Archive | September, 2011

School is hard

18 Sep

Since I decided to get my Master’s in library science, a lot of people have asked me, “What do you actually study in library school?” Well, that in addition to the clever the first time, but super lame the 100th, “It takes two years to learn the Dewey Decimal System?” Hi-larious. So I thought I’d let you all know where my academic pursuits have taken me.

Everyone in my cohort has to take the same 4 core courses this first semester. Three are regular classes on campus and one is online. The idea of these courses is to start with the very basics of technology skills and LIS (library and information science) theory to bring everyone up to at least the same base-level knowledge.

All in all, I’m finding the grad school experience to be whole lot of work. The work itself isn’t that hard. I would say it’s not any harder than some undergrad classes I took, it’s just a lot more time and effort that I have to put in. Mostly in terms of the amount of reading I have to do. I spend at least 4 hours a day just reading–and that’s with a lot of my lazy skimming. Along with that it’s been a challenge to make and keep a work schedule. I only have class on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (each class meets only once a week), so I have five days in a row without class. I’m also not allowed to work for the first 6 months that I’m here. All that free time makes it easy to push tasks, most often reading, to another day. However, if I procrastinate at all there’s just simply too much to do in one or two days.

The rest of this post is just a description of my classes, so you can stop here if you’re no longer interested. I won’t be offended.

Foundations of Information Technology: This is my online class. We met up once at the very beginning of the semester to go over the interface of the course. From then on it’s been strictly online. We have content modules where we get all the information of the class, and we participate in online course discussions. There are also optional computer lab demonstrations to help us with the technical aspects of the course. This class covers the very basics of LIS. There are two components:

1. The syllabus states: “It deals with the development, current state, issues and challenges of information technologies in society at large. While the implications of these techno0logies for libraries and other information-based organizations will also come up, the course generally takes a wider view of information technology and society.” So far we’ve  been talking about what information actually is, how we use it and classify information, and how  technology and access to information impact our lives.

2. This is the technical skills portion of the class. We have 3 assignments that deal with PowerPoint, web design and social media.

This class is one of the most difficult for me so far. I’m finding it hard to really concentrate on all the reading online. It’s hard because I tend to skim when I read online, so I have to go back and re-read things several times. The online discussions are hard because they never end. I log on every day and I usually have between 40-75 new messages to slog through. This is one class that is really testing my ability to manage my time.

Foundations of Information Society and Information Organizations: This class is focused on professional roles that students will fulfill after graduation and issues of interest to information workers. It emphasizes the development of professional skills, including reading and analyzing academic and professional literature, presenting, writing, and giving and receiving constructive feedback.

We have 3 assignments that include

1. A presentation where we have to teach a portion of the course material to a small group and lead discussion activities

2. A paper in which we discuss an article from the popular media that focuses on a topic relevant to LIS

3. A critique of a scholarly article from the class

So far this class seems fine. We haven’t really delved to far into the material, but I’ve enjoyed learning about the different kinds of libraries and all the career options for LIS grads (i.e. public libraries, archives, academic libraries, hospitals, law firms, gov’t organizations, newspapers, corporations, and the list could go on and on…)

Foundations of Resource Description and Access: This class focuses on how information is actually organized in libraries and various classification systems. There’s a lot more to this process than I ever knew. It takes a ton of work to figure out how to organize information and documents in a way that makes sense, looks good and allows for easy location and retrieval. This is the class where I learn about the Dewey Decimal System 🙂

There are 3 assignments. (Sensing a theme here?) Two have to do with classification systems, and one is about subject headings.

So far this class is SUPER technical a.k.a. boring. I think I will get more into it once I get the basic terminology down. Right now it’s like blah blah blah metadata systems blah blah indexing blah bibliographic control. It’s important information to know, but I know it’s going to be a tough one for me.

Foundations of Information Sources and Services: Where the last class focused on how information is organized, this course focuses on how to find and access information. Basically this is what you need to know to provide reference services. It emphasizes both the technical skills/research strategies needed as well as interpersonal and communication skills.

Again, there are 3 assignments.

1. A written report analyzing our experiences using information services. Basically we have to go out with some sort of need, have an information professional at the appropriate location help us address it (at a library, bank, insurance company, etc.) and then analyze the experience.

2. A set of written responses to information seeking scenarios

3. A group project in which students identify the information needs of a real or hypothetical organization and design a reference collection to serve those needs.

This class is also a bit dry so far, but I think it’s going to have TONS of great and practical information about how to be an effective resource for library patrons.

Another lost weekend

6 Sep

This weekend I managed to watch all four seasons of the TBS comedy My Boys. Thanks Netflix for turning me onto this hidden gem. I think I’m perhaps the only person ever to have watched it…

I went running for the first time

3 Sep

I went running for the first time in my new town yesterday. I bought some new running shoes before I left, so it was good to test them out. I must say, I do approve. They are super comfortable.

Besides being proud that I actually went running, I am also dismally ashamed at how out of shape I am. I only made it a mile yesterday. And I am sore today. Tragic. Hopefully I can keep it up though, and impress everyone back home with my amazing athletic abilities. Or maybe just run a 5 k haha…

I guess I’m officially Canadian now, eh?

2 Sep

I’ve been in Vancouver for a whole week and now feel sufficiently ready to give you some initial impressions of my new home:

  1. Super confusing address system
  2. Super convenient public transit system
  3. Made of lots of neighborhoods
  4. Expensive
  5. Green
  6. Filled with artists and foodies

1. Super confusing address system. When my mom and I first arrived in the city it was dark and late. We had been on the road for about 14 hours and we just wanted to find my house and get to sleep. However, the streets here are super deceptive. Many of them are numbered, but the addresses don’t correspond with the numbered cross streets. For example, the addresses for the houses between W 41st Ave and W 40th Ave on Balaclava St. are not 40__. They are something like 1304-1386. It makes no sense to me. Even with mapquest directions, it was a pain to find my house. It doesn’t help that all the houses have huge bushes in front of them so you can’t see the house numbers. We ended up parking and walking down the street to find it. We were only 3 blocks off haha.

I’m getting the hang of my neighborhood more and more, but it’s still rough when streets end suddenly and then pick back up a block  up from where they left off. Luckily, I don’t really have to go anywhere and when I do I can use mapquest.

2. Super convenient public transit system. I just started using the bus system here, but from what I can tell, it goes pretty much everywhere. I have a bus pass from school, so I’m trying to take the bus as much as I can to save on vehicle expenses. It helps that I live in a particularly convenient part of town. I’m a half a block from the bus stop and it only takes me 15 minutes to get to school and 25 minutes to get downtown.

3. Made of lots of neighborhoods. If you look at a map of Vancouver, you’ll see that it’s made up of a bunch of different areas. Now that I’m here I can say they really are like a bunch of tiny little towns. Some are only a few blocks across. Each one has it’s own identity and stereotypes and sort of people that live and shop there. It’s been interesting to hear about each of them from the locals (at orientation and from my roommates) and to explore a few on my own. It’s also fun because you don’t really feel like you’re in a huge city unless you go right into the heart of downtown. It’s more like a collection of small communities.

If you’re interested, I live right between Kerrisdale and Dunbar. About a kilometer and a half up the street in Kerrisdale there are a bunch of cute shops and restaurants. The weekend I arrived was Kerrisdale Days. Apparently Utah isn’t the only place that has a celebration for every town. Half a km the other direction is Dunbar. It’s less happening, but there are still a few shops and a grocery store. All in all, I think I chose a great place to live. The rent is reasonable, it’s in a good location (i.e. safe, residential but still close to stuff, not super ghetto) and as far as I can tell my roommates aren’t ax murderers.

4. Expensive. I was prepped for Vancouver to be more expensive than SLC, but I still was surprised at how much stuff costs here. They have a 12% Harmonized Sales Tax on all non-essential goods here (basically everything but groceries, rent and utilities) which makes shopping and going out quite a bit more expensive. It doesn’t help that the US dollar is still pretty week and everywhere charges you fees to change money. The upside of my neighborhood is that there are tons of cute little produce and specialty shops nearby. The downside is that they want to charge $4.99 for a dozen eggs.

5. Green. Vancouver is a land of cyclists, organic cotton wearers, fair trade coffee drinkers, public transportation riders, recyclers and composters. Even the taxis here are Prii. (As in plural for Toyota Prius–look up if you don’t believe me.) So far I haven’t found too many hipster eco-snobs for my taste, and I appreciate the green focus of the city.

Along with being earth-friendly, Vancouver is also quite literally a green city. There are tons of beautiful parks and green spaces within the city, and the UBC campus is filled with giant treets. Perfectly green and manicured lawns however, don’t seem to be as important here. I think I’m just used to the vanity with which people in Utah regard their lawns. Don’t get me wrong, there are still some amazingly landscaped yards here, but I would say it’s much more a rarity here than back home.

6. Filled with artists and foodies. This is one aspect of the city that I love. Everywhere you go there are art galleries, delicious restaurants and shops selling stuff from local artisans. I particularly like the focus on supporting local companies, farmers, artists, etc. It’s something I wish more people paid attention to.