On Being a Generalist Librarian & Not Having a 2nd Master’s

They let you work in an academic library without a second master's

After I started my first professional librarian position at an academic library in 2003, I had every good intention of getting my second master’s degree…in something.

In fact, it was required if I wanted to stay employed at my job. But then there was a lawsuit (or something to that effect) and the university – which had hired art professors with a terminal MFA and social work professors with a terminal MSW – found out that they were holding librarians to a higher standard: MLS + an additional graduate degree. The requirement was promptly dropped. So with that, coupled with no financial support from my institution to actually earn the degree, I let the second master’s slide off my radar.

You see, I’m one of those librarians who went directly from bachelor’s degree to MLS and then right to work.

And for librarians who told me a second master’s degree was essential (ABSOLUTELY essential!) to be an academic librarian? Well, I’ve never had any problems with just my MLS and I’ve been employed at four different academic libraries. Is it required at some institutions? Sure. Is it helpful for your resume? Of course it is. And for the jobs where it is required–say a subject specialist: Law Librarian, Asian Studies Librarian, etc… well, those jobs never interested me in the first place.

Why yes I am the expert

I’m a generalist librarian. A jack-of-all-trades. I know a little bit about a lot…and I’m completely OK with that. My focus has always been on reference and instruction. I love not knowing what I might get asked next. In a two-hour shift at the Reference Desk, it could be anything from Census records to British literature. Last week, I had a chat reference question about “natal homing in migratory fish.” And you know what? Even though science is not my strong suit, I did OK. Maybe I should try out for Jeopardy!.

I look at the information literacy sessions I have scheduled this semester: music, education, communication, political science, history, social work, psychology, biology, environmental science, English composition, Spanish. I don’t fear the range of subject areas. I embrace it.

That’s what I love about being a generalist librarian: the variety. From reference, to information literacy, embedding in online courses, working with non-traditional students, handling the library’s social media activities, participating in special studies with assessment and space planning: There’s always something different to do.

This has been my path. I’m not discounting subject specialists at all: We need those! We need librarians who are passionate about their subject speciality. And there’s definitely a need for subject specialists at research institutions. However, my experience has primarily been at undergraduate institutions where you wear a lot of different hats.

I no longer feel bad about not earning that second master’s degree. Priorities shift and you begin to assess what’s really important to you personally and professionally. I also like having my student loans all paid off. At this point, for me, it’s not financially prudent to sink money and time to earn an additional degree that likely wouldn’t make a hill of beans difference in the long run. Unlike others, I can put a price on education.

And then I think back to my original plan: What would my additional grad degree have been in? Certainly not history (which is my BA). Maybe an MBA or a master’s in educational technology would be helpful? Recently, a professor stopped me and asked, “So when are you getting your PhD?” I just laughed. A PhD to be a generalist librarian? No thanks.

“I Didn’t Know I Could Use the Library!” Meeting the Needs of Students Online

I’m at WILU 2013 – Workshop for Instruction in Library Use – a Canadian information literacy conference in Fredericton, New Brunswick: a great opportunity to network with librarians north of the border – or “south of the border” to them! I presented a session about implementing library services to online students:

“I Didn’t Know I Could Use the Library!” Meeting the Needs of Students Online

Session Description:
What do you do with students you rarely see in the library? University of Wisconsin-Green Bay has a growing online student population. Reaching these students can be challenging. Many still view the library as just a brick-and-mortar building, and not an online 24/7 resource. Librarians conducted an assessment of online students to investigate their needs. This session will focus on the assessment results and the information literacy outreach plan put into place. It will highlight several initiatives, including the embedded librarian program, faculty-librarian collaboration, marketing efforts, and learning tools geared towards online students. Based on feedback from students and faculty, an increase in reference questions, as well as high usage statistics from librarian-created tutorials and discussion boards, the outreach plan is working. Come and learn about these best practices for online learners and share your ideas, as well.

Here are some of the assessment tools, resources, guides, and tips mentioned in my presentation:

Get ‘Embed’ with Your Librarian: Meeting the Needs of Students Online

The online market is a growing field for higher education. How does the academic library fit into all of this? My colleague–Anne Kasuboski–and I gave a presentation at the 2013 Wisconsin Association of Academic Librarians conference, held at Elkhart Lake.

We discuss how our library at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay surveyed our online students and faculty and developed an outreach plan to meet their needs.

It covers our Embedded Librarian program, which started out as a pilot program and expanded successfully across online courses, in addition to some face-to-face courses. It also includes information on the learning tools that we gear towards online learners, such as LibGuides, tutorials, and resources like NoodleTools.

If you have questions about being an “embedded librarian”–let me know! I would like to hear what other librarians are doing with programs such as these.

Bringing the Annotated Bibliography into the 21st Century: Using a LibGuide as an Assignment

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I’m a LibGuides aficionado. Students love them. Professors love them. It’s a great way to package only the most relevant library and research-related content and tie it directly to an assignment or course. Professors can then link to it from their course management system (e.g., Blackboard, Moodle, D2L) in an environment where students spend most of their online “academic” time anyway.

This semester I taught a course for my institution’s Information and Computing Sciences department: Information Science 410: Advanced Information Problems. This course takes a problem/solution oriented approach to a complicated issue – in our case, gun control – and examines the maze of information related to it.

As a librarian, I thought the best thing to do was to put together a LibGuide to direct students to good information. But then I thought, “Hey, these are information science students…let’s put them to work!” Because the course spends time on evaluating information, a course LibGuide project was a perfect opportunity for students to demonstrate their skills.

Using our gun control issue, students worked in teams to evaluate the best library databases for the topic, and gathered relevant books, websites, government information, and video. I taught them how to use the LibGuides system and gave an overview of “model” LibGuides. Each group was provided with a LibGuide shell. Students had “collaborator” access to the LibGuide allowing them to add content and edit the design.

After each group submitted their LibGuide, I had a panel of library staff evaluate them. We selected the “winning” LibGuide to be published on our site. The end result?: a non-biased and informational guide on a popular and controversial issue that can be used by all students on our campus to gather academic information.

The project gives students practice at evaluating and curating information. The LibGuide, combined with a written assignment where students explain their information selection brings the time honored annotated bibliography into the 21st century. It’s something that academic librarians should market to professors as an assignment that demonstrates critical thinking and evaluative skills.

LibGuide link: http://libguides.uwgb.edu/guns

How Ranking Library Schools is Like Ranking the Socks in Your Drawer

U.S. News & World Report just released new rankings of graduate schools in library science. Isn’t ranking library schools sort of like ranking the socks in your drawer? It does not matter.

I hope that prospective MLS students don’t read the rankings and think, “Gee, I need to go to THAT library school!”

These rankings have repeatedly been called into question. The prime reason is the methodology:

The rankings are based solely on the results of a fall 2012 survey sent to the dean of each program, the program director, and a senior faculty member in each program.

And this:

The library and information studies specialty ratings are based solely on the nominations of program deans, program directors, and a senior faculty member at each program. They were asked to choose up to 10 programs noted for excellence in each specialty area. Those with the most votes are listed.

Not a good research methodology, is it?–something that I suspect any MLS student could tell you. The issue of college rankings (both undergraduate and graduate programs) and the data that is gathered has been scrutinized by higher ed periodicals and websites. Just take a look at:

So what should a prospective MLS student do? I’ve written about this before, but when it comes to library school, just pick the cheapest (in state vs. out of state) or most convenient (online vs. on-campus) option that’s available to you. The coursework provides the base and the theory, but it’s experience that will get you a job. If you’re just taking the classes, you’re doing it wrong.

I remember students in my program complaining that the MLS coursework wasn’t “academic” enough, but I think it’s important to remember that you are in a professional program. You are training for a career, not writing a dissertation. It’s up to you to turn the coursework into something worthwhile. Work as a paraprofessional or library assistant during library school. Do an internship, practicum, or volunteer. These experiences will help you land a job better than any course you take.

I’ve never looked at anyone’s résumé and thought, “Wow, they graduated from a top ranked library school! Let’s hire him/her.” So ignore the rankings. Focus on gaining some relevant experience instead.

10 Library Terms for High School Students

Library Terms for High School Students

I created a library guide for our College Credit in High School students–these are students in high school who take university classes at their local Wisconsin high school. The program provides a head start for college-bound students. Classes run the gamut from English composition, to psychology, communication, chemistry, and Spanish.

Several of the classes involve a research component, where students begin that very first “real” college-level research assignment. These classes often make a field trip to the library where we work with the students and teachers in introducing them to some of our library’s resources. We often get questions about terminology: “What’s that?” “What does this mean?” So, I began to brainstorm some different library terms I thought our students should know–especially as they prepare for their first academic library visit. These are terms they might encounter in our library, or see on the website, catalog, and databases. The terms are also ones that I frequently use in information literacy sessions.

Here are the 10 library terms for high school students:

  1. Abstract – a brief summary of a book or article. Quickly reading an abstract will help you decide if you would like to get the full article or book.
  2. Bibliography – a list of books, articles, and other materials that are cited by the source you are looking at. Also known as a works cited list, or a references list.
  3. Call Number – Each book in our library has a call number–a series of numbers and letters that help you locate the book. When searching for a book in the library’s catalog, remember to write down or print out the call number. Call numbers are organized by subject, so books on the same topic will be shelved next to one another.
  4. Catalog – the online system that lists all of the books, media, and other materials in our library’s collection. To search the catalog, click on the the Books & Media tab on the Cofrin Library homepage.
  5. Citation – brief information about a source, such as a book or article. It usually lists the author, title of the book (or name of the magazine, journal or newspaper), title of the article (if applicable), publication date or year, pages numbers (if applicable), and publisher (if applicable).
  6. Database – a collection of articles from newspapers, magazines, and journals. To search for articles in Cofrin Library’s databases, use the Articles tab on the Cofrin Library homepage or click on the Databases by Subject link.
  7. Find-It button – When searching in the library’s databases for articles, you will often see the “Find It” button. If the article is not available in full-text in the database, you can click on the “Find It” button to see if the article is available online in a different database, or order a copy of it for free through our interlibrary loan service.
  8. Full-Text – When searching in the library’s database for articles, you will often see a link that says “full text” (sometimes marked as PDF Full Text or HTML Full Text). This means that the article is available online in the database. Clicking on the “full text” link will take you to the article where you can read it on your computer, print it out, download it, or email it to yourself. If the article is not available in “full text,” you can click on the Find-It button.
  9. Peer Reviewed – A scholarly material based on original research. It is often a scholarly journal article. Not a magazine or newspaper article. It is a material that is written by an expert in a field (e.g., doctor, scientist, professor). Generally, peer reviewed materials are fairly lengthy and text-heavy. Peer Reviewed materials always cite their sources, so you will usually see a bibliography with it. Sometimes, peer reviewed materials are referred to as: scholarlyacademic, or refereed.
  10. Stacks – This is the area where the books are shelved. In Cofrin Library, the book stacks are on the 5th and 6th floors of the library. Books with call numbers A-P are shelved on the 6th floor. Books with call numbers Q-Z are shelved on the 5th floor.

The terms I picked were specifically designed to be ones that students would encounter using my library’s resources–so they may not necessarily be the 10 terms you would pick. I looked at the assignments and then looked at our library’s physical layout, along with our online resources to pick these terms.

I avoided some terms that others might argue for inclusion: subject headings, ISBN, Boolean operators, reference, reserves come to mind. These just don’t fit the scope of the students’ assignments.

So what do you think: Am I missing any big ones here? What would you have included? Feel free to share.

ALA Poster Session – Assessment into Action: Meeting the Needs of Adult Learners

Here is the online version of my poster session for the ALA Annual Conference in Anaheim. My topic is academic libraries and adult learners:

Assessment into Action: Meeting the Needs of Adult Learners
What do you do with students you rarely see in the library? University of Wisconsin-Green Bay has a growing adult learner population, most of which take classes solely online. Reaching these students can be challenging. Librarians conducted an assessment of adult students to investigate their needs. This poster session will focus on the assessment results and the outreach plan put into place. It will highlight several initiatives, including librarian-faculty collaboration with introductory courses, the embedded librarian program, and the targeting of library services to adult students. It will also address using data to argue for increased budgetary support and collaboration with offices outside the library. Based on preliminary feedback from students and faculty, an increase in reference questions, as well as high usage statistics from librarian-created tutorials and discussion boards, the outreach plan is working. The poster session will include charts of the assessment data, handouts of the assessment tool, teaching and marketing materials (LibGuide, tutorials, newsletters), and photographs of embedded librarian best practices.

Materials:
Embedded Librarian Tips (PDF)
Library Survey for Adult Degree Students (PDF)
Library Survey for Adult Degree Faculty (PDF)
Adult Degree Library Guide for Students (Libguide)
Adult Degree Library Guide for Faculty & Staff (Libguide)
Adult Degree Library Welcome Video (YouTube)

Poster:

Introduction

Introduction

Assessment, Outreach Plan

Assessment, Outreach Plan

Embedded Librarian Program

Embedded Librarian Program

Promoting Services, Advocating for Support

Promoting Services, Advocating for Support