All posts by L. Stein

What courses should / shouldn’t I take in my MLS program? My experience…

I realize it has been a while since I have posted to this blog, but since it has been a little over a year since I finished library school and have been working in the field for a while, I wanted to reflect on my decisions to take certain courses while getting my MLIS.

If any current or prospective students are reading this, I am sure you are experiencing an overwhelming array of tempting course options. However, not all classes are created equal, and you might find there are better (and cheaper) alternatives. The goal is to maximize your coursework and your tuition money so that you are in the best position to get hired :).

Please note that what I will state below is my subjective experience, and that the classes I took at my MLIS program might be different from the curricula at other programs.  However, I will be listing some general course categories that I took (whether I felt they were useful or not), or classes that I wished I had taken.

I also point out that my focus in library science (digital content management), will be different from others, so my response will be somewhat tailored to this area. However, in talking to people in the field, and my experience on the job, proficiency with new tech is vital to getting hired, as Laura Krier bluntly puts it. She also lists some course ideas that are beneficial to digital content management.

Classes I did not regret taking:

1) Relational Databases and Data Modeling

Despite the fact that my course had less than 15 people enroll, which is pretty sad for a school that spits out the 2nd most MLIS’s per year, this was one of the most informative classes I ever took. Relational databases serve as the backbone to nearly all applications that librarians use, no matter what area of the field, so knowing how they work provides a huge understanding to troubleshooting application issues, finding information in databases, and even providing the foundational knowledge for writing your own programs. Since we librarians are always designing with the user in mind, being able to model and implement our own database applications is a real asset as the field becomes more technological.

2) Metadata / Electronic Information Retrieval

In addition to the mandatory cataloging class, knowing how to apply metadata fields in the right circumstances is  key to managing content (more of which will become electronic as time goes on). While cataloging classes often reiterated the importance of standard entry rules and validation rules for standard schemas like MARC, it does not really discuss issues such as how to export your data, how to incorporate your data in another system, and how to create metadata that will help preserve your data.

Since the growth of technology is not getting any slower, this is key knowledge if we want to be stewards of tomorrows information. After all, don’t forget that only 10 years ago, we were storing data on floppy disks. Now the only thing a floppy disk is good for is a coaster….those 1.44 MBs relics  cannot even hold one iTunes song, but they certainly keep my Coke Zero from sweating  ;).

3) A subject area reference course, preferably  in the sciences or business

Any library job you take will require the keen skill of extracting the information from your user and translating it into something you can use to find the answer, you don’t want to leave library school without having this down pat. Every library school on the planet offers some variant of Reference 101, but it won’t provide the opportunity to delve into a subject, and to really learn how to utilize the various databases and tackle more challenging questions.

Science/technology reference class are in higher demand, especially in medical libraries, pharmaceutical companies. Business research skills are also highly in demand, especially if you want to work for a law firm, corporation, or other special library. As the private sector picks up, these places are likely to hire  (hint, hint), assuming we don’t have a double-dip recession. And academic and public libraries will find this reference skill set useful as well.

Courses I wished I did not take

1) HTML/CSS (or any programming language)

Unless you have been living under a rock before considering library school, you know that knowing at least a little HTML is basically a requirement to get a job in this field. However, I would not recommend taking this course through your MLIS program. Not that the course is not useful, but that there are several other alternatives that are much cheaper and much better. Ed2Go offers an HTML class for less than $200,  and lynda.com offers unlimited tech tutorials for only $25 a month. Lynda.com not only offers HTML courses, but programming courses, software application courses, etc. as well (which will probably be more current than what you would take in class anyway).  The tuition cost for an HTML class in grad school is the same as 5 years or more of a membership to Lynda.com. And you can learn a lot in 5 years…. ;). Plus, don’t forget all the free stuff like MIT’s Open Courseware and Google Code University! 🙂

2) Library Management

In my experience, I felt that these classes were a waste of tuition dollars, even though they required very little work. While they are great for an easy “A’, you don’t really need an easy “A” in library school…since most of your classes are not particularly challenging (strongly depending on where you get your degree, of course). Any manager will tell you that management and leadership are learned on the job, and many of the theories you will learn in these classes fall apart in the real world. Becoming an advocate for your profession and your staff has to come from within;  no excessive knowledge or theory is going to magically give you the resolve to be a good leader.

For what is is worth, I took 2 management classes, and I found neither of them to be very beneficial…

Classes I wished I took

1) Collection Development / Acquisitions

I deal a lot with vendors in my job, and I deal a lot with questions regarding how much subscriptions cost, license agreements, etc. A lot of people do not realize that the acquisitions budget of a large company or university is likely in the 7-figure range (though many are getting slashed…). That’s some serious cash money!

License agreements are convoluted, and publishers can be ruthless about price increases. While I would say that, like the management courses, much of what is learned in acquisitions is learned on the job, I wished that I had at least had some background knowledge before being thrown in with the sharks without a life jacket.  If you know how to be economical with an acquisitions budget and to negotiate sweet deals, that skill is better than sweet liquid gold and a titanium cherry on top :).

I hope that this information is helpful. Again, please realize that this reflects my experience, but I wanted to share my knowledge. I read a lot of people’s perspectives on what people should / should not take in library school, and I hope that this provides some unique information, especially for those interested in pursuing the digital track.

Why I Don’t Call You

NOTE: This only applies to personal calls and NOT those of a professional-related nature.

I sometimes receive complaints from friends and family that I never call them. And I admit, I am very guilty of this. I need to be better about being in touch. However, here is my answer to that oft-asked question that I hope will unveil the mystery, and may provide some insight for others who have introverted friends who are not real keen on the phone. (Hint: at least 25% or more of the population is introverted, and about 100% of us hate using the phone.) However, please be reassured that it is nothing personal, it does not mean I don’t like you, it does not mean I don’t want to spend time with you.

Aside from the 10 reasons listed in this comic from The Oatmeal, are 5 blunt and honest reasons why I do not call you:

1) I am too tired to deal with the phone. My day starts at 7:30, and while that is not that early, I am NOT a morning person. Sure, you may say you are not a morning person, but I am REALLY not a morning person. I function best between 8:30 PM and 1 AM. Of course, that is not conducive to my work schedule, so I am often extraordinarily fatigued during the week. Between dealing with people and projects at work, dealing with a crowded metro where I get no phone service, getting my gym workout in, I do not even get home til 8:00 PM. And by then I am tired and hungry because I have not had dinner yet, and neither have the cats. And I need a shower. But to get a functional level of sleep, I need to be in bed by 11 PM, which does not give me a lot of time to myself to recharge so I am not coming to work a brain-dead zombie.

2) I am much better at communicating in email, text, Facebook, or Instant Messaging, especially at work. I communicate much better in writing, and I tend to fumble my words when I talk. I also get more of a response when I text or email, which is why I have a much better time communicating using those mediums. But still, it is hard to get hold of people, and they can never get hold of me.

I am not the only one with the busy schedule. Everyone is busy. I have very good friends who never, ever answer their phones, and as a consequence, I never, ever call them. Am I guilty about not being near my phone 24/7? Absolutely, and no one should be expected to wait around for my call. And even if you do answer, the chances that you will be available to meet up for coffee, lunch, whatever at a time when our schedules both permit is so low it almost does not seem worth it. This gets especially worse as friends get married and have kids. By then, there is no point in even trying to call them…

Today, someone who is “good” about answering their phone picks up about 50% of the time. If you are one of those people, you have a 50% higher likelihood that I will actually call from time to time. However, that still leaves a good chance that you will not be available, so I make my assumption that you are busy, which brings me to my third point…

3) I ahbor voicemail. Nothing is more painful than getting some message that the person is “unavailable right now” (aka has more important things to do than talk to you), and then having to turn around and blabber and fumble around awkwardly leaving some message about why I called and whether it is really necessary to have you return my call, thus trying to walk that thin tightrope between blunt curtness and pitiful, irrelevant rambling. So, if I know there is a 50% or more chance I have to deal with the relegation and torture of leaving a voicemail, logic prefers me to not even bother picking up the phone. So I don’t.

4) If I have not spoken to you in a while, I actually want to have a real conversation that lasts more than 5 minutes. I actually want to call you and catch up, but I want more than 5 minutes quality time talking to you. And chances are, you do not have it. However, I know that I cannot get that because we are both very, extremely busy. And I want to call and potentially schedule a time to talk more, but then again, I have to risk the pain of the voicemail. Which loops me back into not wanting to pick up the phone in the first place, unless I need to speak with you urgently.

5) P.S. I really hate it when people use songs instead of the default ring. Because it seems all I ever hear when I am waiting for an answer (or the inevitable voicemail) is some crappy pop like Katy Perry or Nickelback.

So, in sum, I do not call you because neither of us can often reach that sweet spot where the planets align and we can answer our phones, and I find voicemail to be akin to being stabbed in the heart and twisting the knife. Of course, if we are not able to meet in person and the phone is the only want to chat, then it works best to schedule a time to chat that works for both schedules, so no one has to deal with the pain of unrequited phone answering.

Cobb County Libraries in Trouble!

I read about library closings all over the county. Since 2008, every issue of ALA’s American Libraries mentions some article about library closings…11 branches shut down in New Jersey…another 13 shut down in Nevada…etc etc etc.

However, a colleague of mine who works for the Cobb County Library system recently posted on Facebook that, in order to balance the budget, Cobb County officials are going to shut down all but FOUR libraries in this very large and populous county.  This really hit close to home. While I no longer am a Cobb County resident *sniff* I felt that I had to say something.

The Cobb County libraries were such an integral part of my life.  I spent so much time there, especially during my school years.

While I cannot attend any meetings in person, I wrote the following missive in hopes that it will make the Cobb County Commission chairman rethink his budget strategy:

Mr. Lee:

Please reconsider your proposed closing of Cobb County libraries. Thousands of Cobb residents depend on the libraries for internet access, reference materials, and critical information. In doing so, you will be cutting off many people from this. Cobb is a huge county, and 4 libraries are not enough.

Each day, Cobb County librarians and staff are harried and busy, helping people with filing tax returns, apply for jobs, assisting patrons with major purchase decisions, and pointing students in the direction of the right sources for school projects. This is a typical scenario that I have witnessed each time I was at the East Marietta Branch or Vinings Branch libraries, two of the libraries that you propose shutting down.

I grew up in Cobb County my entire life, and the library was an integral part of it. As a child, I remember story-time and voraciously reading about topics of interest at the East Marietta Branch. I worked as a page at the Vinings branch during high school, and as an adult, I have utilized Cobb County libraries to do the following: register to vote, research for the purchase of a new car, teach myself programming languages, learn about traveling in a new country.

You probably think that you can get “everything on the Internet” these days, but it is not free and not cheap. When you find the NY Times upping its digital subscription prices (which it already is), and you are flabbergasted you have to pay to access stuff like Consumer Reports online, you will wish you have some place to go where you didn’t have to pay so much for basic reference materials (which, by the way, are getting more expensive that even the affluent citizens of East Cobb will not be able to afford).

Libraries do a lot more than store books and offer a few terminals to people who cannot afford their own PCs. They offer programs to educate and equip people to gain skills and knowledge that will enable them to become more informed citizens…to equip them to find work so that more people can pay the taxes which will then support your infrastructure. I am sure you are aware that the reason you are in the predicament that you are in is because of the lack of jobs in Georgia, which in turn reduces the amount of revenue-generating taxpayers. It amazes me that Georgia officials are often turning to education for their biggest cuts. Cobb County alone laid off hundreds of teachers last year, resulting in class sizes that are too large to provide quality education.
While I understand  there are probably many, many critical things competing for your small budget, closing libraries and massive education cuts will not ameliorate this problem. In fact, you are only digging yourself a larger hole in the long run.”

I will be keeping my fingers crossed for my colleagues who currently work in this system. I really do think that GA officials are really wrong to cut as much from education as they have been.  And people wonder why the US in general is lagging behind in education…

New Look, New Job

I am really liking this Clean Home theme!

Since I am too cheap to pay for CSS editing ;), this theme allows customizable colors, background AND header! And it just has a much nicer, larger, and more readable text than my previous theme. The background image used is courtesy of WebTreats. They have a great Flickr gallery of icons, Photoshop patterns, etc.

In other news, and the reason for the lack of posting, is that I have secured a new professional position. I have been working in my new job a little over a month now. And, like many of us in the library field, I relocated so that I could take it. I am very thankful. Moving is very, very tough, and it was not particularly easy, but I definitely think it was worth it. And I have a great apartment in a great location :D.

The job is right in downtown Washington, DC, and I am working for a huge, international law firm with a variety of different practice groups. I do a lot of different aspects in this position, but my overarching theme is utilizing technology to assist the attorneys with their law practices and client development. I am getting some great experience and skills in this position, and I have always liked the DC area. There is a lot more variety here, and it’s a good place to start my career (FINALLY!).

I am eternally grateful that I was able to find something relatively quickly after graduation. I figured I would be searching and searching for months…especially with my lack of direct library experience. However, this job was a good fit for me and for my supervisor, as she was looking for someone who had my unique combination of random skills (legal experience, comfort with technology). So, even if you have a hodge-podge of skills, eventually, there is a place for you! :p

College and the Millenials Who Never Really Left It

Although I am ashamed to admit it, one of my favorite sites is http://www.collegehumor.com.  I cannot begin to tally the countless hours I have wasted on this site…watching funny videos, reading articles about Facebook fails, sexual frustration, and second adolescence. However, I am 27 years old…and now 5 years out of college! Yet why does this site seem to pinpoint and satire so accurately the intricacies and nostalgia for those of us who graduated college in 2003 – 2009? After all, for the most part, we are all pretty well out of college.

Take a look at some of the videos:

The Roast of 8-bit Mario

If Games had Super-Easy Mode

DuckTales Theme Gone Horribly Wrong

One thing that baffles me is that most kids who are in college today were either not even born to remember the glory of growing up with just an NES. Or the excitement about the Game Genie and the Contra cheat code. Some of this audience may be too young to remember DuckTakes…at least the incoming freshman.

A lot of articles in recent years have mentioned this strange trait of my generation, The Millenials (or Gen Y): We just don’t grow up as fast, but why should we? I look back on my parents. They married at 22, bought a house, got their careers and the kids by their early 30’s. And now, they are divorced. Many of my young friends today have divorced for the same bottom-line reason: they thought they had figured out “what they want to be when they grow up”…but then they changed. The 20’s is a time of spiritual and value shifts, and nebulousness about the future. We got mixed messages from our parents: “you are special and can do whatever you want.  College is for fun! Worry about the career later” …but then look perplexed when you want to go to art school. They tell us “life it short, you are young”…but then turn around and ask why at 25 we are not married and have no prospects. Just 3 years ago, teaching was the safest job…now many friends who have pursued that career have been laid off, or are competing with applicants in the hundreds. Who would have thought?

The future of our nation – especially considering these still uncertain times – is frightening. So why  not return to those things that made us happy as kids? During the “bubble”, dot-com success stories, and the Clinton years. To0 bad we were too young to see it coming…

September 11 happened on my first day of classes at college. How ironic. Our country has never been the same since then, and I honestly think we have never recovered.

A large portion of my friends live at home. Not because they are lazy, but because who can afford to live on their own in this economy?

I do live on my own, but I am not going to lie. Money can be very very tight, especially since salaries have not kept up with inflation in the past 10 years, and the college degree is now yesterday’s HS diploma. When I got my first one-bedroom apartment in 2006, I paid $650/month base rent. That same apartment costs around $750 or $800/month today.  This was in Atlanta. If I were 17 today and trying to get into my undergrad institution with the credentials I had in HS, I would have been flat-out rejected.

At 27, I can finally say I my career is finally starting. Thank God. I may never own a house. I may never retire. I may never get married. However, I can say with more certainty that I will never see a dime of social security than I can say that the sky is blue…despite that large sums of money were taken out of my entry-level paycheck to support the voluminous amount of Baby Boomers. Single professionals whose entry level salaries keep them too rich for food stamps, but too poor to own property, are taxed though the nose.

The youngest Millenials are now of voting age. If we are as large as they say we are, then where is our political power?

We don’t bother voting when the candidates don’t give a damn about us. In the past election, all both candidates appealed to the “nuclear family” when referring to the “middle class.” Many of us are not able to get married and start families right now just so we can earn the nest egg to even start a family. Many of us will never make it, more than ever before. So let’s pray that we continue to recover so that our dreams hope for the future are not crushed, and we can become the middle class that drives this country. And that our parents can enjoy the retirement they for which they worked so hard because, let’s face it, these times have hit them just as hard.

For my generation, who has been launched into a constantly morphing, global economy, our definition of the American dream has been modified. Forget the beach house and the fancy vacations when we retire. It is not about the money, but about quality of life and career satisfaction. Money is only  important as a way to meet basic needs. And if that means a bit of college humor as we approach our 30’s, then so be it!

 

COMO 2010

On October 14th, I attended my second Georgia COMO conference in Athens, GA. COMO is a great conference – it is the statewide library conference here in Georgia, and is co-sponsored by several state library and school media organizations.

Last year, the conference was in Columbus, which was kind of a drab city. There were little restaurants in walking distance of the conference center. This year, it was up in Athens, which is about an hour and a half from my house.  It was my first visit to Athens, home of the UGA Bulldogs. I think Athens is a great city with a lot of great restaurants – it’s definitely a college town, and the conference center was right near the downtown area. It reminded me a lot of Greenville, SC, the town in which I went to college. Unfortunately, I could only attend for 1 day, but I would like to visit Athens again and see more of the town.

I had planned to go to COMO to hear my mentor present on her experience working with me, but then I was also asked to come up and present on that. It was a bit impromptu, but it all worked out. I also had volunteered to sit at the ALA/SELA membership booth in the exhibit hall for some additional exposure, all to enhance my professional development of course.

In other news, the job search is gaining momentum.  A couple of my classmates have found new positions, but many are still looking. The good news is that the economy does seem to slowly continue picking up, but hiring is slow, though companies are still notoriously hoarding cash which only stalls growth.

I have also started taking continuing ed courses towards a certificate in advanced web development, where I will learn PHP and Java programming.  Right now I am starting with the basics, but am excited to get into meatier stuff. I want to continue learning and growing, and not become stagnant.

LITA National Forum 2010

The past 3 days, I was at the LITA national forum right here in downtown Atlanta. This was a much smaller conference than expected, and definitely less overwhelming than ALA. Since this was the first conference I went to where I would not have a group of my classmates already there.  Thankfully, there were a few people that I knew who were presenting, so I was not completely out in the cold, plus I ran into some people that I met at ALA.

The Crowd

Despite not being a librarian/tech person/someone important, people were very warm and friendly. Since the conference was so much smaller than ALA, you saw the same people each day and by the 2nd or 3rd day, it’s more like one big happy family of people who share a love of sharing information and all the fun, geeky gadgets behind it. Knowing I was in the job market, people were very encouraging. The president herself mentioned to me that “dogged persistence” will pay off.

I also met some new colleagues as well, and had the pleasure of sharing meals and cards with them. I was particularly excited to spread the gospel of Willy’s to all the out-of-towners. Willy’s is one of my favorite “make-your-own-burrito” places (like Chipotle), and they only have it here in Atlanta, and everything is fresh :p.  There was a Willy’s in the food court near the hotel, which was very convenient! Last night, I went with a group to dinner at Haveli Indian Cuisine, and it was very good. The vegetarian dishes are recommended (and cost less). I really enjoyed my meal and a nice warm glass of masala chai tea.

Sessions

Over the last 3 days, I went to several sessions. The opening session was interesting…it was about Wikipedia culture. Apparently there is a cult of people out there who spend a lot of time editing Wikipedia articles that fascinate them. In fact, a lot of popular articles on Wikipedia were found to be more accurate and up to date than print encyclopedias because those articles were monitored so closely by devoted editors, than any misinformation was revised in a microsecond.

Roy Tennant, a progressive information professional from OCLC, delivered the keynote speech Saturday morning. I had heard that he was an excellent public speaker, and he indeed gave a very entertaining speech on the benefits of cloud computing, which has been noted by some to be “the cure for cancer.”

I also attended several concurrent sessions. Notable sessions included one on new technologies for library instruction (check out Poll Everywhere and ScreenToaster), and a presentation about digital asset management  at UPS, and how they managed the hundreds of thousands of images and documents from the company’s branding and ad campaigns. Digital asset management is becoming a lucrative alternative career path for people with the MLIS background (and from what I hear from recruiters, it does not pay bad either :).

Venue

The conference venue was OK overall. Since it was a much smaller conference, we only had 1 floor of the hotel, so it was not like ALA where you had to take a shuttle to half your events. It was also near a MARTA station and a food court, and I had a very pleasant surprise with the parking. Apparently in the Courtland Street garage, if you get there before 9 AM and leave before 11 PM, the cost of parking is only $4, no matter how long. Can’t beat $4 for a day parking downtown. Plus, it was near the Peachtree Center food court, which as I mentioned before, has amazing and affordable restaurants.

The heating/cooling of the center was very imbalanced. Some of the main conference rooms were absolutely freezing, but then some of the smaller rooms were unbearably hot. One person tweeted “oom 206 is now a major contributor to global warming – hilton fail!” And a lot of the rooms had these black shades that were drawn to keep the projector screens from being backlit, but they blocked out all light so my body was thinking it was nighttime…and after only averaging 5 hours of sleep a night, it was very hard to stay awake.

Overall, I enjoyed myself, and I am glad that I went. Conferences are always a good experience, especially for networking. I do hope to be able to make it to future conferences, but I am still praying for that position that will one day offer a professional development budget. I paid out of pocket for this conference, and it was not cheap. Thank you LITA Planning committee for choosing Atlanta for this year, otherwise, I could not have afforded to attend. I would like to visit new cities sometimes, especially out West, but I must start squirreling money away for next year :).

Thoughts and reflections on the library job search

There has been a lot of buzz in library blogdom and listservs about getting that first job in this field. As librarians are always so committed to helping people, many have posted excellent tips and tricks for procuring the interview,  acing  interviews, and getting experience/networking to break into the field. And as a diligent and creative job seeker, I take appreciative heed to that advice. Yet despite attending conferences, completing internships/committee work, being flexible and geographically mobile, and seeking professional guidance from my mentors, there are a lot of factors that are out of my control.  What happens when “you do everything right” and yet things still seem so wrong?

Through God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26)

Last Sunday, I had to swallow my pride and had my pastor pray over me during this time, and to ask God to intervene on my behalf. I have seen the impressive CVs of new librarians, many of whom have already published 5-10 articles before even receiving their MLIS. Many of whom have completed the MLIS as a 2nd masters and have tons of teaching experience already under their belts. After sending out my 25th or so application, and getting yet another rejection letter in the mail, I realized that my faith in God was all I had. Only He would be able to open a door for me, to put the right person in my path, so that I can move on in this stage in my career.

I am fully aware that I am a high-risk hire. I don’t have the pages of documented experience that many others have, yet I have a plethora of job skills that can easily transfer into a library/information setting. Someone is going to have to take a chance on me, and I don’t blame employers for being risk averse, especially in these hard times.  My CV may not stretch to the moon, but I guarantee that if hired in the right place, I will go beyond the solar system in what I will bring to the table.  Case in point: my current employer took a chance on me, hiring someone right out of college with only summer jobs to my name.  What they got in return was a loyal employee, someone who was not afraid to take on new projects, someone who was ready and willing to pull up her sleeves and get the job done (and get it done on time). And I am still employed!

Yet with so many applications, employers are so bogged down and can only see the resume data front of them, rather than extrapolate a picture of the candidate that extends to more than a bullet-point list and a couple paragraphs of a cover letter. Most jobs for which I have applied receive 60, 70, or 100+ applicants per opening! It is this reason that I need to learn to rely on God to work on my behalf, which is a very humbling experience for someone who prides herself on independence and hard work.

Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:33)

Undoubtedly, every person who has undergone a long stretch of being single has heard the advice “You will meet the right person where you least expect it.” I strongly believe that the same advice applies to job hunting. Yet one’s first instinct is to balk at that advice.  “Am I supposed to sit around and wait for it rather than actively seek it?! How can I possibly not think about it when it is consuming every waking hour of my being, as I am in the world right now watching my friends and colleagues get married/get jobs/have children?!

The answer is in the scripture above! But what does that mean? After reflecting on that passage in Matthew, it means to make God’s word a priority in your life. Does that mean read your Bible more, tithe more, pray more? Not always, though if in doing those things you achieve what the passage is saying…seek God’s approval and a relationship with Him first, and not man’s. The career and the marriage, in this country, are sought after as  status symbols. Yet jobs can end at any moment, and so many marriages end in divorce.  All that is stable and true in this world is God.

After receiving constant rejection in my search, and wondering if I am inherently flawed, I have to step back and realize that it is not how God sees me, and not judging myself based on some status symbol. God does not tear people up, hurt them, tell them they are worthless because they lack a job title, money, or a spouse. The devil does plenty of that. But ironically, in truly seeking the kingdom and a spiritual connection to God, guess what? Those “worldly things” like the job and the spouse end up popping up.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)

A couple weeks ago, the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was on TV (the 1970s movie, not the creepy one with Johnny Depp). It is one of my favorites stories.  In my current context, I was able to glean some interesting revelations in seeing this movie again. (As a side, this story has a lot more depth to it than people realize).

I distinctly remember the scene where Charlie goes to visit his mother as  she is doing laundry well after dark. This was after the 4th golden ticket is found. Charlie is very upset at this point, knowing how the odds are stacked against him. After all, millions of people all over the world are looking for these golden tickets, and most of them have the funds to buy a lot more chocolate bars  (hmm, how reminiscent of a certain job search…). He tells his mother to essentially stop hoping for him to get the last Golden Ticket, and he asks her how much longer will they have to keep living in poverty. His mother tells him the day will come “when you least expect it.” At this point of the movie, Charlie’s hope and faith are being tested.

As the story goes, the 5th ticket is found, much to Charlie’s dismay.  Disappointed, he looks to the ground, but then something happens! He finds some money sitting in a sewer grate. This is enough money for him to buy some food for his family, and to splurge a bit on his favorite item: chocolate. He walks into the candy store and non-chalantly asks the “candy man” for a Wonka Scrumdiddly-Umptious bar. As soon as he pays for the bar, he wolfs down the chocolate, as many of us tend to do when we are depressed and just need some physical comforts. Charlie then decides to buys a second chocolate bar for Grandpa Joe, who has has inspired him to keep dreaming and to never lose hope.

Charlie then exits the store, and there is a crowd of people around the newspaper stand.  Apparently, the 5th golden ticket claim was a fraud, and there was still 1 ticket out there just waiting to be found. With a small smirk and a glimmer of hope starting to come back, Charlie opens the 2nd Wonka Bar and sure enough finds the last golden ticket!

I describe this scene in detail because there are 2 important lessons received from this. One, you never know where and how the opportunity will come from. In looking at stories of people who have achieve great success throughout history, it often happened because of a life-changing event…because God led them through the fires to make them perfect and whole as people. And just as things could not get any worse, God comes through, just like He did for Charlie.

But this is not just a story about miracles. A fact I overlooked the first many times I watched this movie was the fact that the chocolate bar he bought for Grandpa Joe was the one that contained the golden ticket. What if Charlie decided not to buy the bar, and pocketed the rest of the money for himself? He would have missed out on the opportunity of a lifetime! Hence the passage above about not growing wearing in well-doing. Despite all the poverty and loss of hope he was feeling that day, Charlie still kept others in mind. And as we all know the story, it was Charlie’s selflessness and integrity that enabled him to ace the ultimate job interview…to be Willy Wonka’s successor.

Finally finished!

There were times when I was not sure I was going to make it, but here I am, a newly minted information professional. Graduation was last weekend, and I was so excited to see my family come all the way out from Houston to see me. I really enjoyed spending time with them. Honestly, I could not have done it with out the support of friends, family, and mentors.

 

My advisor, Dr. Chandler, and I.

 

I now continue my quest to find my first professional position as a library/info professional, and am able to put more force into it now that classes are over. I am excited about the LITA National Forum that is coming up, right here in Atlanta. I will be attending and look forward to meeting and networking with some great people, and learning about new technological developments.

It is ironic that I really got into library science not for the “conventional” reasons, such as loving to read. Not that I don’t love to read, but I have always been interested in the technological side of things…creating websites and applications, programming databases, digital imaging, and electronic resources. I hope to supplement my coursework with some certifications in web programming. I found a school that offers continuing education in these areas, but I need to do further research on programs before I plop down the money. There are always sites like Lynda.com too.

Anyway, I am excited about the labor day weekend. I have worked very hard at school, at my job, and everything else in between. I will be going on a Caribbean cruise over the weekend, and I really cannot wait to take some time off and relax.

User-centered Spaces: Part 2

In my last posting, I introduced the new Learning Commons areas at the Georgia Tech Library & Information Center, and how these new renovations assisted with user tasks.  In this post, I will provide my thoughts and reflections on this space…

One of the most effective methods for determining how users utilize the space is  simply taking a step back and observing how they interact. In our hyped-up, fast-paced, “git-r-done” culture, we sometimes miss out on important details when we rush to implement things before questioning…is this what users really want, or is this what vendors and articles tell us users want?  Because each library has its own user community, there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

In the fall of 2008, Charlie Bennett, Commons Coordinator at the GA Tech Library, utilized observation methods to take objective measurements such as how many students were using the commons, what kind of computers they were using,  how they tended to group together, etc. For example, he noticed that many students brought their own laptops; this indicates a different grouping dynamic than having students huddle around a library desktop computer.

Charlie also engaged in more common data collection methods, such as distributing surveys and hosting a forum where users could post their comments. However,  one of the most interesting data collection methods Charlie utilized was placing a whiteboards next to a group of sample chairs that students could sit in and evaluate.  Each chair had its own whiteboard and marker where users could write comments about each chair such as:  “This chair is very comfortable” or “This chair color reminds me of puke.”  I found this method innovative because it brought the data collection  right into the user’s environment, rather than asking a student or faculty member to take time out of their busy schedule and go to a survey link or web forum. It reminded me a lot of the whiteboards that undergrads would post on their dormitory doors for people to leave them messages and comments; this has also extended into the digital realm with tools such as Facebook and Twitter.

Overall, the use of multi-modal data collection methods are very beneficial to ensuring a positive user experience in a STEM library commons. Charlie has taken great care and consideration with making  sure the Commons is a peaceful, user-centered space. The GA Tech Library is a very busy place where students will often spend hours studying, or simply taking a snooze break in one of the library’s comfortable chairs.  Students and faculty in a science and engineering institution work on many long-term and collaborative projects, and the library is a beneficial tool in helping these users with their research and education.

For more information on the GA Tech Library and Information Center commons:

Library Commons Main Page

Library Commons Project Documents

Main Page for GA Tech Library and Information Center