take the more intensive version of the HTML class offered in my program come the spring quarter.
  • Continue to write blog posts – It is so easy for me to just let everything else fall by the wayside while taking classes. One of those things that gets neglected is this blog. I will probably try a few tricks to keep this active like connecting posts to my class work or writing responses to other library/archive blog posts.
  • Get a summer internship - I have one internship in mind that I would like to have in the summer of 2013, but by March or April that could all change. However, I need to remember to apply, apply, apply and keep my eyes on the student jobs listserv, inalj, and archivesgig.
  • Attend more conferences – Okay well this goal is kind of already wrapped up, but I think it stills needs to be here. Last year I only attended one professional conference. This year I plan on attending InfoCamp Seattle (even though it intimidates me), Museum Computer Network (it’s in Seattle and there are GLAMWiki sessions), ALA Midwinter, and then it is a toss up between Northwest Archivists and WLA/OLA. I really wish I could go to SXSW, but the conference costs plus travel costs just puts it out of reach.

Below I’ll go through each point and review how well I’ve done so far this year!

  • Volunteer at ALA Midwinter – So this did not happen. Apparently ALA doesn’t ask for a lot of volunteers for the weekend (or I somehow totally missed all those emails). The only opportunity I saw was for the yoga session very early on Sunday morning & I don’t do yoga. However, I did get involved with my ALA chapter. I planned on hosting another library school student in my the big MLIS student couch surfing experiment, but my poor guest got sick right before the conference and couldn’t attend!
  • Complete a DFW – This will not happen during the standard school year this year. Enough normal classes have come up that I was interested in as well as my internship at Sub Pop Records that I haven’t had time to add a DFW in. However, my summer internship could turn into a DFW if that is under the only condition the organization will take me. (I don’t believe I need the credits at this point.)
  • Present at a conference (either a paper or poster) – I really thought it would take me all year to work up the nerve to accomplish this goal. I don’t really have a fear of presenting or talking in front of a crowd, but I do find it hard to convince myself I have something worth presenting. Luckily enough Samip Mallick who was my supervisor for my summer internship at the South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA) asked if I wanted to put together a proposal for the Library 2.012 virtual conference. It was just the push I needed! So at the beginning of October I presented “Taking Access to the User Online” – focusing on my work editing Wikipedia articles to drive traffic to materials in the archive.
  • Keep expanding my knowledge of archives, digital services, digital humanities, metadata, & cataloging – This goal is being accomplished in several different ways. I just finished a class on indexing and will being taking a class on digital humanities reference this spring. I have also started using Code Academy & Coursera. I’m currently interning at Sub Pop Records which is helping expand my knowledge of archives and digital asset management.
  • Continue to write blog posts – My social media class fall quarter really helped here, but I’ve totally dropped the ball during winter quarter. Adding an internship to my schedule really through a wrench into my normal operating procedure so I just let blogging fall to the wayside as I figured everything out. Hopefully I can figure out a better schedule during spring quarter.
  • Get a summer internship – I’m actually working on this goal during my break! I plan on updating my resume and applying to several positions while I have the time. I’m looking at archival positions – both digital & traditional as well as cataloging/metadata/indexing/taxonomy positions.
  • Attend more conferences – So far this year I have attended the Library 2.012 virtual Conference and ALA Midwinter. I did not attend the Museum Computer Network conference – it just didn’t fit into my schedule once I compared it with my school schedule. I do plan on attending one more conference this spring  the Washington/Oregon Library Associations Joint Conference.

So far I’m pretty pleased with my progress in completing my goals this year! I just need to work on getting a summer internship/DFW lined up as well as continuing to blog more and expand my info professional horizons through some professional development on my own time.

How about everyone else? Anyone else set some goals (written down or otherwise) at the beginning of the school year? How are you all doing with completing your goals?

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Day in the Life: What Does an Online Student Do?

I am one of the many online library students in the world today. Even though many great programs like the University of Washington (San Jose State, Simmons) have online masters programs, I still get blank looks and tons of questions when I introduce myself as an online student (both residential students at UW & librarians/archivists at conferences). So what do we online students do all day since we don’t have scheduled class times? How does this whole online school thing work? Even these questions have been plaguing you, have no fear I’m here to tell you about my day.

This quarter Monday, Wednesday, Friday are my pure school days. I usually work on various types of school work from around 11 am (when my husband leaves for work) to 7 pm (when he calls me on his drive home for work). Now staying in my apartment working on my laptop or desktop all day is a bit of a drag (believe me I did this my first quarter but ALL WEEK – once I realized I hadn’t been outside in 5 days I knew something had to change) so I walk down to my favorite local coffee shop for the first few hours of the day. Not only is it nice to you know be outside for a little while, but I get some nice social interaction with my baristas who know me quite well by now.

On this particular Wednesday, I had earmarked the day for my indexing class which I had neglected the previous week. When working through a module for a class, I usually read the assigned articles first then move on to the recorded lectures. Now depending on the class I might take a break between lectures (usually our lectures are only 30-40 minutes long) and head over to the discussion boards. For online students, the discussion board is our classroom. Think of it this way – online education is the original flipped classroom. We read the material and watch the lectures then we come together to discuss the major issues of modules (these can be proposed by the professor or the students can bring up points they want or both!)

Now the dynamics of an online discussion do differ from an in person discussion. We are required to participate in some manner (Now I know this is the norm in most classes but it seems more immediate when your professor can actually count the number of your posts) plus our conversations last for one to two weeks. We do have the normal group of super participators that talk early and often, but overall I feel like more people get in on the discussion. However, when discussion participation is not a part of our grade discussion boards can become a desert wasteland (like the case with my indexing class this quarter).

Now that you have the basics of the online education, let me get on with my day. My indexing class had an assignment due on Wednesday and this week it was a partner assignment. We each indexed the same article and then swapped our indexing terms and answered a series of questions about the consistency measurements of our terms. Out of all the group work I’ve completed this partner work is my favorite type. Also I enjoy seeing how another student indexes the same materials and getting to compare our results.

After finishing my assignment I jumped onto my Management class’s discussion board to catch up on the chatter since last week. By the time  I finished all this it was time to wrap up my work for the day.

My evening consisted of making some delicious home made chicken nuggets, watching Supernatural, and working on my indexing and transcriptions for Hiring Librarians! So there you have it – a normal day in the life of an online student.

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Tuesday – Day in the Life

After a very unusual Monday, my Tuesday was mostly by the book. Tuesday and Thursday I hop on the bus at 10 am with my morning coffee and head downtown to Sub Pop Records. Right now I’m nearing the end of my quarter long internship in digital asset management. I do work for both the music label’s archive and marketing department.

On Tuesday I balanced work for each department. For the archives I continued to work on my music video back up project. Right now Sub Pop does not have physical copies of more recent music videos in the office. They have an offsite company that holds the videos and that company has physical backups but not available to Sub Pop. So right now I’m burning the high quality video files onto DVDs and recording the video details (codec, data rate, etc). On the marketing side I was collecting data about the different email lists the marketing department manages for certain bands. I found that my multitasking online student self was right at home for the combined work. It was nice to have a separate task to work on while the DVDs would burn.

When I left my internship at 3pm, my “normal” day was a bit diverted because instead of hopping on my bus home I headed down to the very awesome Central Branch of the Seattle Public Library to spend a few hours . My deviation in routine was due to the very not normal way I spent the evening. Michael and I met up at El Corazon to see The Hushed Sound perform on their reunion tour! We first saw them in 2005 when we (and some of the band) were still in high school. It was an awesome concert with four opening bands and we walked away with three new, awesome CDs.

I’m just glad to get back to my normal days and nights now. Having a real life during the last two weeks of the quarter is rough.

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Day in the Life: Pleasure Reading

I must admit the beginning of my “Day in the Life” series isn’t the most accurate representation of my usual life. Today my husband, Michael, and I will spend half the day wrapping up a visit from two of our friends who came into town for Emerald City Comic Con. (Yes if you plan correctly you CAN have some semblance of a personal life in library school!) The weekend was full of geeking out while meeting some of our favorite artists, comic book writers, and actors (I met Sir Patrick Stewart!).

However, my day of getting very little done benefits you all! Let’s talk about pleasure reading. Since starting library school I, like many of you, have had little or no time to read for pleasure. Even when I do find that I have free time when I can pick up a novel I find my eyes swimming and my brain just shutting down. I can hear my inner voice yelling “NO MORE WORDS!” I started brain storming for some reading entertainment that I could indulge in that did not involve computers, blogs, or libraries. I found the answer this summer – comics. Now I know that word is a bit loaded. Even now that I’m a comic reader I still think of super heroes when I say the word, but there are as many genres of comics as there are fiction.

Personally I’d like to endorse my favorite genre of comics – the LAF Triumvirate (Literature-based, animal, and Fairy tale based fantasy) comics. This growing genre of comics will please any library student. Your favorite literary heroes step off the page of their novels and into comics usually leaving behind the restrictions their plots. This results is wonderful, fresh stories with the graphics that stimulates your word weary brain. Here are some of my favorites.

Fables – “When a savage creature known only as the Adversary conquered the fabled lands of legends and fairy tales, all of the infamous inhabitants of folklore were forced into exile. Disguised among the “mundys,” their name for normal citizens of modern-day New York, these magical characters created their own secret society that they call Fabletown. From their exclusive luxury apartment buildings on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, these creatures of legend must fight for their survival in the new world.” (From Amazon) This is a long series (over 130 comics so far), but with a great fleshed out universe. It also has several spin off series. It is worth while series and great for those of us with a weakness for long series.

Kill Shakespeare - “This dark take on the Bard pits his greatest heroes (Hamlet, Juliet, Othello, Falstaff) against his most menacing villains (Richard III, Lady Macbeth, Iago) in an epic adventure to find and kill a reclusive wizard named William Shakespeare” (From back of book) This a short two book adventure that is rumored to become a movie in the near-ish future (There is a screenplay ready)!

The Unwritten - This series follows Tom Taylor the son of a famous writer who based his main character the wizard Tommy Taylor on him (these books are a great echo of the Harry Potter series – however all the other literature mentioned in the series is real). Everything gets complicated when a woman accuses Tom Taylor of being the incarnation of Tommy during a Q & A session at a convention. Tom’s life only gets worse as he discovers what his father had created the Tommy Taylor books as a way to fight against a secret cabal that has been controlling the word through literature. Unwritten is a relatively new comic with under 50 issues out.

Sandman – Neil Gaiman’s wonderful comic series from the late 80s and early 90s. This series bridges the gap between superhero and literary-based comics. The series starts out in the world of DC comics with appearances by such notable characters as The Joker. Later in the series Gaiman’s characters inhabit their own universe full of wonderful characters including Dream, Death, Delirium, Destiny, Desire, Despair, and Destruction. If you enjoy Gaiman’s novels then you’ll enjoy his comics. However, if you are not versed in DC lore then you might want to check out the Annotated version from the library so you can get all the DC allusions. This might be a great series to start with since it has an ending.

Comics are wonderful pleasure reading during grad school. They stimulate other sections of your mind with the illustrations. They are short reads, and they scratch that fiction itch.

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Pinterest versus Tumblr

During my social media class, I have tried out many different social media platforms and tools. Most of these I will let fall by the wayside and my accounts will become inactive, but I think Tumblr and Pinterest are here to stay.  Now I know many people would argue that these two platforms belong in separate very different categories in the social media world. Pinterest in a bulletin board or bookmarking platform more closely related to Delicious, and Tumblr is a straight forward microblogging site in the same family as Twitter. However, I think these two platforms could very easily be grouped together. This association in my mind began when my husband, a heavy Tumblr user, proudly stated when I opened my Pinterest account that “Pinterest is the poor man’s Tumblr.”

The Similarities

So how are these platforms similar? Well  as new user of both, I can spot several things. Both services have main dashboards (even though as far as I can tell only Tumblr calls it that) that shows you all the new things (posts or pins) that people you follow have posted since the last time you visited. Reposting is a vital component of both platforms (rebloging or repining). These posts then show up on your personal site as well as in your followers’ dashboards. You can also “like” posts or pins. These posts get stashed in a different area and don’t show up on the dashboard. Both platforms allow you to make personal notes on the posts you reblog or repin. Now this last similarity will lead to the differences of the platforms – both have categorization above what appears on personal blogs or dashboards. For Pinterest these are controlled and predetermined, but on Tumblr these are user created tags that can become very personal very fast. However, many Tumblr users might create their own standard tags to help with refinding for example a tag of their username for their original content or pictures of themselves which is similar to the curation seen in Pinterest boards

The Differences

Now the biggest difference between the two services comes down to personalization. Pinterest has a controlled vocabulary for categorization and there is no personalization of one’s Pinterest page. Tumblr allows as much customization as you want as long as you put the effort in. You can customize your home page to outrageous levels (including making your page look like a pin board). As mentioned above, Tumblr users tag their own posts however they like (or skip it all together). Tumblr also allows users to converse through reblogs (as well as through Ask boxes, replies to certain types of posts).  The original statement or caption is preserved and then the reblogger adds his or her own comment or reaction. This can go back and forth for quite a while and can spread to include other bloggers. Tumblr also allows users a better way of tracking the spread of their posts through their notes feature than Pinterest with their more simple repin and like count. Now I will finish on probably the most obvious difference which usually causes people to put these platforms in separate categories – the variety of content that can be posted on Tumblr. Tumblr allows not only pictures & videos but also text (both long & short), quotes, audio, links (straight hyperlinks), and chats (posts that are recounts of conversations).

Which to Choose?

Now if you only wanted to invest in one of these platforms, which should you choose? Well you should ask yourself a question, “How much interaction do you want?” If you want to be apart of an integrated community that communicates directly with one another then you should choose Tumblr. If you just want a place to pursue content that you want to save and share latently with a group of followers then go with Pinterest. Want to make and share text posts and links that don’t translate pictorially? You probably want more communication – choose Tumblr. You don’t want a big time commitment either up front for personalization or later with up keep? You probably don’t want to spend tons of time creating posts conversing with others – go Pinterest.

What do you think? Do Pinterest & Tumblr have more in common than we usually give them credit for? What are some other questions one could ask to figure out which platform to try out?

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Digital Maker Spaces

As promised so long ago, here is a more in depth look into one of the sessions I attended at Infocamp Seattle.

This session was given by Ario Jafarzadeh (who can be found on Twitter @ario). The session was broken into three parts – intellectual precedecors to this ideas, ventures like what he had in mind (most of them are no longer operating), and then an open forum on how to make it happen in Seattle (where, sponsorship, revenue etc).

The idea of a digital maker space has many intellectual relatives- maker spaces like Maker Haus in the Fremont area in Seattle that focus on physical creation and coworking spaces like Office Nomads here which has people sharing a work space but not working cooperatively.

What Ario wants to do in Seattle is create a space that combines these ideas. A place that offers classes (at low price or free), workspace, and performance space all in one for the digital maker. So this would not just be “normal” programing, but also digital video editing and digital music creation. A place to learn, work on, and show off all aspects of digital creativity from apps to multimedia music productions.

He also covered many projects that he had based his own idea on. A big influencer was the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts (GAFFTA) in the Bay Area. I encourage you to check out the GAFFTA website. It’s a pretty cool organization.

The open forum was a way for the Infocamp community to give feedback, suggestions, and commentary on the idea. We discussed different areas within the city for the space, what type of space (did it need to have a store front or could it be tucked away to save on rent?), sponsorships and funding. We discussed different organizations that could partner on the project like the University of Washington, Microsoft, smaller tech companies, and even the reaching out to the Seattle or King County Public Libraries.

We discussed different long term funding methods outside of corporate partnerships as well. Should a place like this have monthly dues or fees? Could crowd funding through Kickstarter or Indiegogo help with start up costs and then just work with annual or bi-annual fundraising drive (think PBS or more local the C 89.5 radio station)? Should this be a non-profit or for profit?

Would like such a place in Seattle? Do you think it is doable?

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Stress, Anxiety, and Graduate School

First off, this post was inspired by a fellow library student I follow on Tumblr, the common librarian. She studies in the UK where a library degree is a one year program! I can’t even imagine. Anyway back to the point, I was inspired by her frankness about her struggles with anxiety including seeing a therapist, and I find it incredibly brave, lovely, and honest.  So here I am trying to emulate her. Hi everyone, I’m Sara a MLIS student in her second year and I suffer from anxiety (or as my medical chart says – General Anxiety Disorder).

During orientation we were warned about stress. Who goes into a graduate program without expecting stress? We all feel that surge of worry when a due date gets closer and you are balancing three other due dates along with it. However, stress goes away when the paper is turned in. Stress turns into a feeling of accomplishment. Stress is ephemeral. Anxiety is not.

I can not explain the shame I felt my first term when anxiety settled on me (like a fog, a wet blanket, something heavy that I could not dislodge). I tried to play it off as just stress (but I was only enrolled in one class how could one class produce this much stress when I balanced five classes and a job in undergrad just last year?). I couldn’t easily fall asleep. I worried about everything (including ironically my health). I didn’t find joy in cooking anymore. Every morning I awoke with a stiff back and headache and I went to bed with that stiff back and headache. I felt like a pressure was on my chest all the time. I was scared to be alone so I would go out to the library or coffee shop and feel alone in a crowd. However, I couldn’t figure out a way to communicate this to my fellow classmates in a way that I felt still made me sound sane. I just wanted to believe it was normal stress. Admitting something more serious was going on was an admission of failure, of weakness.

It wasn’t until after seeing my family over the holidays and admitting that I still didn’t feel like myself (I wasn’t even looking forward to my new classes. I always get excited about new classes) that I decided to see my doctor. I sat in the waiting room and filled out a mental health survey. It was one of those moments that reality just crashes in on you.  I saw my symptoms quoted back to me almost to a tee. How? How had I waited so long? How didn’t I realize it? Why did I allow my pride get in the way of treating myself?

So why am I sharing all of this now?  Well this is the time when we are all feeling the push. We see the deadlines.  We feel the strain. However, sometimes it isn’t just stress. Sometimes the feeling is more intense and doesn’t go away when the due date passes. Sometimes a good song, a walk in the park, an hour of yoga, or a well baked cake doesn’t do a damn to alleviate the pressure on your chest.

If that is you out there dear reader, please speak up. There is no shame in mental illness. There is no shame in going to your doctor to seek help. I do not want any other person to go through the hell I put myself. This issue needs to be loudly spoken  about  in the academy. In stead of talking about “stress” during orientation lets talk about the difference between stress and anxiety disorder. Lets talk about the warning signs and how to know when you cross the line between normal stress and anxiety.

Because dear reader, you (we) are not alone. This issue is more common than you think. Suffering from anxiety is bad enough, but feeling like you are the only one and therefore weaker, weirder, and unworthy of your program is even worse. Anxiety shouldn’t been seen as a taboo subject. Overcoming anxiety during your years in grad school should be viewed as an example of strength not weakness. You overcame this obstacle because becoming a librarian means that much to you. If that does not show determination I don’t know what does.

Questions, Comments, Concerns? Let’s have a chat in the comments.

P.S. My anxiety is under control right now and I go in for regular mental health checkups.

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