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Save the planet and your precious time – Recycle stuff!

30 Apr

One evening last week I was busy putting together a presentation for a few grade 7 classes on how to use the Internet effectively for research.  I was definitely under a time crunch as the teacher had asked me with very little notice if I could do a presentation with her classes. Never one to turn down an opportunity to help the students develop their information literacy skills, I accepted.  The only problem was that I was stuck. My ideas weren’t flowing, I was having trouble coming up with an interesting concept for the presentation and I was getting tired and frustrated. That is until I remembered that during my second year of McGill University’s MLIS program I had already put together a presentation for high school students on evaluating websites for my Information Literacy class. Luckily I was able to find the presentation saved on my laptop and to my sheer delight, it was a great presentation! I definitely had to tweak a few things but everything I wanted to share with the kids on establishing the criteria for a good website to use for research was there. Even the examples of websites that I had used a few years ago for my assignment were still relevant. The example of the article on Barack Obama on the website Conservapedia was especially useful in helping the grade 7s understand the difference between websites that present objective vs. subjective information regardless of how “professional” a website might look. Way to go 2010 Amanda!

During library school, students are often asked to “make up” a fictional library or scenario for assignments. My advice to students is to try and take advantage of these types of assignments to prepare material that might actually be of use to you at a future date. So many students simply go through the motions when it comes to completing their assignments. However, if you truly think that your work might serve you in a professional situation then you will put a lot more thought and effort into it! Use your class assignments to create tutorials, information literacy presentations, strategic planning charts, etc. that you can “recycle” when you need them most.

For professionals, I encourage you to take a peek at your old assignments (especially if they are still on your computer). You might be surprised at how well written something is that you wrote while still in school. The whole point of library school is not to get straight As but rather to give us a foundation for our professional careers. So then, with all the things we need to accomplish in a day, aren’t we lucky if our MLIS assignment that we got a A on could also save us time?

Have you ever recycled an assignment for professional use?

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Hiatus and comeback!

11 Feb

As my regular readers have noticed, I’ve taken a little hiatus from my blog. This essentially corresponded to the time I left my position as the director of the Tracadie-Sheila Public Library in New Brunswick last September. I was extremely proud of the work I did at the Tracadie-Sheila Public Library and my decision to leave my position was bitter-sweet. On the bitter side, I was leaving an incredible library full of wonderful people to whom I’d grown extremely attached (patrons, staff, volunteers, library board members). I was also sad to leave behind projects that I cared passionately about such as our new library building project and our continuous efforts to create new and rewarding community partnerships. However, on the bright side, my decision to leave was based on a very happy development in my personal life (my engagement) and so part of me was definitely excited to relocate to Toronto.

Since I needed to relocate to Toronto, I got back into the full-swing of applying for library positions. This was a difficult period because I am definitely a perfectionist when it comes to applications and every time that I spent hours toiling over an application only to never even get an interview, it was like I’d lost a small piece of myself. After a few months, people said that it was because I hadn’t yet found the “right job for me”. In the end, this turned out to be true as at the end of August once “the right job for me” was posted it took me only 2 weeks total to send in my application, be contacted for an interview, have an interview, and be offered the position.

I now work for a Francophone school board where I am in charge of the libraries in two schools (a K-6 school and a middle school). This is a fantastic job because I have always been passionate about children’s librarianship. Being in a school library allows me to do story-time, teach information literacy, provide reader advisory and research and order books that kids will get excited to read.

Each Canadian province has different standards for what qualifications are needed for working in school libraries. In Ontario, most school boards have teacher-librarians in their schools; this position requires a teaching degree paired with a few courses in librarianship. When I went for my interview, I was told that my school board has not had teacher-librarians for over a decade, now all of the school libraries are run by library technicians. A part of me has issues with calling myself a library technician even though it is officially my job title. Having obtained a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, I tend to say that I’m a professional librarian who works in a school library (I was told by a friend not to say that I am a School Librarian because technically I’m not). Rather than feel limited by my job title, I use my professional knowledge and skills everyday to strive to ensure that I am creating the most positive library experience possible for these kids. Most of the kids at my schools are from recent immigrant families to Canada. The parents are often struggling to make a life for their family in Toronto and do not have the money to buy books nor do they visit regularly the public library with their children. Consequently, the library experience that I provide for these kids becomes their only exposure to libraries. I am very motivated by my goal to help kids discover a passion for reading that will translate into a life-long pursuit of learning whether they attend post-secondary education or not.

Last week, I attended the Saturday sessions of the OLA (Ontario Library Association) Super Conference in Toronto. This experience was extremely positive and encouraged me to get back into blogging because I realized how much amazing knowledge librarians share when they get together. The biblioblogosphere is an incredible place and I want to get back into the swing of things! (That and my dad kept asking me when I was going to post something new).

I have always been grateful to everyone who comments on my blog posts. So what do you think of the importance of job titles? How would you feel about taking on a non-professional position as long as you got to do something you love?

Longing to be a leader

21 Feb

Becoming the director of a public library straight out of a MLIS program can be extremely daunting. I have fairly high expectations of what a library director should be accomplishing at their library and in their community but the past month especially I have felt particularly overwhelmed trying to live up to these expectations. Perhaps because it is February and February is known to be the most depressing month of the year, I find myself getting discouraged more easily and reacting more sensitively when faced with my own professional shortcomings.

One of the areas that I am particularly struggling with is the concept of leadership. In the past, I have definitely never considered myself to be a leader. No one can question that I am very dedicated to my library and that I work hard but do I have innovative ideas? Do I have the creative approach to motivate others to work towards a common goal?

Prior to starting a MLIS, my formal leadership experiences were limited to being a camp counsellor and I certainly had no experience as a manager. During the one SIS management course at McGill University, we spoke a lot about management and leadership. However, there is a huge difference between discussing these matters using theoretical examples and being faced with real life situations. Unfortunately, real people do not always react the way that you thought they would when doing a case study!

Luckily, in the fall of 2010, I applied and was accepted to attend the 2011 edition of the Northern Exposure to Leadership Institute. NELI, as it is often called, is a leadership training institute in Canada that is designed specifically to assist in the development of future leaders in the library and information profession. Even after a few months of learning that my nomination was accepted, I am still incredibly stoked to be participating in this highly reputed institute! I know librarians who have attended in the past and they all agree that it is a truly transforming week professionally and personally. Yet I feel that it could not come soon enough…

In the meantime, I am still trying to find ways to improve my theoretical baggage on management and leadership in hopes that some of it will transfer over to real life situations. I have discovered an interesting conference PowerPoint Presentation entitled Creating Leaders put together by Daniel Phelan who conducted an interesting survey of NELI participants and who also provides a recap of some key leadership theory. I would be extremely open to any other suggestions you know of have of resources that might help me provide my library and my employees with the leadership that I know they deserve!

4th Annual Web 2.You

16 Jan

My experiences co-organizing Web 2.You at McGill University in 2009 and again in 2010 were definitely pinnacle moments during my MLIS degree. Not only did I gain incredible experience in event planning and management. I especially got to meet some very awesome librarians! Before beginning my MLIS I had never thought of the possible existence of librarian superstars.  Luckily thanks to the inspired library school student I was quickly introduced to the world of the biblioblogosphere when I started in McGill’s MLIS program and through Web 2.You I got to meet some of the most well-known and influential modern librarian thinkers like Michael Stephens, Stephen Abram, Jenica Rogers, and Michael Porter. Not only did I get to hear them speak from the heart about important issues but after the conferences I got to hang out with them over supper! Both years provided me with such fantastic memories.

In fact, now that Michael Porter (keynote speaker ,Web 2.You 2010) has been elected to the ALA Executive Board, I can officially say that I’ve been to supper with an ALA Executive Board member. How cool is that?  All thanks to my involvement in Web 2.You!

Although I can’t attend Web 2.You 2011 due to distance, I am still thrilled to see the incredible line-up of speakers that my former co-organizer Adrienne Smith has rallied together for this year’s event.  By scoring Jason Puckett as a keynote speaker as well as several other well-known and respected specialists in the field of information, the proud tradition of Web 2.You will continue to bring innovative minds and new ideas to library school students and information professionals in the Montreal area. I strongly encourage anyone in the Montreal area to attend this event. Registration and information about the speakers is available on the Web 2.You 2011 wiki.

Going to be a librarian? Don’t forget your screwdriver!

9 Jan

During library school students were told that librarians must wear many different hats and that we should be prepared for whatever diverse responsibilities might come our way. Since becoming a library director at a small public library I am confronted with this reality every day.

 

Before the 2010 budget year came to a close, I had the pleasure of making a few new furniture purchases for the library. I spent a lot of time taking measurements of available space, looking through library supplier catalogues and websites, and considering both the usability and esthetical requirements for a new DVD display case as well as tables and chairs for our kids’ activity room.

 

This week my staff and I enjoyed a second Christmas as we excitedly opened the large delivery boxes sent to us from Brodart Canada Library Supplies. I was happy to see that the chairs had been sent well wrapped and with no assembly required. Likewise the DVD display spinner was easily assembled in a few quick steps. The two tables however were another story…

 

Now I am not one to back away from furniture assembly. I have bought my fair share of IKEA furniture and am therefore used to the challenge of trying to coincide strange pictograms with basic design common sense. My infamous leaning tower of Pisa wardrobe that I put together during my first year at SIS became somewhat of a joke; though to my credit, despite its wobbling, it never fell in the two years that I used it while living in Montreal.

 

One of the reasons why I chose this particular model of activity tables was because of its adjustable height. I thought it was an extremely clever idea to adjust the legs of the table so that younger kids could have a table closer to the ground and the older kids wouldn’t feel like they were sitting at a little kid’s table. Well after I spent the better part of a morning with a manual screwdriver and multiple screws per leg per table, I can tell you that the height of those legs is not going to be readjusted any time soon. Admittedly things did go faster once a male user pointed out that I was not using the most efficient head for my screwdriver. Now I ask you, why did I never learn during my MLIS the value of using a Phillips screwdriver head?  Well all is well that ends well. The tables look awesome and I can’t wait for our regular programming to start this week so that the kids will be able to use the new tables. I just wish that I’d had the insight to include an electric screwdriver in my 2011 budget. I guess that’s what you call learning on the job!

5 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Library School

27 Aug

1)      Never underestimate the importance of developing friendships with classmates

I only really got this concept near the end of my studies. Librarians and more specifically library school students can form a unique bond based on shared interests. People who decide to pursue a MLIS often come from diverse academic backgrounds and can be at various stages in their lives. Some classmates have just completed their undergraduate degree, some want to start a second career, and some are parents who must coordinate homework and group projects around their kids. Regardless of different backgrounds, your classmates in library school will most likely be passionate about libraries. Take advantage of this common ground to start great discussions and develop meaningful friendships! During my studies, I took for granted being surrounded by people who shared my librarianship values, now that I am the only professional librarian at my library, I completely appreciate being able to reconnect with my friends from library school through the internet to discuss the new library trends and annoying patrons!

2)      Your passion for becoming a librarian will be tested. Stay strong!

I guarantee there will be many moments during your MLIS when you will wonder what the heck you are doing. I knew a few people who dropped out of the program in first year because it was not what they were expecting. I promise that your studies do not reflect what being a librarian is actually like. Everyone has dark moments in Library School; mine usually came while researching particularly difficult reference question assignments in my Humanities and Social Sciences class. When I couldn’t find the answers, I’d convince myself that I was going to make a horrible librarian. One of the best librarians I know almost failed Cataloguing. Don’t be discouraged! Never forget your initial dream and hold onto that throughout your studies. Remember, a MLIS is only 2 years but being a librarian will be a fulfilling life-long career!

3)      Don’t buy all the textbooks (and certainly not at full price in the bookstore)!

During my undergrad, I had to buy all of the required books on the reading list. I wrote essays on these books and my exams were based on their content. It would have been pure insanity not to have had my own personal copies that I was free to highlight and make notes in the margins. In library school, there are certain courses that have a required textbook but that I swear will never again be mentioned for the rest of the semester. Most often, the professors will summarize the contents of the readings in their lectures. The most ambitious students continue to follow the reading list for perhaps a month but in the end, being Masters students and all, we are smart enough to realize that our time is more productively spent doing something other than lengthy readings that will be summarized for us or not ever discussed again. I especially recommend talking to the second year students to get advice on which textbooks are important to purchase. If you must purchase a textbook try and organize buying one second-hand as you can save lots of money!

4)      Learn to like or at least be able to feign an interest in cats

The stereotype that librarians are cat-people? It’s true.

5)      Facebook will become an invaluable informal learning tool

Most people in the MLIS program will have a Facebook profile. This is a great way to connect with your busy classmates while outside of class and get quick answers to your burning questions on assignments and where people are hanging out on the weekend. When I started library school, I was extremely selective of who I confirmed as a Facebook friend. I declined those who were casual acquaintances because I maintained that a Facebook friend needed to be someone who I truly considered to be a friend. I soon realized that adding other library school students and professional librarians on Facebook was a fantastic way to find out more about that person and that it could become a valuable sharing tool. I have discovered so many interesting articles, videos, and websites that have been posted by people in the library field. Also, on more than one occasion, I sent out a desperate message asking whether anyone could help me understand an unclear question from an assignment. Luckily someone was always online, usually working on the same assignment so that we could discuss the ambiguous question together. So if you haven’t done so, clean up any potentially embarrassing personal pictures/info and add some new library school friends who will help you integrate more smoothly both socially and academically into your MLIS program!

McGill SIS graduates dominate the job market!

13 Jul

Reading library news from the United States can be flat-out depressing. Despite awesome stories of libraries working to better serve the public, one cannot ignore the incessant news of budget cuts and library closures. I have read one too many blogs and subsequent comments that lament the lack of career opportunities for librarians especially recent graduates. Since I know tons of grads who were able to find librarian jobs with relative ease in Canada, I wondered how different the job market must be on the American side of the border. Yet, last year I had many American classmates who found awesome library jobs in the U.S.A. quickly after graduating and in two cases, people had job offers before they had even technically graduated in April.

Well, now a friend of mine and fellow SIS grad 2010 who moved back home to the States after graduation has just announced that he has been offered the position of Library Director at a public library in Maine. I am so proud of him! Way to go Luke! McGill grads dominate the job market even in the U.S.A!

My heart honestly goes out to the countless librarians who have lost their jobs due to budget cuts and library closures. Yet reading all the bitter comments regarding the lack of jobs, I can’t help but wonder how much having a negative attitude has influenced these librarians’ ability to secure an awesome position. Something to think about for all you die-hard pessimists…

Anyways, good luck to everyone who is currently in search of a job. For those of you presently in library school or for those contemplating studying library and information studies, do not let all these reports mislead or discourage you. There are awesome jobs awaiting you after graduation, you just have to work for them and maintain a positive attitude. So congratulations to all the members of class 2010 who are prime examples of how realistic it is to find a librarian position so soon after graduation.