Thursday, April 02, 2009


I should probably be finishing the last lecture I need to listen to for class tomorrow, but I'm feeling rather excited and alive at the moment, so it's best to write now. I'm typing from a table at the top of my hotel, looking out on the university. I spent four excellent hours this morning in class for LIS 560 (Instructional and Training Strategies for Information Professionals). My professor is as excellent and articulate as I remember from my first quarter. Once again, I'm happy that I have some knowledge to help me ground the material, though in this case I'm relying on what my husband does for living --teaching-- instead of library experience. Throughout the lecture and discussion this morning, I kept noting bits that I wanted to share with AK (either because he might be keen to know something or because I was learning something he'd already discovered and shared). Because the 560s tend towards youth services, I was a little hesitant about this course, since working with children is not anywhere close to what I want to do for a living (I know my limits). so I'm glad that I'll be able to come away with something that will help me in my training of students or future job talks.

But I'm just as glad that I'll have a better sense of what it is that AK does. Yes, he gathers up small children and adults and teaches them to fence, but he's never just stopped at that. He's always considering how to approach the material, how to best present the material and engage the student to both make the class enjoyable and to make better fencers. He's truly interested in the pedagogy of fencing, not just how to best win a touch. While he always has a plan for his class (6 week intro versus 1 week camp, epee versus saber etc.), it's never exactly the same. He's always considering his methods, looking at how to change and improve what he's doing. And while I think it's possible to chalk some of that up to his need for constant creativity (which isn't necessarily a flaw), a great deal of it comes from just wanting to do it better, to give the students a better experience and more knowledge. Since I've often been placed in the frustrating role of guinea pig when he's trying out some of these theories (which can be good or bad, depending on the idea... and on my mood), it's nice to think that I'll finally have the perspective from the other side of the piste.

After class and lunch with the awesomest workshop group ever, I visited with my advisor. Since this is the last residency ever, I wanted to touch base with her about my future, something beyond the core courses. We had a great chat, which is why I'm feeling somewhat pumped and excited about the future. We discussed how I could gain perspective of the field outside of the academic library world. Academic libraries, especially small liberal arts colleges, is the bulk of my library experience, both as employee and user. When I have to think about a career that doesn't involve becoming a systems librarian at a similar institution, I'm blocked. I really don't know my options yet. Really, that's because I'm still new to this field as a professional and I haven't yet developed the skills that will dictate my options. She feels that once I get through the beginning 530s I'll have a clearer sense of where I'm headed. The idea of doing a directed fieldwork in a similar, but non-academic environment was proposed. If I could track something down, that would be perfect - building skills and an idea of where I'm headed all at once. After that we just chatted about life and the world and other tangentially related topics. She's a very cool person and I hope to find the excuse to get up to Seattle again, if just to talk with her.

So now I'm back at the hotel, in the middle of the aforementioned lecture. The lecture and my meeting this afternoon lead me to think more on why I'm attracted to the organization of information. It's more than just a compulsion for order - I have often seen offices of catalogers that do not bespeak of a mind geared towards controlling chaos. Before I followed the path of Victorian Studies, I felt very drawn to the sciences, especially chemistry. I loved the precision of it, certainly. What I really loved was how you could write things down, how a simple collection of words and numbers could tell you so much. Entire reactions, creation and destruction, in a single line. If you could read it... Making things useful, making things accessible and easy, even if on the back end they're terribly complicated, is a lot of what we're doing now in libraries and a lot of what I want to do. There's so much possible data, but how do you get to it and how to do you render it in a way that people or machines can do what they need to do? That's the sort of question that I find interesting, though I doubt my ability to answer it. Well, at least my ability at this point in my career. But the question will still be there in three years.

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