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.


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