Apr 3, 2009

Musings on a Reception

Two weeks ago, or thereabouts, I attended the Admitted Student Reception for prospective MSLIS students at SU. Most people were mulling over their school choices and deciding whether SU was the place to go. I, of course, was not mulling. I live in Syracuse. I only applied to SU. I need not mull.

I brought my little video camera to document the event. The day was a full one—9am-4:30pm—and involved food, panels, tours, and more food. It was a day crammed with information for the aspiring information professional. I learned a lot. For instance:

· I need a tripod

· I need a microphone

· I need a camera that doesn’t involve tiny little tapes, and I should think before shooting to prevent rotten shots with lousy sound.

· Privacy issues should be taken into consideration. (If I was already a librarian I’d have thought of that.)

So, I have crappy video. Lots of unusable, crappy video. Not totally unusable. I made a montage that you can see at the end of this post. It’s like a word cloud, but it’s not a cloud. It’s a list of words. All the words that led me to wonder just what I’d gotten myself into with this whole library school thing.

Now, bear with me as I offer an overview of the reception and share some very general impressions of the school, the panelists, librarianship, etc.

First impression: If you look at The Dome (SU’s basketball arena) from certain spots on campus it looks like….well, take a look:

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That sad sight aside, the ischool (the School of Information Studies) is housed in Hinds Hall, which has been completely renovated. The facilities are slick, modern and very up-to-date regarding all the latest technological stuff. I, for one, can’t wait to learn what exactly all that stuff is, so I can stop calling it stuff. At any rate, it looks very cool. Very 21st century.

After breakfast (there was a fantastic coffee cake muffin which I would totally recommend if you were in Syracuse, and if I knew where it came from), we went upstairs for the first panel of the day. Half a dozen professors talked about what they teach, what their research interests are, etc. There was a break, more food and coffee, and then a second panel made up of alumni, who talked about where they worked and illustrated all the really interesting things you can do with a library degree. Then a lunch break followed by a panel of current students who talked about what they're working on and with whom, future plans, etc. Finally, there was a tour of the museum which I skipped because I was exhausted from holding the camera up for hours without a tripod

Things I learned:

· You can get credit for categorizing pasta.

· There are a lot of specialties. Medical, law, corporate, school media, public, academic....and there was nearly a throwdown when one librarian said her specialty was the best and the other librarian said, no, her specialty was the best and blood was in the air. I wanted to collect bets (I was laying my money on the public librarian because she was young and probably more agile,) but I had a video camera in my hands. Good to know they’ll go to the mat for their work, is what I was thinking.

· You can volunteer in a game lab at SU. Like, with games. And do research on games and gaming in libraries. And take them out to libraries in the area and show off the whole thing to librarians and convince them that they're really missing the boat if they don't welcome gaming in their libraries. SU is the only school in the country doing research on gaming, but beyond that I don’t know the details. Clearly, I should find out specifics before blabbing about it in a blog. But HEY! You can work with games! BOOYAH! And there's a website about it all, so you don't need to listen to me anyway. Just click here.

· Your degree can take you to places other than libraries. Like, you can work as a preservationist on a Native American reservation. And get paid to collect cannons.

· Librarians are pretty happy with their lot. (Except for the Annoyed Librarian. See link to your right.) They get to move around if they want to, they can always learn more about other aspects of the field, they get to teach and/or help people. (Which begs the question: what if you don’t want to teach or help people? Maybe this isn’t the career for you? But even then I bet you can find ways to work more solo, as it were. Get really good at all the technology stuff. The stuff I hope to talk more intelligently about at a later date. Then maybe you can spend all your days on a computer. Avoiding people.)

· Have you noticed I don’t really have any idea what I’m talking about? That’s because I haven’t started yet. So, sue me.

· Students get lots of opportunities to work with professors, and even get published.

· Internships are crucial. I want to do mine in Amsterdam. Can an English speaker get an internship in a non-English speaking country? Actually, I know for a fact that most Amsterdamers (Amsterdamites? Amsterdamians?) speak English. No, wait. I’m thinking of Denmark.

· If you want a pretty course take the one on special collections. If you want a job, learn archiving.

· The students raved about the school, even though there were no professors listening in. So the students weren’t just kissing ass—they actually meant it.

To tell the truth, I ended the day with a big headache. Not a headache, really, but a head that spun around. Not like in The Exorcist. It was spinning because its was crammed with new information. Looking at my crappy video later I knew why: there are TONS of things to learn about librarianship.

Apparently, it's normal to feel dazed and confused when you face the prospect of library school. One alum (the public librarian who totally would have won the throwdown) said she went into her first class, where a bunch of librarians are paraded through to talk about their specialty, and said after each one, “Oh, I want to do that!” By the end you pretty much want to do it all but are forced to choose, and it ain't easy. But they say you can time the “ah ha” moment when, as one professor put it, every one of us will go, “DUH!”

I hope I go, “DUH!” by Thanksgiving.

Here’s the other thing I noticed: almost everyone said something like, “I have a different background from everyone else.” Which means either they’re all egomaniacs, which I guess is possible, even though that’s not the first thing that occurs to you when you think of a librarian, or else having a diverse and interesting background is actually good for future librarians. Thank God for that, because I’m doing a mid-life switch from flamenco dancer to librarian. There’s a different background for you.



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