IST-511 Day Five: School’s out for Summer

Today was the last day of class. We had some time in the morning to talk about networking and school libraries, then the poster session took place in the afternoon. I have already talked about the importance of netwroking when I discussed my interview with Jon Cawthorne, so I won’t go into any detail here. I will concentrate on the afternoon events: the poster presentation. My group chose to present the benefits and disadvantages Ebooks present for  collection development in the academic library.

This was my first poster session. In fact, because I grew up in Uruguay, where the shool systems is understandably different from what we typically see in the US, I can only remember doing anything emotely related once: science fair in 9th grade, my first year in the country. Overall, I found it to be a very effective way to give and receive tons of feedback, and a great way to find out how confident you are in your knowledge of a topic. Unlike a typical group presentation, the interactions are much more interactive, and they tend to be one-on-one. Instead of having to answer five questions from a mostly-friendly audience (it is much more difficult to really question a classmate’s work when you are doing it in front of a large group,  not to mention the fact that you know the roles will be reversed soon enough), you have to hold a a series of short conversation about your topic in a much more intimate setting. The questions are more numerous, more focused, and much more incisive. This means you find out quickly enough how much you really know about your topic. In addition, you have no idea who you might be talking to at any particular moment in time. I remember having an animated conversation with one woman who, it turns out, was Elizabeth Liddy, Dean of the iSchool. I also had the “fortune” to be on call when Scott Nicholson, our professor, stopped by (to my credit, I did recognize him right away). After three days of insisting that the point of the project was to present a controversy without taking a side, he walked up and asked me what I thought would happen with Ebooks in the next five years. This seems (now) like a logical question; at the time, after three days (and nights) of striving to remain fair and balanced, it felt like a personal batrayal, if only for a moment. I have to say these poster presentations keep you on your toes.

After my turn on “defense,” it was time for me to roam and learn about the various issues my classmates had decided to present. I have to say, having sparred with Dr. Nicholson made a significant difference in my approach to this part of the event. I thought, if he gets to ask , nasty, unepxpected, out-of-the-box questions, then why can’t I? Isn’t challenge the best path to real learning? So off I went, trying my best to find something about other posters that I felt was missing or underdeveloped, and probing in that direction. I ended up having some interesting discussions that never would have happened had I just stuck to the information presented on the posters, everyone was very gracious about my approach, and no one broke into my room later that night to exact revenge, so I strongly recommend this tack.

And that was IST-511. I think I will give myself one more day of reflection before posting final thoughts on the course as a whole, and for those of you that are just dying to find out all about Ebooks in academic libraries, I will add another entry with the contents of our group’s handout (and a picture of the poster, if I can get one before tomorrow).

IST-511 Day Four: The perils of librarianship

Today began with a discussion of professional organizations, followed by a panel discussion on library space. This last item was of great interest to me, given that it is one of the issues that the two most important academic libraries in San Diego are focusing on at the moment. I was interested to hear the speakers’ thoughts not only on physical space, but also on the need to define a library’s virtual presence. Academic libraries are especially concerned with the non-physical aspects of space because they primarily serve a population that, because of age constraints, tends to expect information transactions to take place virtually.

In the afternoon, we discussed the ethics of the profession. The lecture touched on the many gray areas that a librarian can run into by just doing his or her job, situations where the librarian code of ethics can clash with other standards: personal, social, corporate, religious, political. I learned much about the importance of policies, As much as I dislike bureaucracy, I see the importance of having a clearly written, widely communicated set of policies, so that when one of these nebulous situations happens, a librarian has something concrete to fall back on to justify the decision made. Like many people, I tend to see bureacracy as something an organization’s staff hides behind in order to avoid difficult decisions, but after that lecture I have an increased appreciation for the value of being able to back your actions with something more substantial than “because I think it is the right thing to do.”

IST-511 Day Three: The truth about eBooks

I spent much of today working on the poster project. We have a topic: what the growth in eBook publication means for collection development in academic libraries. I’ll talk about pros and cons later on this week, so as not to give away any spoilers. After some frantic source consultation and some good teamwork, we have a draft of the handout that goes with the poster (so that people who don’t get a chance to ask any questions can take away some additional information). Tomorrow is actual poster design, and Friday is the big unveiling.

In class, we had a talk about library systems, followed by a panel on the same topic. I found the discussion informative and inspiring. Hearing about all the different fiefdoms that make up the systems world brought out my techie and organizational sides, and I spent a good portion of the morning with half a brain focused on the presentations, and the other half on several ideas about how I would go about improving the situation. Today, I ruminate. Tomorrow, who knows?

The afternoon was spent getting to know some crucial pieces of Bird Library: the book conservation/restoration operations and the special collections space. Professor Lavender gave a great talk on collections, showing us some truly impressive pieces that belong to the library (anything from pieces of an Assyrian cuneiform clay tablet from about 4,000 years ago to an art project created by an SU student about her grandparents’ experiences in Auschwitz). I especially liked the stories behind each item’s acquisition, which were not only entertaining, but provided valuable insight into the why and how of collection-building. I think one of the best aspects of this course has been the glimpses it provides into all the various aspects of Library Science. I’m still focused on academic and digital topics, but it’s always good to know what your various career choices are within a field, and it’s always good to have some insight into what other members of my future organization will be doing.

IST-511 Day Two: Copyright law and science fair flashbacks

I find nothing gets people going early in the morning like a good copyright law discussion. This is going to be dificult to beat for the title of “scariest lecture of the week.” It is one thing to vaguely know that copyright is an extremely complicated issue that is very much a hot topic these days; it is quite another to sit in a class for two hours and have the instructor point out, about once every five minutes,  the various ways in which your work, school, and leisure activities could potentially violate federal law. This is a topic that deserves much more attention than a paragraph in a daily recap; all I can say at this point is that there is a great divide between the laws that govern copyright (many of which have been passed to satisfy the needs of the entertainment industry rather than any concerns having to do with scholarship or education) and the layperson’s understanding of what is and isn’t a copyright law violation.

We also began working on our group projects; I will be posting more about this in the coming days. Our group is trying to come up with a workable topic centered on eBook adoption by libraries. The final result of this project is a poster that highlights two sides of a controversial issue for discussion; the posters are then taken to an exhibition hall where they are displayed and fellow students, professors and guests can ask follow-up questions about the material. Basically, it’s  librarian science fair.