A common complaint in library school was the amount of group work that was required. The GIF posted above and found on Librarian Problems is hilarious to anyone and everyone who has gone through this experience. Many of the MLIS students in my cohort at McGill including myself were coming from a Humanities BA where marks were reliant on individual work in essays and exams. It was an especially huge learning curve because for all of our first-year mandatory courses there were at least two group projects. The atmosphere when a group project was announced was usually panic-stricken as the majority of librarians are introverts and in first semester we were essentially partnering up with strangers. As an extrovert, I was perhaps less stressed than my fellow students, I mean, I figured that since all potential group partners had been accepted into the Masters program I could only assume that we were all fairly intelligent studious people. In retrospect, I was generally lucky to have “good groups”. Around me I could see people who took group work to the extreme forcing their fellow group members to spend hours longer than required on projects in the attempt of attaining a perfect assignment. Other group members could go AWOL without notice leaving their groups in the lurch. The only bad experience that I had in a group (that will not be named to protect the innocent) seemed so disastrous at the time but 5 years later I brush it off knowing what it taught me in diplomacy and the importance of knowing when it’s time to cut your losses. Now as the only librarian in my schools I honestly miss the group dynamic. I miss having other librarians to bounce ideas off or to work collaboratively on a library-focused project. The skills that I learned in group work are still there and I made some good friends during these projects. So much that I was tagged 3 years after graduation in a friend’s Facebook post about that featured this GIF making fun of our shared experience of group work. If you are in library school now, don’t worry, you get through the group projects and to those who clench up looking back upon those assignments, what was your best or your worst group experience? Do you ever talk to those people anymore or have they developed into lifelong friends?
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?
Canada Reads is an annual competition where celebrities debate on the “best Canadian novel”. The goal of the Canada Reads debate is to put a spotlight on Canadian literature and, perhaps more importantly, it also ambitiously attempts to get Canadians to read more. It seems of course like a natural reaction for anyone who listens to an hour-long discussion/debate on the merits of a few specific books to then be enticed to go out and read them. The proof that Canada Reads truly does increase the readership of the selected titles is demonstrated by a noticeable increase in their book sales. Bookstores will usually jump on the promotional bandwagon and market these books as contestants on Canada Reads (in the bookstore where I used to work we would use special stickers to identify the Canada Reads titles). Equally from a public library perspective, the exposure creates a rush on these titles and consequently all of the copies in our provincial system are currently checked out and the reservation list grows longer as the debate intensifies.
Today was the first round of the three days of debates hosted by the amazing representative of culture in Canada Jian Ghomeshi. The five books voted to be included in this year’s competition and whose winner is supposed to represent the essential Canadian novel of the past 10 years are Essex County by Jeff Lemire, The Birth House by Ami McKay, The Bone Cage by Angie Abdou, Unless by Carol Shields, and The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis. Now here I must shamefully admit that I have not yet read any of these five books. In fact prior to Canada Reads, I had never even heard of Essex County or The Best Laid Plans. This is particularly embarrassing considering that I’m a public librarian and that prior to my MLIS I worked in the book industry and have always had a keen interest in promoting Canadian literature.
I perhaps should not be too embarrassed though considering that the whole point of Canada Reads is to say to all Canadians “Wake up! Canadian authors produce amazing literature and you should read their books!”. Apparently librarians are not to be exempted from this wake-up call. As librarians we should not pretend that we know everything about popular books and authors or what people should be reading. We are often too guilty of reading only the genres that interest us or we simply regurgitate the recommendations that we’ve heard from others. What I love about Canada Reads is that it entices people to explore books outside of their regular reading habits (this year for the first time a graphic novel was included in the competition).
Tanya Abramovitch, director of the Eleanor London Côte Saint-Luc library gave the assignment last year to her students in McGill’s School of Information Studies Public Libraries’ course to read three books from a genre that they would not normally chose. I think that this assignment is a brilliant idea and that more librarians should be encouraged to read outside of their comfort zone. Canada Reads provides a cultural spotlight for Canadians to discover amazing titles and authors that they might not have otherwise read but that are worthy of our attention. Librarians need to be actively promoting Canada Reads as a way of tapping into the media attention surrounding these titles to increase readership. However, we cannot simply rely on Canada Reads; we need to be at the forefront exploring publishing catalogues, literary magazines like the Quill and Quire, websites like Goodreads, and our own library’s book stacks searching for the next great book to recommend.
I encourage everyone, even those not in Canada, to follow Canada Reads on the CBC Canada Reads website.
I also would really love if people posted below their own recommendation of a book they feel is worthy of a national literary competition.
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!
You asked me for advice on how to find a part-time job in libraries while completing an MLIS and here it is! I discussed in a previous blog post How Valuable is Library Experience to MLIS student? the advantages of gaining important experience while still in school. I hope the advice from that post along with the tips listed here will be useful for those of you confident enough to take on both studies and a job. Good luck!
Talk to people about your job search
This may seem extremely self-explanatory but I cannot emphasize the importance of discussing your job search with other people. This begins with other students in your classes who perhaps already have a part-time job and know that their boss is looking to hire more staff. This also includes your professors who might need students as research assistants or know of other job possibilities. Even though working as a research assistant is not specific library experience, it will demonstrate that you have strong research skills, which looks great on a librarian’s C.V.!
Talk about your passions
If you are passionate about a particular area of librarianship, let people know! If you can establish your reputation as being an expert in an area then people will want to tell you about available positions that would interest to you. This is how I got my job at the Montreal Children’s Library last year. I am so obsessed with children’s literature and everyone in my program knew that about me from almost Day 1 of the program. When a paid part-time position at the Children’s Library was advertised, I had several people email me with the information encouraging me to apply for the job saying that it sounded perfect for me.
Subscribe to Job ListServs
McGill’s School of Information Studies has an extremely active Job ListServ for students and graduates. Every week I receive emails regarding job postings for libraries looking to hire. Although most of these postings are for full-time positions for which I am not yet eligible, from time to time, we do receive part-time job postings that are suitable for students. Some people wait until they are closer to graduating before subscribing to the Job ListServ because they figure that the job postings are all addressed to candidates who already have obtained their MLIS, This is a mistake because in the meantime they are missing out on part-time postings that would provide them with valuable experience.
Employers are impressed with students who are involved in extra-curricular activities. Getting involved in various associations and the planning of events also allows you to meet a larger circle of professionals who could become valuable contacts. My job at Westmount Public Library is a perfect example of how getting involved is the best way to impress employers and find a job. Last year, I applied for a part-time position at the library and although I thought I’d put together a convincing cover letter and professional-looking C.V., I lost hope when I didn’t get called for an interview even after I performed a “friendly follow-up call”. However, things changed in my favour when I co-organized Web 2.You 2009, a conference on the implications of Web 2.0 technologies in libraries, and the entire professional staff of Westmount attended the event. My boss remembered my application and at lunch time asked me to sit down and talk with her. Although I had an official interview afterward, I know that our lunch time discussion at the conference was the real interview and that I impressed my boss by being having organized of such a successful event.
Attend Job talks and Career Fairs
The most obvious place to find a job is at a Career Fair. However, it is not as easy as it seems. You must know how to talk to the right people and to be able to sell yourself a necessary asset to their library. Last year, at the McGill Career Fair very few of the libraries there actually had vacant positions to fill, but if you managed to impress the right person, it was well worth the exhausting afternoon of going around introducing yourself to everyone you met. It was at the Career Fair last March that I met Maya, a liaison librarian from McGill’s Education Library, and we talked about my previous experience working with teachers. Although there was no open position at the Education Library at the time, she thought that I would be a great addition to their team and I was hired on in September to work at the Reference Desk.
Never be afraid to sell yourself
If you want to be hired, people need to know what you have accomplished in the past as well as your strong qualities. Even if you are by nature a humble person, learn to speak up about your strengths! In this economy it is unlikely that anyone simply hand you a job on a silver platter. You will have to demonstrate that you are the best candidate for the position, so learn to speak with confidence about why you should be hired!
Good luck, I hope this is useful!
The Professional Partnering Program organized by the McGill CLA student chapter is now well underway for its 2nd year. The PPP, as it is affectionately known, is a student initiative at the McGill School of Information Studies to match MLIS students with professionals in order to establish contacts in the library community as well as receive insight on how things work in the real world of libraries. Most students met with their professional partners at a kick-off 5 à 7 event held in October. My partner however was away that evening at an annual Cégep librarian conference, so I was pleased to meet her last week at the library where she works. I am thrilled to be partnered with the librarian at the Cégep du Vieux Montréal. She was extremely friendly and I learned a lot about the role of cégep librarians.
For those of you not familiar with the Quebec education system, cégeps are the educational institution between high school and university and I specifically requested that my professional partner work in this type of library. I am curious to learn more about this type of library as I feel that this level of educational library is not addressed in my classes at McGill. (Why is this? They seem to be catering to the American and Out of Province students when they ignore such an important type of library found only in Quebec). Cégeps offer an ideal time for students to mature and discover themselves before entering into university, they also offer many technical programs for those training for a specific career like Police Foundations, Graphic Design, Library Technicians, etc. I felt that this type of institution can present unique opportunities for librarians. There are many academic-focused programs which means that teaching information literacy and research skills is important. At the same time, cégeps are usually smaller and more student-focused than universities; the institution’s structure is less hierarchical and the overall environment is less pretentious/formal than most academic libraries. My professional partner confirmed that her library is a dynamic and student-friendly environment where students go to further their education by accessing a cornucopia of both print and electronic resources.
There are no set rules for the Professional Partnering Program, each student and their partner determine how often they will meet, the subjects they will discuss, and what activities they will do together. Last year, Graham, the inspired library school student was partnered with an academic librarian from Concordia who offered advice on interviews and resumes in addition to providing concrete insight into the role of an academic librarian. He found this relationship to be very enriching and I hope to develop a similar relationship with my partner so that I feel comfortable asking her my many career-related questions. I look forward to seeing her again at the ASTED Conference “Investir le monde numérique” (Investing the Digital World) next week on Wednesday.
To any MLIS programs that do not have a Professional Partnering Program, I highly recommend that you reflect on the benefits of this type of program( very high). The relationship with a professional really is invaluable to the students and, since we are such a friendly bunch, most of the librarians are more than happy to be matched with a student and pass on their experiences. I also encourage librarians to get involved in a program like this because your advice is so precious to students and we honestly appreciate all the time you offer us to help us grow into your future colleagues.
This semester I have been accepted by a faculty committee to conduct a 6-credit research project. The School of Information Studies at McGill does not require any research for its Masters program and apparently it is rare that students choose to do independent research despite it being offered. I think that it is disappointing that more students are not interested in completing research on a particular topic that interests them. Last year, my Intro to Research Methods professor, Catherine Guastavino, made a lasting impression on me during a speech on the importance of research in librarianship. She argued that it is research that allows practitioners to better understand certain phenomena in libraries as well as identify potential methods for improvement.
I have had no experience conducting research unless you count my grade 7 science project on “What Stains are the Hardest to Remove?”. However, I am passionate about many topics that I feel are not properly addressed in library school. I decided that one poorly addressed topic of growing importance in libraries is the service offered to visually impaired persons. Approximately 816,250 (3.2%) of Canadians aged 15 and older reported having some type of seeing limitation. This should be of great concern to librarians since visually impaired users are the group that requires the most alternatives to traditional print. However, less than 5% of published Canadian material is available in formats accessible to this user-group. The gravity of this problem will escalate steadily within the next 10 years as the generation of the baby boomers ages, therefore, increasing the number of persons suffering from diseases associated with loss of vision such as age-related macular degeneration.
While doing my preliminary lit review and through conversations with librarians, I have come to the conclusion that there have been a lot of improvements recently to accessibility such as databases like Ebsco creating specific platforms for visually impaired users and the availability of audio books such as Playaways. However, I have developed the hypothesis that librarians lack the knowledge of these improved resources as well as the knowledge of how to appropriately address this user-group which consequently prevents the librarians from offering quality service. My research project over the next 7 months will attempt to explore whether librarians are able to identify resources relevant to serving users who are visually impaired as well as if they are aware of the appropriate behaviour and attitudes to adopt when dealing with this user-group. Wish me luck and if you know of any references that might be relevant to this topic I would appreciate hearing from you!