Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Chronicle: After Losing Users in Catalogs, Libraries Find Better Search Software

The Chronicle of Higher Education also has an article about the future of academic libraries. The University of Virginia and other major universities are adopting more user-friendly search software for their online catalogs. Should library catalogs adopt a more Google approach to keywords and indexing?

You may also want to read this article, "For Sale: a Truly Academic Collection," a former college president who has amassed almost 3000 volumes about higher education in his personal collection! He even has some out-of-print and rare books. A very interesting article.

Note: Some of these articles may require a subscription to access the full text. You can check out more Chronicle news articles about libraries here.

InsideHigherEd: (Academic) Libraries of the Future

InsideHigherEd has a news feature about the future of academic libraries. I know it's a few days old (I've been very busy with schoolwork and other unexpected changes in my schedule!) that I thought it was a great article to share. Now this is my question to readers here:

Do you agree with this statement below?

"The university library of the future will be sparsely staffed, highly decentralized, and have a physical plant consisting of little more than special collections and study areas."

If you are interested in more library-related and information policy, check out these links below:

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Public Libraries in Philadelphia May Shut Down

I think this situation is very unfortunate. The public library system in Philadelphia faces shutdown because the state government has been unable to balance their budget. This may not sound like major news, but many public library branches act as community centers for local neighborhoods.

While the library closures bring the obvious hardship of no access to free books, movies, music, newspapers, and magazines, there are bigger losses than that.

The closing of every library means that kids who go to the library after school while waiting for mom and dad to come home from work won’t have that constructive haven.

It also means that job seekers won’t have free resources and computer classes to help them get back on their feet. And anyone trying to improve his life with the GED, Adult Basic Education or English as a Second Language programs will have to find another way to do it.

I hope the Pennsylvania state government solves this situation very soon. As a graduate student attending an ALA-accredited school, libraries are important to all communities -- youth, adults, and the underprivileged.

[UPDATE 9/21/09: The Pennsylvania state Senate passed a budget vote that will prevent the layoffs of over 3000 city workers and the closures of all public libraries in the city of Philadelphia. This is fantastic news!]

Saturday, September 12, 2009

New Directional Signs in Ann Arbor

In the past two weeks, Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority has mounted over 200 tall signs that will allow visitors and new students to better navigate the streets and find important buildings on campus. The signs are divided into four sections (State Street, South University, Kerrytown, and Downtown Ann Arbor).

Although I find the signs very unique, I noticed some already have errors pointing certain locations in the wrong direction. If you memorize the area, you will rely less on the tall posts. There is some controversy over these signs because Ann Arbor is not a big city. Overall, guests won't feel intimidated when they ask strangers for directions to such-and-such place.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

MSI New Student Orientation

While my roommate and I were dining on State Street, she asked me, "So what is the School of Information (SI) exactly?" I saw this question as an excellent opportunity to say and explain what are my interests more clearly.

I explained to her SI was formerly known as the School of Information and Library Studies until 1996. The Board of Regents approved the name change to expand and create a new class of professionals who will address complex issues in the digital age. SI students study how information is created, organized, preserved, and managed and how information is used in different environments. U-M was also the first to relabel itself a "school of information". The school's stated mission is "connecting people, information, and technology in more valuable ways." SI is in the forefront on technology research.

The diversity of my incoming MSI peers is so amazing. Out-of-state students represent about 60% (international students comprise about 25%!) in my incoming class. I talked with a few students, and they all said U-M, particularly SI, has a great reputation abroad. The program is small enough that the academic staff have already memorized my name and want to help me succeed in my courses and internships. The interdisciplinary and personal nature of SI reminds me a lot of my alma mater (small class sizes, focus on theory and practice, interdisciplinary collaboration).

MSI students had undergraduate majors ranging from the liberal arts to computer science and engineering. I also met older students who have been in the workforce for over ten years and decided to pursue a career change. We all have diverse career interests (i.e., IT consulting, information economics, academic librarianship, security and copyright policy, community information development, health informatics, etc.). It was very exciting to learn about our different backgrounds.

SI Career Services is also phenomenal. The counselors update weekly a list of active jobs for SI students and encourage us to create e-portfolios. SI has the mandatory practical engagement program, in which students participate in client-based group projects to assist local organizations with their information and technological needs. Finally, all SI graduates regardless of specialization receive American Library Association (ALA) accreditation.

I haven't even started classes, but I already believe U-M will provide me with the necessary skills and training for becoming an effective macro-practice social worker and informational professional. I was looking for flexibility in designing my own program; I definitely made the right decision to enroll in SI this fall. SI caters very much to its students, and I realized now why it is a top-5 ranked program.

Friday, September 4, 2009

InsideHigherEd: Staying Motivated for Graduate Students

I found this article recently published on InsideHigherEd, and it gives very good advice on how to stay motivated and succeed in graduate school. It is okay to be selfish to a certain degree -- take care of your own needs first and focus on the end prize. (i.e., graduating on-time, accomplishing your goals, etc.). Graduate school is a full-time effort, and it requires full-time concentration.

  1. Be as organized as possible. Have a solid game plan for getting through your program. Know what the requirements are for each stage of your program. Find out when these requirements must be accomplished.

  2. Set deadlines for yourself, even if there are no “true” deadlines for you to complete. Let others around you — your peers, family, friends, mentors and advisers — know the deadlines you have set for yourself.

  3. Keep a visual reminder of what you are working on in your office. On a bulletin board keep a section for things you “need to do,” projects you are currently “doing,” and items that are “done.” This visual aid will remind you that you have made progress, finished important projects, and are progressing through current tasks. This will help you avoid feeling bogged down and overwhelmed with the hurdles of graduate school.

  4. Find a topic that you are passionate about -- If you don’t enjoy your work, then you are not going to stay motivated when writing draft after draft after draft. Find a research question that really gets you excited or a substantive area that you feel has an impact on a community, issue, or problem that you feel is important.

  5. Work with other motivated people -- Make sure you work with other motivated students in your program and outside. Find a group of people on campus or in the broader community that shares the same excitement for your topic of interest. Let their interest help motivate you to push forward.

  6. Work toward finding a balance -- Remember what is important to you outside of school, whether it be family and friends, maintaining your physical and mental health, or working on a hobby. Each week set aside a few hours or so to spend time on something other than school work. Remember to set priorities in your life and every now and then check in to see whether you need to adjust how you are allocating your time.

  7. Don’t doubt yourself -- You can complete graduate school because you are well qualified to be here. You are working in your substantive area because there is something about this field that drives your intellectual curiosity. You will finish your thesis and/or dissertation because you are now the expert in that area. Do not waste time wondering whether you are good enough to be here — just know that you are.

  8. Let the guilt go -- Feeling guilty for not finishing a project by a certain deadline, or for not working through the entire weekend, or for not devoting as much time as you feel you should to something outside of your program, will only hold you back. While you should set goals, priorities and deadlines, recognize that you will not always be able to meet them. Let yourself off the hook and let the guilt go. Acknowledge that you are not going to be perfect at everything and that you will never have that perfect balance (no one ever does!), but at least you are trying — and that your persistence will be rewarded.