Perspective

(No) Social Media On My Blog

 

You may have noticed that I don’t have any social media presence(s) linked to this blog: no Facebook, no Twitter, no Pinterest. I have decided that in the interest of keeping this blog as professional as possible, I will not be trying to reach my readers on any other platform.Layout 1

This choice has been the result of a great deal of careful thought. This blog was created as a platform to establish a professional identity for myself as an MLIS student, an identity that I hope will continue after I graduate and become a librarian or information professional. This site is a place for me to express myself professionally, and not a place to post pictures of my dog and complain that I dislike my most recent haircut.

There is a time and a place for selfies and rants, and this is not it.

The choice to link my Facebook or Twitter account to this blog would necessitate serious curation of my current (and past) posts on those sites. Alternatively, I could create a separate account under a pseudonym. At the present time, I can’t see how this would enhance my site. I want this site, and by extension my online professional presence, to display critical thinking and thoughtful opinions. WordPress, as a platform, works well with my goals for my online presence. My posts and my readership are simple and humble enough that I don’t feel that the immediate gratification of Twitter would do much to improve communication with my readers.

In addition, I feel that as it is, social media already uses enough of my time. To be perfectly frank, I would rather be outside. Or reading a good book. Or, best case scenario, outside with a good book.

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Beautiful Libraries, Perspective

Information Access & Why It Matters

I belong to one of the first generations to grow up with computers. The Digital Age shaped my childhood, my adolescence, and continues to shape my life: I do not remember a time before the Internet.  Compared to previous generations, I have spent my whole life with an unconsciously high degree of computer literacy.  Perhaps because of this fact, I have always accepted both computers and access to the web as a way of life, I never considered the theoretical implications of access to information until I discovered the opportunity to study information sciences.   I realized that although I have always been privileged with access to information.   This is not a universal reality, even for people in my own community.  It is my desire that as librarian I can act as an integral link between the public and information.

Initially, Michael Buckland’s categories of information seem self-evident: information-as-thing is required for the process of informing, which in turn is required for information-as-knowledge. However, unlike Buckland, I never separated the tangible from the intangible, the carrier from the content.  This distinction is important: the carrier must be available and accessible for the content to be available.  Just because the information exists does not mean that those who need it have access to it.  The basic purpose of a library is to enable open access to information. I believe that it is incredibly important to understand how and why information is organized and that access to information is essential. When you consider the wealth of information available online, it seems overwhelming. I chose to remain in an academic environment in order to better my understanding of how information can be accessed, obtained, and used. It is my goal to use this understanding to inform and educate the public with the ability to inform themselves.

In order to educate and inform themselves, the public must first have access to the information they need. As information professionals, librarians have a special understanding of information access. It is the profession’s responsibility to make sure the rights surrounding intellectual freedom (and access to information) are protected. These rights are an integral part of democratic rights as citizens. Intellectual freedom and access to information are important issues, and as such need professional advocates. The grave error of conflating neutrality with professionalism has barred the librarianship from their desired status as professionals. Professional neutrality is not only impossible, but also counterproductive for the librarian profession. The concept of a professional obligation of social responsibility (as critiqued by David Berninghausen) is equally ineffectual. In order to receive respect as professionals, librarians must advocate for library values. In order to be effective advocates, they must have clearly defined values. The profession must stand behind the professional definition of their values and defend them, not only because it is their mandate as professionals and as citizens, but, more importantly, because these values have immense societal value.

My decision to pursue a Master’s in Library and Information Sciences reflects my belief in the importance of access to information and my desire to understand and organize information so that it is readily available for everyone.  The advancements Digital Age should not present a hindrance or confusion but rather more open accessibility to information.  Information as a commodity should not be expensive. It is a commodity that should be widely available and open for all. It is a commodity that is a privilege but should be a right. My goal as a librarian is to inform and connect users with the information that they need and the ability to process and pursue the information that they need.

BDP Photography graciously granted me permission to use his beautiful images of this library. To see the rest in the series, and to see more of his work, please click here.

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Perspective

Libraries: A Historical Perspective

Libraries are ancient institutions. The concept of an information organization is one that has existed for thousands of years, well before the existence of books or the printed word. Necessarily, information organizations and their priorities have shifted with the times. Because they deal with knowledge, information organizations cannot be separated from the broader political, economic, social, and technological context that surround them.  To watch this video, originally produced in 1947, it doesn’t seem like much has changed. At least, not at first.

Libraries still begin with working with people. The video announces this, and it remains true: libraries serve people who are young and old, people who are from all stations of life.  The first requirement, as the video details, is a love for people and a love for books.  As far as I can see, this is still true. Reader’s Advisory is alive and well (and so much fun)! However,  for the modern library, some kind of IT knowledge is also needed. Librarians need to work a computer, operate search engines and databases, and have a good degree of competence with certain software.

It is still true that librarians serve a wide audience; they might work in rural areas, in busy urban centers, in the far North or in a slow suburban town. (The video even makes mention of bookmobiles – do these still exist? I certainty hope so.) As the video says, there are still many different types of libraries, each with their own special characteristics.

The video breaks different role of librarians into categories: catalogers, reference, circulation, working with children, working in a school.  All of these positions still exist today. It mentions collection development and special competencies, outlining administrative positions and technical roles, all of which remain important roles in the modern library. Even though the technology has changed, the end goal, improvement of service to library users, is the same.  It is true today that librarians are always developing new resources and new visual materials, working with new technology.

A bookmobile! Image from knottcountylibrary.com

A bookmobile! They do exist! Image from knottcountylibrary.com

One notable anachronism is the purported need for ‘thousands’ of trained librarians. Our economy has created conditions that are far from ideal.  The job search for new graduates in competitive and scary, based on what I’ve heard. Otherwise, based on this video, it seems easy to conclude that librarianship hasn’t changed much. But one of the aspects of librarianship that is most attractive to me is missing for this video: community involvement and political advocacy for information access are also crucial aspects of being a librarian. Both are necessary to keep the profession relevant. Both allow librarians to work as an important part of a community. I feel strongly that librarians should not remain neutral on political issues, especially those pertaining to a library context; namely, anything surrounding information access and intellectual freedom. Samuel Trosow’s perspective on open access is an excellent example of how political advocacy can (and should) be exercised by information professionals. Click here to read his ideas about open access and further explore his blog.*

This video promises that a library career is secure, challenging, and rewarding.  It advertises a competitive salary and assures you, as a librarian, it satisfying to feel that your work is valuable and essential. I don’t think much of that has changed, and I’m really looking forward to it. I cannot wait to become a librarian.

*Librarians and political neutrality is a topic I intend to explore in a later post. It may be obvious that I feel strongly that librarians and other information professionals should be active politically. To read a perspective that advocates for neutrality, check out Candise Branum’s excellent blog post, found here.

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Perspective

Why I Chose Library School

Ongoing social and technological transformation means that the way we approach information is constantly changing.  In light of this rapid change, it is essential to understand how to access and organize records and documents.  Access to this information is a fundamental aspect of learning and a necessary component of education.  Completing a Masters of Information will enable me to work toward my goal of finding a career that is rewarding and important. I believe that libraries provide an essential service to the community and feel that, considering my passion for knowledge and learning, a career as a librarian would be rewarding and worthwhile.

library feetMy choice to pursue a degree in English literature reflects one of my first passions: reading books. I love stories and words. Working in a library setting would allow me close proximity to books and reading, as well as a way to share them with a wider community.  In addition to traditional books, I am an advocate for non-traditional forms of reading and writing: the last twenty years have produced an onslaught of Web-based reading from outlets such as online newspapers and magazines, personal and professional blogs, and online book publishing.  It is important to be able to understand and access this kind of information and to enable others to do the same. Another task that I feel particularly drawn to is the preservation of material, in particular the preservation of books and documents for future generations.  This may be in part because I feel strongly about the importance of research.  My undergraduate experience has taught me the necessity of solid research: without research, it is impossible to understand concepts properly and it is impossible to learn.  As technology becomes more advanced, the nature of research and learning shifts.  As a librarian, one must understand new research systems and be able to pass this knowledge to others.  The organization of information is an essential service, especially considering recent advancements in technology.  New technology is a fascinating concept. It is important to learn and be able to control technology as it changes and grows. As our technology changes, organizing and controlling information on the Internet becomes even more important.

During my time at King’s University College, I became an active member of my school’s community. As a member of a small community, I have learned to appreciate the value and importance of both teamwork and volunteering. Great things can be accomplished when solid teamwork and passion come together.

After completing my Masters of Information, I hope to pursue a career working in public libraries. I would enjoy running classes or other programming for seniors, or giving instruction about technology.  I intend to organize programming for children, events such as story time, crafts and special workshops. I am drawn to the idea of helping people to connect to stories they will enjoy and knowledge that they will find useful.  Fostering a love of reading in children is incredibly important. I feel strongly that providing resources for those who cannot otherwise afford them is an essential service.

A library provides support for community groups and clubs. It is a place for people to meet and connect. Belonging to and supporting a community is an aspect that I find particularly appealing. I believe strongly in the importance of investing time into your own community. Working together, it is possible to make a true difference. Although libraries will change as technology changes, they remain traditional in the sense that they are a centre for a community. A library is a public place intended for learning. A library is very important to the community it serves; a library is a special environment, a welcoming place that fosters knowledge and literacy in its community.  My passions for education, knowledge and community service can all be realized working in as a librarian.

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In the News

Visual Thesaursus

I have the coolest tool to share: it’s a visual thesaurus!

The software provides an interactive visual map of the word you look up and any synonyms. Clicking on a one of the synonyms will bring you to a new word map, like so:

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Unfortunately, at this time you have to pay to for the software. But I really recommend checking out the trial version. It’s such a cool concept and is really beautifully executed.

Check out http://www.visualthesaurus.com/ to try it out, download the trial, or (if you’re lucky) see if an institution you belong to subscribes.

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In the News

Lynn Coady Wins 2013 Scotiabank Giller Prize

It was announced tonight that Lynn Coady is the 2013 recipient of the Scotiabank Giller prize, arguably the most prestigious literary award in Canada.  Her writing was simultaneously hilarious and heart breaking, and her novel, The Antagonist, will always occupy a special place in my heart (I wrote my final essay for my undergraduate seminar on The Antagonist).  I haven’t read her collection, Hellgoing, but I can say with the utmost confidence that she deserved to win.

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Image from cbc.ca

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Recommended Reading

Recommended Reading

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Image from vi.sualize.us

I love to read. Hopefully you do too! I’m excited to introduce a new series for my site: Recommended Reading.  I plan to recommend books, articles, blogs and other writing that hopefully you will enjoy. It is my hope that I can use this site to foster discussion and further recommendations from fellow bibliophiles. Check out the books that I’m currently reading as well as past reviews in the drop down menu.

You can read my first recommendation, for Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food by clicking here.

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