Monday, October 7, 2013

The Librarian’s Arsenal: Git & GitHub

This post originally appeared on Information Space, the blog of the iSchool at Syracuse University, on 10 October 2012.

Prompted by a fantastic talk given by the iSchool’s own Michael Fudge, I’ve been exploring Git, GitHub, and the ways librarians can benefit by using a version control system.
Librarians should know how to code. This isn’t news; coding is simply another form of literacy. This post won’t spend any time rehashing the reasons that coding is a vital skill in today’s society. Learn it, teach others, improve society.
What’s this “Git” thing, anyway?
Git is a tool for keeping track of code–any type of code, from HTML/CSS to high-level programming languages. Specifically, Git provides a “version control system” that allows you to save a file directory (called a “repository”) exactly as it stands at a certain point in time. While this is useful if you want the ability to revert to a previous version of the various documents in the repository, the real strength in Git lies in the ability to branch your code.
“Branching” is a way to create a figurative “tree”, which splits the saved files for any number of reasons down two or more paths. For example, it’s possible to have a branch of a website that is the current “production” version, and another up-and-coming “development” branch. Or perhaps there’s a branch for a current project, and each person working on the code has a slightly different way of approaching the problem. By merging branches back together, the best possible code can be distilled.
Ok, but how does GitHub factor in?
GitHub takes the ideas behind Git and makes them social, providing cloud storage for repositories and allowing for collaboration between coders of all levels. Most exciting, GitHub expands the branching abilities of Git into “forking,” which allows users to clone code into their own repository. Some librarians might be familiar with David Darts’ PirateBox, and Jason Griffey’s fork of the source code that resulted in the LibraryBox. Forking code makes it possible for librarians to tailor other projects to the specifications we need. It’s a shared, open-source way of co-creating content that librarians should take advantage of.
So why should librarians care?
Librarians can be some of the best liaisons between “geeks” and people who don’t code–we’re naturally positioned at the intersection between technology and the analog world. Tools like Git can help us facilitate when we’re managing multi-headed projects with coders, information architects, administrators, and the public. GitHub is even better because it allows us to open up our code, getting input from others as we build systems to use for the future.
Git lets people keep track of their code, and by having excellent revision management, it’s a lot easier to recover from mistakes, allowing people to get in and play with their code with less fear. Librarians get to have more control when projects are done within a Git system. The openness of GitHub is even better, and plays strongly to librarianship’s core values. As transliterate librarians operate in our program-or-be-programmed world, tools like Git & GitHub help us keep our work transparent, which can help showcase our value to the public.
Git and GitHub both deserve a place in the arsenal.

Monday, September 30, 2013

R-Squared: A Game-Changer for Library Conferences

This post originally appeared on Information Space, the blog of the iSchool at Syracuse University, on 19 September 2012.

Last week, over three hundred librarians transplanted themselves from their home locations and gathered in Telluride & Mountain Village, Colorado for R-Squared: the Risk and Reward conference. Self-declared risk-takers, they spent three days at high altitude forging a new dedication to entrepreneurial thinking in the library setting.
Joining one of four custom tracks – Creative Spaces, Culture, Abundant Community, and Customer Curiosity – they prepared for a journey that they knew would be a dynamic experience, but no one could have expected just how excellent the conference would be. The conference generated a lot of buzz, fully deserved, and I expect that as time goes on we’ll all start seeing disruptive ideas that found their incubator up in the mountains this September.
At more than 9,500 feet above sea level, Mountain Village, Colorado provided a stunning backdrop for the conference. A short gondola ride up over the mountain from Telluride, we found ourselves surrounded by phenomenal views and low population density. By choosing Telluride as the location, the R2 organizers forced participants to take their first risk: getting there. My trip involved a series of flights on progressively smaller planes until I ended up in the 19-seater headed over the Rockies to Telluride. Soon enough, we were on the ground and settling in, trying madly to acclimate to the change in altitude and playing “spot the librarian”; remarkably difficult with this subset of the profession!
I’ve made it to a number of library conferences this year, and they all attracted their own populations. At R-Squared, though, the attendees self-selected into a vibrant, active population, all of whom were willing to dive right in, get their hands dirty, and figure out a course of action. The conference was designed to be a unique experience, and all of the tracks took people out of their comfort zones in one way or another. The difference here, though, is that everyone leapt from their comfort zones with a vengeance, chasing risks to enjoy their inherent rewards.
Every track allowed for that sort of exploration; every track pushed participants to strive for lofty goals in little time, learning just how much can be accomplished with a plan, a team, and a deadline. In my session, we explored the entire pre-brainstorming process and transformed a week of library events, all in a single morning! Other sessions hunted for information spaces out in Mountain Village, explored the possibilities of community expertise, and looked for disruptive innovations to challenge staid thought patterns. The keynote speakers that opened and closed the conference implored us to remember that we are the voice of change–and we should be.
Those changes are going to build, slowly, but R-Squared was the catalyst. We’ve all returned home, some with longer trips than others, and now have to begin the process of applying what we learned in the mountains. The real reason R2 was such a fantastic event is not because of anything that happened in Colorado, though the adventures we had will not be forgotten easily. Rather, R2 brought together an incredible group of people, and showed them what a difference can be made when we all work together. The ongoing conversations will change the nature of librarianship.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Toads and Tinkering

Lots of ideas swirling around my head at the moment, so I'd better begin at the beginning.

Tonight, I found a toad in the garage. I grabbed it to take it outside, and on the way to the yard I stumbled across a red-back salamander. My brain supplied the binomial nomenclature, the product of a few too many hours spent drilling Latin into my head for my classes at Franklin Pierce, and I had a brief moment of longing to be back in undergrad.

It's a cliche that the four years of college are "the best years" of life. Ignoring the incredibly depressing idea that the six or seven decades after age 22 can't approach the same heights of "glory," not to mention the fact that many college experiences are filled with stress, depression, insecurity, and confusion.

What really gets to me is the idea that we can never recapture the attitudes and experiences of undergrad. Certainly, my experience was formative--college was the first time I really had a chance to be on my own, with all the decisions about how I wanted my life to look. I was able to try many things, fail at some, succeed at others, and with still others decide halfway through that I didn't like the look of things and change course.

In library school, I was exposed to the maker movement. While I'd come across mentions of it before, only in the last two years have I been surrounded by people with a constant aim to tinker with the world. It's been refreshing, and inspiring, but it was still "school" again. Does the "best years" cliche somehow require an educational environment? Now that I've graduated, is it all downhill from here?

No. Making/hacking/tinkering is all about curiosity, and the same attitude I developed while crawling in the woods looking for salamanders in undergrad will continue to keep me learning, keep me hunting for more. Others might find a path to the same realization from a particularly inspiring professor, a chance DIY project, or the understanding that by simple, direct action the world came be improved in a thousand tiny ways. Wondering what those ways might be can only give fuel to the fire.

Libraries are a natural place to serve that curiosity, to feed the flame until it becomes an inferno. Certainly, the recent surge in library makerspaces shows one side of that train of thought. Libraries in general have a responsibility to provide access to the information a community needs, and the information a community holds, even intangibly. More than that, I believe that librarians have a duty to inspire. Now, it requires a deft touch--"teachable moments" will be detected and ignored--but we can succeed. We must! Librarians are a corps of people dedicated to lifelong learning, and our very presence can assist (if not cause) great things. We tend to hack our communities, connecting the people who need to be connected, and paying attention so as not to miss anything.

In conclusion, I choose to believe my "best years" are still to come--and that there will be lots of them. I'm still curious, and through librarianship I hope to find plenty of others who want to follow their own curiosity. Wanna join me?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Welcome, New Librarians!

This post originally appeared on Information Space, the blog of the iSchool at Syracuse University on 3 September 2012.

I’ve seen a bunch of posts across the blogosphere welcoming the new class of librarians; who am I to buck the trend? Congratulations! You’ve embarked on an exciting career in the information world.
That said, I remember how overwhelming the first month can be. Here’s how I handled it.
Look for Advice
Checklists are useful. There’s a lot to do during the first semester, and many people have different ideas of what to prioritize. Hack Library School has a series of Library School Starter Kit posts; When I started out, this one was super-helpful.
Besides looking for blogs, get to know your adviser, and the other faculty members you like. Having someone to ask when you aren’t sure exactly in which direction to head can be a lifesaver.
Get Connected
Network with your classmates, as soon as you can. You never know who might end up giving you a reference someday, and library school is better with colleagues you enjoy.
See if there’s a student chapter of ALA or SLA at your school. It’s never too early to get involved with a professional organization! Everyone you meet will be an example; hopefully, most will be good examples, but don’t get discouraged if you encounter some negativity. Joining ALA and/or SLA will give you access to librarians who are already working, and most people I’ve met through the professional organizations enjoy giving advice and sharing their experiences.
I mean this in two different ways. First, there’s no one true way to find success in library school, just as there’s no single path to follow once you’re in the field. Take an experimental approach; what works for you? Where does your passion take you? Tech? Education? Early Literacy? If you don’t know where you want to end up, start trying things, early and often. You’ll figure it out.
Second, librarianship needs people willing to experiment. Desperately. Don’t be shy: question everything. “We’ve always done it that way” should NEVER be an acceptable answer. Ours is an ancient occupation, but change is a constant. Newcomers have the freshest eyes; you’ll see things that “seasoned” professionals will take as writ. Stick to your guns if something doesn’t make sense to you, and find an answer.
Have Fun!
This is the most important part. Enjoy what you do. Library school is an adventure–it should be worth embarking upon.
What else are you doing to get adjusted to library school? Let us know in the comments!

Monday, September 16, 2013


This post originally appeared on Information Space, the blog of the iSchool at Syracuse University, on 3 August 2012.

What do you get if you take five eager students with diverse interests in librarianship, mix them up with some carefully-chosen readings and classwork, and transplant them to Tuscany for two weeks in the summer? You get a fantastic experience! Led by the fantastic Dr. Sarah Webb, Alec, Ben, Danielle, Sarah, and I all signed up for the iSchool’s Florence pilot program. I didn’t know quite what to expect, but I think I can speak for all of us when I say the reality is exceeding our wildest dreams.
This past Saturday, we assembled our merry band at the doors of Villa Morghen, nestled in the hills northeast of Florence. In less than a week so far, we’ve toured five libraries and a museum in two cities, joined a multinational course on digital librarianship, and still had time to have our own class discussions over gelati.
Every day, as we add more information zones to our list, we gain more context for our discussions, and the value of studying out in the field becomes apparent. When talking about the value of original documents, it helps when you’ve spent the morning looking at the Raphaels and Botticellis you’ve studied throughout your life, but hadn’t seen in person. Talking about the need for preservation becomes somewhat more apparent when you’ve held a book or six from the 17th century. Talking about world heritage gains a new meaning when you’ve stood amidst a multinational, multi-century collection of books that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
Taking action is easier when you’ve seen what issues you can address/what problems you may be able to solve/what solutions you can offer, firsthand.
I’m sure you’ll be hearing from all of us in the coming weeks as we spend our time here discussing International Librarianship, visiting every library and museum we can get our hands on, eating some AMAZING food, and writing about the whole thing for credit!  Keep an eye on our personal blogs and on the Twitter hashtag #SUiSchoolFirenze to find out what we’re up to.
We’re looking forward to the rest of the journey–I hope you’ll look forward to following our trip!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Disconnessione per una pausa: Staying out-of-touch in Italy

This post originally appeared on Information Space, the blog of the iSchool at Syracuse University, on 30 July 2012.

iSchoolers are all over the place this summer! Many of us are finishing internships far from the bounds of Syracuse proper, Sam is backflipping his way across the globe, and I’m one of five students studying and talking about international librarianship for two weeks in una delle più belle città del mondo: Florence, Italy. Unlike Sam, though, I deliberately chose to disconnect when I left the states. Here’s why:
Traveling abroad, for work, study, or pleasure, requires a change in perceptions–a change that can be harder to make if the old ways are reinforced by regular contact with them. The five of us (Six, if you count our professor) are already going to be an enclave of Syracuse patterns in Europe, no matter how much we might wish to expose ourselves to solely Italian language and culture. I thought that having a smartphone or a tablet would serve as just another barrier to true immersion.
We’re encouraged to stay in contact, to work publicly, to keep tweeting; but I’m a proponent of living in the moment. Yes, I’m reflecting on things, and writing, and sharing my thoughts as blog posts, but there’s something to be said for lingering over a conversation for hours, enjoying the company of my fellows, and digesting the topic at hand (along with some phenomenal food) without rushing off to get it on twitter. Staying device-less during the days requires me to be present in a way I never am when there’s an entire network to jack into just waiting in my pocket.
I’m so reliant on the network, constantly available as an information source, news feed, and entertainment system, that it’s good to have a reminder that I can live without. In fact, if it comes right down to it, I have to admit that my smartphone is a distraction–I do better work when I’m not constantly checking for notifications. While I enjoy the half-dozen or so smartphone-facilitated conversations I’m involved with most days I’m in the states (Email, SMS, or Tweet-based), taking a short sabbatical from them lets me focus on the things I want to do. As with meditation, half the battle is clearing away extraneous influences and letting the unheard voices take their turn. In our world of information overload, bucking the trend keeps me sane.
Admittedly, I do have contact–a trusty netbook and a wifi connection for the evenings and early mornings–but if I wasn’t required to do some writing and research for class, I’d likely have left that at home as well. Don’t get me wrong, I love being connected; sometimes, though, leaving the tethers behind and reveling in the freedom of being on your own is pure, unadulterated joy.
Have you considered going on a communications hiatus? What decisions did you make? Let us know in the comments.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Halfway There: Three surprises in my first year

This post originally appeared on Information Space, the blog of the iSchool at Syracuse University, on 12 June 2012.

It’s the end of the beginning for me–with my finals turned in last week, I’ve officially done everything I can to finish out my first year in graduate school! Now it’s time to take a breather, start packing, and head off for a summer in which I’ll be working and learning in three states and two countries.
While I can’t wait for summer, I tend to find the end of an academic year is a great time for reflection. Here’s what surprised me the most:
It’s really hard to be interdisciplinary:
At my undergrad, I was in three radically different departments, and I knew a bunch of other people who were multi-disciplinary as well. Especially when I picked a field as wide-ranging as Library and Information Science, I expected to find a similar mix of people–people who took classes in one building while working in another and hanging out with friends from yet a third field. Here, though, I’m finding that the academic departments are much more focused, especially at the graduate level, and it’s a constant challenge to stay interdisciplinary. It’s worth it, though–I joined a chorus my first week on campus, and through the University Singers I’ve made great friends outside of the iSchool and gotten to know some incredibly passionate, inspiring faculty members. I moved to Syracuse to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by such a large institution–why limit your experience to one building?
Your major doesn’t define you:
Even for those students who spend all of their time in one building, at the graduate level the experiences can vary so wildly, “what’s your major?” won’t tell you much. “What are you interested in?” “What do you study?” and “Where’s your research focus?” are much better questions. Everyone I’ve met so far in the iSchool is more than happy to talk about the things that keep them up at night, and get them out of bed in the morning. Going for a masters, let alone a Ph.D., denotes a level of passion about something that makes for great conversations. Finding out what drives someone is a great starting place to get to know your colleagues.
Books are awesome…but not why I’m here:
Okay, full disclosure: This one wasn’t a total shock, but I still wasn’t quite sure how it would turn out back in September. Don’t get me wrong, books are great. Print books are a tactile experience that’s hard to beat, and long-form born-digital writings have awesome potential–but that’s not my area of interest. I want to connect people to the information they need, whether that info is in a book or on Wikipedia or contained within someone else’s realm of experience. I like knowing how to tweak the tools we use, and the design we see, and I’m starting to learn enough programming to do so! This LIS degree I’m earning will prepare me to do some things with books, for sure, but the list of skills I’ll have that are completely unrelated to books is an order of magnitude larger than the one focused on book-handling. I knew that coming in, but I think some of my classmates were surprised when Professor Lankes suggested that a class in database administration should be required, or when other faculty members recommended learning to code.
You’ll be hearing from me on my travels over the summer. For now, suffice it to say that I’m in a good place–I’m still loving it here in Syracuse, and I can’t wait for the second half of my degree, next year. If you run into me in person and ask what surprised me the most this year, you might get different answers than the ones above, but these were some of the big ones. Next year will be full of surprises on other levels, I’m sure, but it will be an adventure in the best possible sense. I hope you’ll come along for the ride!

An Interview with iSchool Alum Ben Goldman on Librarianship

This post originally appeared on Information Space, the blog of the iSchool at Syracuse University, on 3 May 2012.

Ben Goldman is a digital archivist at the University of Wyoming, and will shortly be taking a position as Digital Records Archivist at Penn State University, where he will be involved with digital curation and repository development.  Ben is also a 2009 graudate of the School of Information Studies.  He was kind enough to answer some questions for me on life, careers and SU’s iSchool.
1) What is your career, and what aspect of it most surprises you?
Currently, I am a digital archivist at the University of Wyoming’s American Heritage Center, which is a repository of university archives, rare books and manuscript collections. It’s like working in a really, really big special collections library. There are two main aspects to my work. One might be loosely called ‘digital preservation’, but in the jargon of archives, what I am doing is developing practices for the management and preservation of born-digital archival collections, and attempting to address the particular concerns of archives: authenticity, context, etc. The other significant area of work I am engaged in is mass digitization of archival collections.
What surprises me most is how hard I work! Not that I expected to be lazy in this career, but I definitely expected the library field to be paced slower than my previous work in corporate. Not the case at all. There is so much work to be done when it comes to digital library and archives issues, and usually not enough time or resource to do it. I am never lacking for an interesting project or challenge to work on.
2) How were you prepared for your professional life by your iSchool experience?
It would be easy to point to the digital libraries curriculum as being central to the preparation I received at SU, but looking back I realize that a broad range of courses helped prepare me in little ways for all the work I am doing now, including the Management course, and the Planning, Marketing and Assessment course.
3) As students, we’re given lots of advice. What was the best piece of advice you received? Is there anything you wish someone had told you?
I know finding work is one concern all library school students share. Dr. Megan Oakleaf told me to start the job search as early as one year before my graduation date, since I was pursuing work in academic libraries. That was probably the best piece of advice anyone gave me. Starting early helped me understand what jobs were out there, where they were, what they were looking for. It helped guide so many of my education choices and gave me ample time to polish my credentials and develop useful contacts.
The piece of advice I wish someone had told me: get as much experience outside the classroom as possible. As much as the coursework can lay the foundation for work in libraries, it’s amazing how much more you learn actually having your feet on the ground in a library. And when you’re one of 50 new graduates applying for an open job, experience is a significant thing that can distinguish you from everyone else. My  advice to library students would probably be to take a broad range of topical courses, enough to make you conversant in a number of different areas, but to focus heavily on getting work experience (through internships, part-time work, volunteer work, whatever) in whatever area you are interested in having a job in later.
4) What was the most valuable experience you had in the iSchool or at SU? A class, a project, an extracurricular?
The courses I was least excited about when I signed up for them were the ones that have been the most beneficial on the job. I really wasn’t interested in the Management course, and I went into the Library Planning course thinking I’d probably never be in a leadership position that required me to do any planning or project management. In reality, this stuff is relevant every day on the job. The Library Planning course (IST 613, I think) was the best course I took at the iSchool. I give the iSchool a lot of credit for recognizing that preparing library professionals is about more than teaching them MARC, or how to conduct a reference interview.
5) Why did you choose library school?
Certainly not to make money!  I was burnt out and rudderless after eight years of working in corporate IT.
6) How do you keep up with the field? Who/what do you read? Professional organizations?
I really enjoy going to conferences. I think there is so much energy and collaboration happening in professional library and archive organizations–I think it’s more evident than in other fields, to be sure. For anyone interested in finding an academic library or archive job, I find that OCLC’s Research Libraries Group has their finger on the pulse of a lot of critical issues and they are connected to all the movers and shakers in the field. I try to follow them as much as possible.
7) As a new LIS student, what questions should I be asking? Where’s information going?
Recently I had a colleague say to me that he had this vision that his job would one day be entirely non-technical, which kind of surprised me. I think library professionals need to engage technology issues with a critical eye, but I find there is still so much resistance to technology (and to progressive trends more generally) in our field, from experienced and new professionals alike. So it’s not surprising to me that we are so far behind on really important issues like digital preservation, like making our holdings available online. One doesn’t need to be a technologist or proficient with coding languages to contribute to the future digital directions of our profession, so I would hope new LIS students wouldn’t dismiss digital issues too quickly, regardless of their professional interests.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Online Tools and Tips for Group Collaboration

This post originally appeared on Information Space, the blog of the iSchool at Syracuse University, on 26 March 2012.

This semester, I (and about 30 of my colleagues) enrolled in IST613: Library Planning, Marketing, and Assessment . This is a course in which balance is key–student teams work with host libraries to write project plans, marketing plans, assessment plans, and literature reviews in relatively short succession, and we’re constantly looking ahead and revising older work. It’s something akin to standing on a roof on a windy day, singing at the top of your lungs in an unfamiliar language while trying to control pitch, tone, and tempo within a hairsbreadth of perfection. Needless to say, it’s a bit of a challenge, and exhilarating. One of the biggest challenges is simply organizing projects with your team, as there’s certainly enough work to go around!
My group has found that our collaboration is greatly helped with a number of tools, and I thought I would share a few of the best with you all.
The Google Suite
We started with Google Docs, which forms a practical workspace for us to record our ideas and wrestle with content for each of our plans. The four of us share the documents, and the ability for simultaneous work afforded by the system comes in handy on a few levels. First off, it’s great to host each document in the cloud so that we can all work on it from any terminal we please, at any time. I’ve signed in through the computer labs, edited from a netbook, written from my laptop, and referenced it from my smartphone.  Also useful is the ability to collaborate in real-time, virtually. Getting four people with radically different schedules together in person is a challenge, but working virtually is a great alternative, and Google Docs makes it easy. Also, working within the Googleverse allows for Google Chat, which is one of the most streamlined, sleek IM applications I’ve seen. (Also, don’t forget email! For non-timely or lengthy communication, email still reigns, as far as I’m concerned.)
Once documents are closer to finished, we pull them off the cloud into a Word or Open Office document, and share them via Dropbox. I’ve known a lot of people who love Dropbox to keep their files synchronized across multiple devices, but I think the ability to share a single folder among multiple people is even more useful. Once we have our final document in a relatively finished format, it’s super-handy to be able to access it from anywhere, and Dropbox feels a lot more stable than Google Docs–it doesn’t allow for simultaneous collaboration, but that’s a good thing once we’ve all agreed on a final draft.
Finally, it’s impossible for me to write a productivity post without mentioning Evernote. Though we’re not using it to share thoughts and notes as a group, I use it almost daily to keep track of research, class notes, post ideas for my blogs, things I need to check out at the library or across the web, and more! Specifically, I love that I can grab quick notes or snapshots on my phone, and have them waiting for me when I get back to my laptop. Or vice-versa: I’ve even used it for grocery lists–I can write them item-by-item when I think of things, and it’s all waiting on my phone when I get to the store!
The semester’s getting hectic, but Google Docs, Evernote, and Dropbox are helping me and my team stay on top of things. What are your favorite collaborative (or personal) apps and tools? Let us know in the comments–I’d love to hear what other people are using!

An Interview with iSchool Alum Erin Dorney on Librarianship.

This post originally appeared on Information Space, the blog of the iSchool at Syracuse University, on 23 February 2012.

Erin Dorney is the Outreach Librarian for the Millersville University Library, and a 2008 graduate of the MS-LIS program here at the School of Information Studies. She has also recently joined the crew at In the Library with the Lead Pipe, and maintains a blog at Library Scenester as well as tweeting @libscenester. She was kind enough to answer some questions for me on life, careers, and SU’s iSchool.
1) What is your career, and what aspect of it most surprises you?
I am the outreach librarian at Millersville University, a regional comprehensive Pennsylvania state school with a 2010 FTE of approximately 6,970 undergrads and 583 graduate students. I’ve been at Millersville since the summer of 2008, just after my graduation from the iSchool. As outreach librarian, I provide leadership in marketing and promotion of library initiatives, programs, activities, resources, and services; design and coordinate library communications in conjunction with University Communications and Marketing; maintain social networks and create library identity guidelines; develop library outreach program and campus collaborations including library involvement in freshman orientation, new faculty orientation, information technology fair, Student Senate, and orientation team leaders. I also provide research help and library instruction for undergraduate and graduate courses; serve as subject librarian to the departments of Communication & Theatre and Art & Design.
The most surprising aspect of my career at Millersville has been the wide variety of job responsibilities. In a given week, I can be found experimenting with non-library specific technologies to investigate how they can make the academic library experience better, applying nonprofit and commercial marketing principles to library resources, events and services, and last but not least, doing traditional library work (providing research help, teaching classes, collection development). The most rewarding aspect of any of these tasks is working directly with the student body. I continually seek out opportunities to bring students into our workflows and decision making, including supervising undergraduate and graduate interns, employing student assistants, gathering feedback and brainstorming with our Library Student Advisory Board (LSAB).
2) How were you prepared for your professional life by your iSchool experience?
The iSchool prepared me by pushing initiative and self-direction. It began with time management and discipline in my online courses and grew into intrinsic motivation that has time and time again pushed me to become engaged in the broader conversation of librarianship and information. On both global and local levels, I have become an active member in professional organizations and am driven to succeed because I truly believe there is a place for librarians in our new technological age of information. No one is going to simply invite us to the table; it’s up to us to courageously step up and show the world what we have to offer. The iSchool prepared me with the skills and background to make that step.
3) As students, we’re given lots of advice. What was the best piece of advice you received? Is there anything you wish someone had told you?
The best piece of advice I was given as a student was this: If you see a problem, provide a solution. This mantra has served me time and again as a librarian. There are far too many people out there complaining about the state of information. It’s not enough to just point out the issues – we need to bring creative solutions to the table or we are just part of the problem.
4) What was the most valuable experience you had in the iSchool or at SU? A class, a project, an extracurricular?
The most valuable experience I had in the iSchool program was the ability to take classes asynchronously online while I worked in an academic library. I took 2-3 online classes a semester and worked part time at the Rochester Institute of Technology as a staff member. It was incredible to see the intersection of classroom theory and the everyday workings of a library. I was able to test ideas out, get feedback from librarians, and build my personal network. I also did an internship at the close of my MLIS program which provided an additional opportunity for hands-on working. I would encourage any student entering the information field to get as much on-the-job experience as possible, ideally simultaneously with their coursework. You can try out different areas of specialization, meet friends and mentors, and most importantly, witness how environmental context can impact the theoretical framework the iSchool equips students with.
5) Why did you choose library school?
As an undergraduate student at St. John Fisher College, I worked in a few different areas of the campus library, including periodicals, circulation, and shelving. I began to realize how much I enjoyed helping people and connecting them to the information they needed. I also identified a variety of unique skills that I could bring to the table as a new librarian, including graphic design, writing, marketing, and technology. Many of these were skills I was learning in my undergraduate program of study (Communication/Journalism & English) and I realized that I could combine all of my interests as a librarian. After graduating, I investigated local LIS programs and decided to attend Syracuse based on the availability of online classes and its reputation as a technologically-forward thinking institution.
6) How do you keep up with the field? Who/what do you read? Professional organizations?
I keep up through my membership with ALA (particularly with ACRL and NMRT) as well as the Pennsylvania State Library Association. I try to attend conferences and do committee work to learn, meet new people, and improve libraries. I also participate in the conversation surrounding issues and innovations in our field by blogging about my experience as a librarian, in the hopes that other students or new librarians may be able to learn from both my successes and my failures. Some blogs I would recommend to iSchool students include:
7) As a new LIS student, what questions should I be asking? Where’s information going?
Information is going everywhere! Whether we like it or not, the future won’t be neatly organized into schemes or fit into our traditional silos and constructs. At some stage, we’ll need to embrace the mess and investigate points at which libraries can insert themselves into the chaos to make access to and evaluation of information more seamless and effective. As an academic librarian, changes to the infoscape signal to me that we need to open our doors even wider in terms of partnerships on campus and much needed changes in scholarly communication. It’s an amazing field to be a part of – never a dull moment!

Monday, August 19, 2013

A New Take on Professional Development

This post originally appeared on Information Space, the blog of the iSchool at Syracuse University, on 10 February 2012.

Even as a library student, “professional development” seems to have an ominous ring to it. Visions of mediocre webinars and uninspired speakers compete with the certainty that professional development will be expected, even required, as we move into the library field. However, that sort of thinking is outmoded. Change your expectations, and professional development becomes diverse, interesting, and something to get excited about.
Take Advantage of Learning Opportunities
Every profession has a skill set; in library-land, these skills include community relations, reference, and library advocacy; web development, blogging, and other virtual ventures; organizational and cataloguing skills; and dozens more! While there might be certain minimum standards for entry, even professions that require advanced education don’t expect practitioners to know everything right off the bat. Professional development should supplement your knowledge, build on your education, and keep you current within your field.
At Syracuse, there are myriad opportunities to explore. Lectures, brown-bags, student symposia–informal and formal concerts and talks are given nearly every day during the academic year. Other universities are much the same, and often their programs are accessible to the local community—check with your local college to see what might be offered!
Sharing Knowledge
Something I’ve noticed about librarians is their willingness to share with and teach each other, and that seems to hold true throughout long careers. That sharing “counts” as professional development, even if people don’t think of it that way. If you have a colleague you especially respect, find out if they’d share their insight with you.
Graduation, even from a terminal program like the M.S. in Library and Information Science, marks the beginning, not the end—after a basic foundation, where do you want to build? What interests haven’t been explored yet? The art of professional development lies in (re)discovering curiosity, and holding on to it for dear life. Once you’re curious, find people passionate about those topics to answer your questions, and the “professional development” will happen without you even noticing.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Five Important Factors in Your Internship Hunt

This post originally appeared on Information Space, the blog of the iSchool at Syracuse University, on 19 January 2012.

It’s time to gear up for the spring semester, and for many of us, that means finding the perfect internship. But where do you even begin? Here are five things to consider when you’re weighing internship options:
      • The Network: Will your internship give you an entry into your field? Will you meet people who can help you along, as you progress into your career? This isn’t to say that internships are all about name-dropping, or climbing the corporate ladder, but a good internship will build your network of contacts, and the best internships will also give you a mentor or advisor who can help you stay on-track as you start your journey into the professional world.
      • Transferrable skills: We all gain skills as we move through life, and we’re constantly refining and redirecting those skills as we enter each new position. Good internships should give you an opportunity to refine the skills you already have, and direct them in new ways. For example, before I was a student at the iSchool, I worked in a non-profit, and among other things I managed their social media efforts. These days, my professional goals have changed— I’d like to be in the corporate world, possibly still working with social media and community management. Because of that, I want to find an internship that will help me take the skills I already have and apply them to a new area. Mentors (see point 1) are great resources for this.
      • New skills: Perhaps the biggest single reason people think to take internships are the new skills they might gain. Especially with unpaid internships, the assumption is that you’ll earn valuable experience and get new skills in lieu of payment. The real question becomes, then: what new skills do you need to gain? (Yes, this is another good question for your mentor, or for your academic advisors. Or for anyone else in your field. Or anyone you talk to. #YouGetTheIdea)
      • Resume builders: Will an internship give you project experience, or will you be fetching coffee and sorting mail? If the latter, it might still be worth it for networking reasons, but optimal experiences will grant you the chance to solve actual problems in your field, and will also let you take credit for those fixes when you leave. (References, anyone?) It’s becoming more and more important to have a solid resume or CV when you’re applying for jobs—even first jobs—and internships are easy ways to add to yours. Make sure you’re working on interesting projects, and if you’re not? Ask for one.
      • Insight: Do you really want to be doing the things you THINK you want to be doing? Internships are valuable opportunities to find out! Try and intern in a similar setting to the one you think you want to work in. If you hate it, that’s…really good to know. If you love it, that’s also good to know, and there are plenty of things to learn in between. Maybe you loved what you were doing but hated the company—so you’ll know what sort of setting to avoid. On the contrary, maybe you loved the setting and your job was fine, but you did a stint with the art department and now you want to start doing information design. The world is interdisciplinary, and internships help you figure out which threads you want to pull together.
So how do you go about getting them? At the iSchool, we have our very own career services office, and it’s chock-full of great folks who can help! Most colleges and universities maintain similar offices, and it never hurts to network! Tell everyone you know that you’re looking for internships, and you might just be surprised what you find.
How would you optimize your internship, or help others optimize theirs? Let us know in the comments!

Monday, August 5, 2013

One Librarian’s Resolution for 2012: Battle the Stereotypes

This post originally appeared on Information Space, the blog of the iSchool at Syracuse University, on 4 January 2012.

WHEREAS, Librarianship is a changing field, and;
WHEREAS, too many people inside the profession seem content to rest on old habits, and;
WHEREAS, too few people outside the profession know what lies on the cutting edge;
BE IT RESOLVED, that I, Christopher Daniel Warren Lawton, refuse to be pigeonholed, and further resolve to spend 2012 combating the stereotypes of librarians wherever I encounter them.
In the last year—ever since I started talking about getting a degree in Library & Information Science—I’ve been constantly faced by the assumptions other people have about librarians, and librarianship. Even in the School of Information Studies, some of my colleagues are often surprised when I talk about the sheer breadth and depth of my degree.
Librarianship is an odd paradigm. We are at once expected to be both generalists and specialists, knowing something about nearly everything imaginable, and knowing a great deal about a particular topic of interest when people ask us for detailed information. Certainly, we learn and practice skills to help in that regard (yet another reason why you need a master’s degree to be a librarian), but even with experience, it’s not always easy.
Complicating things even further is an inherited series of stereotypes that every new librarian has to address. I’ve started to feel like a broken record, constantly advocating for a new approach for librarianship—unfortunately, some of the resistance even comes from practicing librarians, who seem to think that “We’ve never done it that way!” is a perfectly valid reason to dismiss ideas, innovation, and enthusiasm stemming from librarians-in-training.
Here’s the deal: I’m one of those librarians in training. I’m not exactly shy, and I’m already a contradiction to some of those stereotypes. How?
I’m male, and relatively young. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked about becoming a librarian, only to be met by raised eyebrows. Even today, the stereotype of librarians is that they are women of a certain age, gathering dust behind a stack of books nobody will read. My cohort at the iSchool is one of the youngest they’ve ever had, with a number of my classmates entering directly from undergrad, or (like me) after just a year or two in the working world. Librarianship will change, as we change it—we’re a generation (or two) younger than many of the people we’ll soon be working alongside, with all of the differences that implies. We all can learn a great deal from each other.
I don’t have my nose stuffed in a book all the time. Or even most of the time. I read, and enjoy reading, but I also enjoy playing card, board, video, & tabletop games; writing, performing, & listening to music; and more! I read, but most of the time I’m not reading print books—instead, I’m following blogs, keeping up with my friends’ posts in the social universe, or link-diving on wikis, learning about whatever might strike my fancy.
I’m interested in technology. In keeping with “Books aren’t everything,” I’m curious about the future of technology. I like learning about haptics, guessing what might be next for information creation & retrieval, trying new apps, finding the coolest resources for my own use, and then sharing them with everyone else I know. I’m interested in web development, in coding. I like making things, both offline and in the digital space—and I don’t just mean knitting new socks for my cat.
I don’t feel forced to work in a library. More than that, I’m not sure I WANT to work in a library. Certainly, I’m becoming a librarian, and I will practice librarianship, but that could be with a library, embedded on a project team, in a hackerspace somewhere, or beyond. Librarianship is not so far removed from information architecture, information management, info design, taxonomy, education, leadership, or advocacy—I could easily see myself in any of those areas as well. Library & Information Science, as a degree, amplifies the skill set I already have, and gives me the tools to add to those skills.
I enjoy challenging assumptions, and I’m sure I’ll keep doing so throughout 2012 and beyond. Who’s with me? What stereotypes do you see in librarianship? Do you fit them? Do you break them? Let us know in the comments.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Three Awesome Databases to Browse for Fun

This post originally appeared on Information Space, the blog of the iSchool at Syracuse University, on 27 December 2011.

Part of the fun for a college student on winter break is having time to explore.  The databases available through the Syracuse University Library are manifold, and I’ve been having a great time poking through the ones that have nothing to do with my current degree. Part of the reason librarianship is such a great field is that it allows for multi-disciplinary learning and varied approaches to problem-solving. However, the downside to this is that the only way to be a good librarian is to know something about nearly everything. It’s the challenge, and the best part, of my vocation.
Information is meant to be shared! I want to highlight some resources that can grab you, and keep you clicking-through and checking out more images, more sound files, more articles—the sort of databases that can make you say, “Cool!”
Here are three fun databases to check out:
ArtStor Digital Library:
The ArtStor Digital Library “provides more than one million digital images in the arts, architecture, humanities, and sciences with accessible suite of software tools for teaching and research.” It’s a searchable archive of images, and collections span a sizable range of topics. The native interface takes a bit of getting used to, as with most databases, but it’s time well-spent.  This database aggregates some phenomenal collections, but also provides a host of other tools to get you started. Be sure to check out the subject guides, which can provide some search terms and collections of note in most areas of interest. I looked at the ‘Maps & Geography’ and ‘History of Medicine & Natural Science’ guides—from Renaissance navigational charts to anatomical illustrations from the dawn of modern medicine, I found some cool stuff!
Smithsonian Global Sound:
My undergraduate background is in music, among other things, so I was incredibly excited to stumble upon this database while working on a project this year. Smithsonian Global Sound hosts recordings of music from around the world, including,
“music owned by the non-profit Smithsonian Folkways Recordings label and the archival audio collections of the legendary Folkways Records, Cook, Dyer-Bennet, Fast Folk, Monitor, Paredon and other labels. It also includes music recorded around the African continent by Dr. Hugh Tracey for the International Library of African Music (ILAM) at Rhodes University as well as material collected by recordists on the South Asian subcontinent from the Archive Research Centre for Ethnomusicology (ARCE), sponsored by the American Institute for Indian Studies.”
What this means for us is a searchable archive of world music, available to us whenever we please. It’s great for musicians trying to tackle music from a new culture, or for listeners who want something a little different. There are a number of recordings that sound like they’re straight out of the songcatchers’ equipment—check it out!
National Agricultural Library:
The National Agricultural Library, an arm of the US Department of Agriculture, maintains a number of special collections on their website that are worth checking out. Their “spotlights” show off some of the resources that the government can bring to bear, and I found myself reading articles and other content about things I didn’t think I’d find interesting (Entomologist C. V. Riley & Integrated Pest Management, for example). AGRICOLA, the online catalog for the NAL, is also worth checking out, and has been recommended to me by a number of people as a good resource for those interested in nutrition & food science, and agricultural studies. Also of note are the image galleries—enjoy!
What are your favorite resources, and how did you find them? Let us know in the comments!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Top Five Things for LIS Students to Enjoy Over Winter Break

This post originally appeared on Information Space, the blog of the iSchool at Syracuse University, on 13 December 2011.

Here at the School of Information Studies, the semester is rapidly coming to a close, and I’m sure I’m not alone in starting to look forward to the winter break. Besides visiting with friends and family, and celebrating a number of holidays, here are the five things I can’t wait to do:
  • Catch up on reading! Life in the iSchool is a constant series of things to read, and I’m definitely looking forward to taking some time for more casual reading over break. That said, I’m also looking forward to catching up on the various blogs I read—librarians, I’ve noticed, tend to write a great deal. I use Google Reader to aggregate all of the RSS feeds I’m subscribed to. I love the simplicity of the user interface, and it’s great to have everything I want to follow in one place. I use it for web comics, my classmates’ blogs (and my own), library (and library-school) blogs, (such as the iSchool’s own Dave Lankes’) and a few other things, too.
  • Figure out internship opportunities! It’s time for me to update my resume, start building a CV, and start applying for summer internships. (Any suggestions? Let me know in the comments!) The iSchool has lots of resources for me to use, including our very own Career Services office, and I look forward to discovering the best fit for me.
  • Have fun! The holidays wouldn’t be complete without a celebration or two, and I can’t wait to enjoy them! I’m already getting good at answering the question, “So why do we need librarians around?” and I’ve been surprised a few times by people who are very familiar with information science in a number of venues—it never hurts to network! There’s nothing wrong with talking about the things you’re most passionate about, and I’ve already found that people will come out of the woodwork to give you a hand when you’re excited about something. I have every intention of taking advantage of each opportunity to meet someone new—you never know who might have exactly the advice you need.
  • Visit libraries! It’s a funny thing about doing a degree in Library & Information Science—I haven’t had much chance to visit other libraries! Sure, we’ve gone on tours in most of my classes, and I’ve seen great “example” libraries in the academic, public, school, and special-library worlds, but nothing can really compare to just poking around the stacks, hanging out, and getting a feel for the way a particular library actually works (or doesn’t!). Now that I have a little bit of experience under my belt, I’m going to start visiting libraries to see what makes them tick, and start talking with more librarians to find the ones for whom it’s more than just a job.
  • Relax! Break is, after all, meant to be a break. I have some plans, and some goals, but I also want to be sure to recharge the ol’ batteries before next semester begins. When I’m in school, I stay plenty busy, and even when I’m OUT of school there’s no shortage of cool stuff to do. So I’m planning in time to not-plan—crazy, right? Even just a day, with no phone, no computer, just me. It’s just the ticket!
Do you have any exciting plans for break? Let us know in the comments.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Thanksgiving: Information Science for Hungry People

This post originally appeared on Information Space, the blog of the iSchool at Syracuse University, on 24 November 2011.

Things are gearing up for the Thanksgiving meal, and I’ve recently realized that Thanksgiving can work as a pretty perfect analogy for information sciences. At the risk of stretching my metaphors beyond all recognition, let’s take a trek through a feast of information…
There are five things required for a good celebration:
Good Friends: Information is social! Just look around at Facebook, Twitter, G+, and any of the niche networks, and you’ll get a sense that it’s just the tip of the iceberg. People are creating and sharing content every chance they get, and the conversations that spark up are every bit as good as those around the thanksgiving table.  Holidays bring us together, and the culture of sharing we’re immersed in can spread that togetherness into the virtual realm. Conversations have been happening over meals for centuries: why stop now?
The Main Meal: Just as good turkey needs an experienced chef, good information is “roasted” from raw data—and the result is delicious! (Don’t forget to baste.) The raw ingredients (data) are blended in particular ways according to specific recipes, and the product (information) is worth consuming. Information scientists work with different kinds of data all the time, but at the core, they’re each learning to cook them into more palatable forms.
Side Dishes: Accompanying that information is a host of other skills; information organization, evaluation, and access, to name just a few! Look at it this way—for thanksgiving dinner, (and the rest of the year) I can’t get nearly enough cranberry sauce. Standard canned, Cranberry-Orange Relish, sugared cranberries, take your pick! I wouldn’t call cranberry sauce a meal, but neither is the meal quite finished without it. In the same way, information is great, but unless you’ve got the skills to accompany that information then you’re not quite ready to serve it up.
Presentation: Information design is just as important as content—bad design will turn information into mush. On the same wavelength, tables look nice if they’re set properly, and they can be set for different people, different meals. Information design and user experience can be and should be tweaked for every situation, but if it’s a well-designed information experience, people will “come back to the table” again and again.
Pie: The sweet finish, and one of the best parts of Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone has their own style when it comes to pie—there are tons of recipes for crusts, fillings, toppings, and more, and it really comes down to personal preference whether you pick cherry, mincemeat, apple or pecan. (I generally try all of them. You know, to be polite.) Information can be handled the same way. Library scientists, information managers, database specialists, and network administrators all have a slightly different flavor when it comes to work style, but they all try to accomplish similar goals. Information scientists want to curate their world, and help their chosen communities access the information they need. We’re the pie—not a piece of it, but the whole thing. We complement the rest of the information world, just as dessert is the perfect finish to a holiday feast.
How are you sharing your feast? What information are you serving up? How have you set your table? Let us know the answers (and what kind of pie you are) in the comments!

Monday, July 8, 2013

48 Hours at NYLA: A Student’s Trip to the 2011 Library Conference

 This post originally appeared on Information Space, the blog of the iSchool at Syracuse University, on 9 November 2011.

I’ve just returned to Syracuse after two packed days at the 2011 New York Library Association conference. The trip was great, Saratoga Springs has a beautiful downtown, I met a bunch of great people and I learned a lot! People have been asking me why librarians bother going to conferences, but I think my schedule speaks for itself.
THURSDAY, November 3rd, 2011
12:00 PM: Arrived at the conference center and headed straight for the exhibition hall. Said hello to the SU School of information Studies booth, then talked with vendors about their offerings—learned about audiobooks, library bindings, jobbers and acquisitions assistance, digitization and tracking tools—too much for one visit!
1:45 PM: “21 More Ideas for 21st Century Libraries,” a presentation given by Kimberly Bolan Cullin (SU alumna ’95) and Rob Cullin.  We looked at some of the coolest ideas showing up in libraries worldwide, from collaborative workspaces to specially-zoned teen, children’s, & reference areas, and started to re-envision the library!
3:00 PM: Got food, explored the area around the conference center. Headed back just in time for the next workshop.
4:00 PM: “Sex in YA fiction: How Far is Too Far?” Lecture by Eric Luper, author of numerous YA novels. Learned a litmus test for sex and other questionable content in Young Adult fiction, and how to judge whether or not a scene is gratuitous. We explored the issues surrounding graphic content in YA that will face librarians as authors explore more radical subject areas.
5:15 PM: Back to exhibition halls to meet up with the iSchool contingent (a bunch of us attended!), and headed to a networking reception at a local restaurant. Met great librarians in every facet of librarianship, and connected with them for the future!
8:00 PM: Homeward bound—Friday’s another long day!
FRIDAY, November 4th, 2011
9:00 AM: Arrived, stopped by the exhibition hall to say hello, and headed to first session!
9:30 AM: “Building a Dynamic Website ROCKS!” This workshop presented a number of tools and strategies for website creation that libraries might find useful. I had already explored most of the tips and resources that were presented, thanks to the coursework here at SU, so I left the presentation a bit early and headed back to the exhibition.
10:15 AM: Spent the rest of the morning concluding my information-gathering in the exhibition hall, but was also excited to see the poster sessions! Two of them especially stood out:
  • LibraryPalooza at the University at Albany, SUNY. It was great to see how the library is introduced to incoming first-years. I was also really glad to see a presentation using the “lightning talk” Pecha Kucha model (Similar to the Ignite format, and a presentation style I can’t wait to try).
  • The Fayetteville Free library has recently embarked on a new venture: the Fayetteville Fab Lab. It’s designed to help people become creators of information, not just consumers, and will feature all sorts of cool gadgets to help people create–with librarians there to guide them!
12:00 PM: Went to get lunch with a few other iSchoolers. It’s great to get to know classmates in the conference setting; it’s very energizing, but casual as well. Then I spent some time with the SU volunteers. NYLA was full of SU alumni this year, and most of them stopped by at least once to say hello. It’s wonderful to see the sort of network I’ll have upon graduation!
2:15 PM: “Teen Spaces Reimagined,” with two SU alums on the panel, discussed the implications on community and library use when teenagers are given their own library space. This was a great panel because both school and public libraries were represented, and all of the presenters mentioned again and again how connected their libraries were to each other. This panel drove home some of the ideas I’ve been hearing in my classes about participatory librarianship—we’re all connected, and librarians are rapidly becoming guides to digital creation and collaboration, not just assisting patrons looking for a new book.
3:45 PM: In keeping with the participatory librarianship theme, my next panel was “Making Music at Your Library,” presenting ways to get libraries involved as venues for the archiving, creating, and presenting of music. I think there’s great potential here—the Far Rockaway branch of the Queens Library has recently introduced a recording studio, and is training young people to use it!
5:00 PM: After the last presentation of the day, I headed down to Mouzon House, a local restaurant, for the Syracuse University iSchool reception. It was wonderful to spend time with alumni, students, faculty, and staff, the food was delicious, and it certainly helped my time at the conference end on a high note!
All in all, NYLA was a great way to get my feet wet, and start learning about professional conferences in librarianship. Can’t wait for next year!

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Little Free Libraries Project Comes to Syracuse!

This post originally appeared on Information Space, the blog of the iSchool at Syracuse University, on 20 October 2011.

I arrived at the Warehouse this weekend not knowing quite what to expect; I was looking forward to a day of conversation and preparing to create Little Free Libraries in Syracuse’s Near West Side. My head is still buzzing with ideas, hopes and designs for the project. The Syracuse Little Free Library Project is a collaboration between the School of Information Studies, the College of Visual & Performing Arts, and the Near West Side Initiative. As part of the interdisciplinary team on the project, I’m excited to be working with people outside of the iSchool, and those inside it too!
9:45 am: Arrive bright-eyed & bushy-tailed (get coffee), meet the other participants as they’re coming in (drink coffee, get more) and get settled in (with coffee).
10:00 am: Greeted by the facilitators (Jaime Snyder, Zeke Leonard, Maarten Jacobs and Jill Hurst-Wahl), we get right to work. After a quick introduction to the concepts behind the Little Free Library Project, and the Syracuse incarnation in particular, we break into smaller groups and start discussions. It’s important to note that every one of the groups included community members, design students from VPA, and iSchool students as well–we kept changing groups around throughout the day. Every facet of the project was represented in every group, every time, throughout the day. The collaboration between members of such different backgrounds was great to see and take part in! We problem-solved as one unit, and could often make up for weaknesses in ways that single discipline teams couldn’t have managed.
Our first topic of conversation was books–classic library material, right? Interestingly, we didn’t start trying to organize them or figure out what books to recommend, but instead the conversations focused on ways that books had affected us. Many of us brought examples of “desert island” books (ones we’d never want to be marooned without) and those helped to spark memories of other books we’d all loved. In my section, people spoke again and again about old favorites or even books to “fight with” because of characters or situations that challenged our perspective.
12:00 pm: Lunch and more brainstorming! This time, the topic was location; we discussed spaces that would make perfect homes for these potential Little Free Libraries. I was surprised to see how similar the “perfect locations” tended to be. Most people agreed that they should be placed in highly-visible locations with plenty of traffic, areas to sit and read, and where you could join neighbors and friends in sharing the books you love. We still have some questions to answer, but we’ve found plenty of common ground for now.
1:00 pm: At this point, we split into small groups and started to work on the next step: the design process! Our interdisciplinary teams came up with some fantastic ideas, and once again we discovered that we had more in common than we thought. We considered colors, materials, shapes, sizes, dimensions, and talked some more about what these Little Libraries might hold (Books? Magazines? Games?). The design team from VPA had plenty of supplies on hand, and each group was able to create a map of their ideas and designs for possible prototypes.
2:30 pm: We reconvened as a large group for the last time to reflect on the day’s work and talk about the next steps. Librarians are armed and ready to consider the collections to “seed” these libraries, designers have the prototypes to make, and residents are hard at work deciding where these libraries should be hosted. The day was deemed a great success, and we left excited for more!
We’ll be meeting together once all of the “homework” is done, so check back to Information Space for more updates on the Syracuse Little Free Library Project.
Do you have any ideas to share about Little Free Libraries? Let us know in the comments!

Monday, June 24, 2013

How to Succeed as a First Semester LIS Student

This post originally appeared on Information Space, the blog of the iSchool at Syracuse University, on 4 October 2011.

In my first few weeks as a student at the School of Information Studies, I’ve been scrambling to figure out the best ways to engage with my classwork, prepare myself for a future career in the information field, and have fun while doing it. This post at Hack Library School lays out some great advice for new librarians, but their suggestions also apply to IM and TNM students, or anyone interested in the information field. So, I’ve compiled a list of some of the best advice I’ve found, been given, or wanted to give about settling in to a new program.
Before You Get to School
  • Start a portfolio: Whether it’s a blog, a website, a collection of works, or even just well-managed social- networking profiles, be prepared to present a public face to the world (and to future employers). Especially at the master’s level, the work we’re doing feeds our careers, and will establish us in the field. Simple ways to do this are to create a site using or, or sign up for Brand-Yourself.
  • Manage your online presence: Know which social networks you’re on, and which ones you should join. Twitter is full of librarians (check out this list), and the #libchat hashtag is a great way to get a bead on the conversation. LinkedIn is also a good way to start reaching out to the people in your discipline—alumni networks are powerful tools, and there’s nothing preventing you from starting to connect with them now.
When You Arrive
  • Set up tools for communication and collaboration: Setting up your campus email is a must, but look to your classmates as well. Information sciences are all about communication and conversation, and it’s important to know where those conversations happen. GoogleDocs and Gmail are both really useful for working on projects, but don’t forget online tools like Facebook, Skype, Twitter, Dropbox, and more! See what people are using to collaborate and hop on board.
  • Meet the faculty: This is good advice for everyone from prospective students to Ph.D’s—getting to know your professors outside of class will give you a plethora of people to work with and get advice from, and it might just make your classes more enjoyable. Go to office hours, volunteer for projects in your specialization, talk to the researchers who are doing things that fascinate you.
Once You’ve Settled In
  •  Start talking to people: Join the conversation in your field, as early as possible. No matter what program you’re enrolled in, it’s important to get to know what options are available to you as you prepare to start a career. Ask for informational interviews with the people who are most passionate about their work- ask them how they got started. People love talking about the things they’re most interested in, and it’s a really good way to build your network.
  • Explore: Get out of your comfort zone! Particularly in LIS, where most of us seem to have multi-disciplinary backgrounds, it’s wonderful to keep up ties to other fields. Join a chorus, play in a kickball league, find a chess club—as much as Hinds Hall is a second home to us all, it’s great to see the rest of campus. Make connections outside of the other students in your program and some of them might become lifelong friends.
By the End of the Semester
  • Have a plan: This is straight from Zachary Frazier at Hack Library School, but it’s amazing advice. By the end of your first semester, have a good idea of where you’re going and what it will take to get there. Meet with your faculty adviser, check out the course catalogue, and know what you need to do both inside and outside the classroom. There’s nothing that says you can’t change plans, but having one to start with will keep you on track.
Do you have any advice to share? Let us know in the comments!

Experience Open Access Week in Syracuse and Beyond

This post originally appeared on Information Space, the blog of the iSchool at Syracuse University, on 24 October 2011.

October 24 marks the start of Open Access Week, now in its fifth year. Running until October 30, Open Access Week promotes and celebrates access to information. There are several ways for you to get involved, on campus and off.
From the Open Access Week website:
“Open Access” to information – the free, immediate, online access to the results of scholarly research, and the right to use and re-use those results as you need – has the power to transform the way research and scientific inquiry are conducted. It has direct and widespread implications for academia, medicine, science, industry, and for society as a whole.
Open Access (OA) has the potential to maximize research investments, increase the exposure and use of published research, facilitate the ability to conduct research across available literature, and enhance the overall advancement of scholarship. Research funding agencies, academic institutions, researchers and scientists, teachers, students, and members of the general public are supporting a move towards Open Access in increasing numbers every year. Open Access Week is a key opportunity for all members of the community to take action to keep this momentum moving forward.
Here in Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies, we have partnered with Bird Library to bring you plenty of chances to celebrate and get involved.
Last week, you may have taken part in The Common Cause Is Freedom: The Personal Politics of Solidarity Organizing or Publication Innovation: Sustaining Digital Repositories for Science lectures given at the Bird Library and sponsored both by the library and others. If you missed them, there are plenty of other events coming up.
Monday, October 24:
Open Access Week Kick-Off Webcast
10:00am – Noon
Bird Library, Peter Graham Scholarly Commons
Tuesday, October 25:
ENY-ACRL (Eastern New York/Association of College and Research Libraries) Open Access Brown Bag
ESF Moon Library, room 110
Join panelists Michael Poulin (Colgate), Yuan Li (Syracuse), Steve Weiter (SUNY ESF) and others as we discuss discovery of open access materials, SHERPA/RoMEO, costs of publication and other related topics of interest.
Wednesday, October 26:
E-science Expo – what you need to know about data management and data preservation
Life Science Building, Lundgren Room
Presentations by eScience Fellows –graduate students in the School of Information Studies, involved in e-science/data intensive librarianship and improving data management/preservation practices, especially for federally-funded research.
Thursday, October 27:
Will Libraries Survive Copyright?
12:30 – 2:00pm
Hinds Hall, Innovation Studio, Room 011
Lecture by Dorothea Salo, Faculty Associate, School of Library and Information Studies, University of Wisconsin at Madison
Current national and international copyright practices have the potential to devastate libraries as we know them.  Widely-accepted practices, such as First Sale, Section 108 (the library “fair use” code), electronic reserves, interlibrary loan, electronic-book and e-journal lending are all under legal threat.   Digitization of library-owned materials presents additional challenges, as does the technology sometimes used in the name of enforcing copyright.  This Open Access Week, learn to recognize these threats and what we can all do about them.
Even if you’re unable to get involved in the OA events this week, there’s a lot of great information about OA week on their website—and be sure to check out the sections for librarians, students, and faculty. They’re chock full of great ideas on how to get involved.
Syracuse University also has its own Open Access repository. Known as SUrface, the Syracuse University Research Facility And Collaborative Environment, “gathers, organizes, disseminates, and preserves the cultural and scholarly record of SU. At the same time, it increases the visibility of authors’ works, maximizes research impact, facilitates interdisciplinary research, and provides local, regional, and global communities with immediate and permanent access.”
What do you think of Open Access? How have you gotten involved? Let us know in the comments!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Library Blogger Stephen Abram Spoke with iSchool Community

This post originally appeared on Information Space, the blog of the iSchool at Syracuse University, on 24 September 2011.

On Wednesday, October 5th[2011], the Syracuse University School of Information Studies will host librarian, author and blogger Stephen Abram for “Ten Questions with Stephen Abram”. Abram is known in library circles as the author of the blog Stephen’s Lighthouse, and is the VP for Strategic Partnerships and Markets for Gale Cengage Learning.  He is a past-president of the Special Libraries Association, and the Ontario and Canadian Library Associations. He is in demand as a speaker internationally, and has written for Information Outlook, Library Journal, and others. He has received numerous honors, including the AIIP Roger Summit Honor, and the Outstanding Teaching Award from the University of Toronto, Faculty of Information Studies, where he is an adjunct professor.
“Ten Questions”, hosted by the iSchool, will give faculty, students, and community members the chance to talk with Abram about his work, his impressions of librarianship now and in the future, and any other topics of interest.
Why Should You Attend?
As a new student at the iSchool, I’m excited about this event for a number of reasons.  Mr. Abram is seen as a “mover and shaker” in the library world; he’s been listed by Library Journal as one of the top 50 people influencing the future of libraries. I’m interested to hear what he’ll recommend for students just entering the field. The library field is changing rapidly and Mr. Abram’s blog offers many insights on those changes.
One thing I have already noticed about librarians is that they tend to be dynamic, passionate people, and I’m sure this event will continue that impression. Stephen Abram’s lectures and keynotes have catalyzed many people in the past, and no doubt will continue to do so. In a recent column for Information Outlook, Abram offers a strategic look at staying current. This is a reminder to everyone—even new library students—that libraries are always shifting, and that librarians need to lead the charge, not just keep up with the times. As an aspiring librarian, I know that the field I’m entering will look different once I’ve finished my degree, but the speed at which things change in libraries is one of the most exciting parts of my career path.
Not Just for Library Students!
The curriculum of the iSchool strives to create leaders in the information field, and “Ten Questions with Stephen Abram” will help any aspiring information leader get a bead on the conversation.  In the column mentioned above, Abram reminds us of the value of differing perspectives; sometimes the very best ideas can come from outside the field we know. That said, this event is open to any interested parties—including the Information Management and Telecommunication and Network Management Master’s students, undergraduates & doctoral students and members of the public.
What: Ten Questions with Stephen Abram
Where: Innovation Studio, 011 Hinds Hall
When: Wednesday, October 5th from 4:00-5:30pm
Meet Stephen Abram and enjoy stimulating conversation over light refreshments.  Hope to see you there!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Memory Lane

After a rather embarrassing lacuna, I'm back on the blogging scene. Still, with only eight weeks remaining in my masters program,and a job hunt in full swing, I don't have nearly enough time to write. Because of those demands, the posts that I've chosen for the next month or two are reposts of my writings from other places. Thanks for tuning in!