Tag Archives: grad school

Tips for the Working Graduate Student

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Tips for the working graduate student (a.k.a. things-I-never-do-consistently-but-probably-maybe-should)

I worked full-time while completing my Master’s program. I am working full-time while completing my doctoral degree. Sometimes I regret this, but not enough to quit. Below are the tips I’ve gathered to survive the next week, month, and semester.

*returns to repeat-playing Pray for Me by Kendrick Lamar and The Weekend*

  • Know your needs
    • Do you need people occasionally?
      • Set aside one day (or evening…or hour) a week where you get to talk to people (or a person). Treat yourself.
    • Do you need to be by yourself a lot?
      • Set aside one day (or evening…or hour) a month where you talk to people (or one person). You can make excuses other days. Or text them. Or ghost everyone and never talk to people again. It’s your choice.
    • Do you need white space on paper when you’re writing a 25 page paper?
      • Write in sections and then combine later.
  • Take time for yourself (be it 5min, 30min, an hour)
    • When you’re working, especially in full-time or service heavy jobs, and going to school, there’s a lot of demand on your time. If you are partnered or parenting, the demands for your time may be even more challenging (or different).
    • Someone is always wanting something from you. Make sure to replenish yourself. This might look like sitting quietly, listening to music, journaling, going for a jog, or going for a walk with a friend. Whatever you do to wind down. Prioritize your own need for yourself.
  • Schedule stuff
    • If you’re like me, you forget things that aren’t written down or scheduled. Your calendar, check lists, or project management apps are your friends (#Trello4life…unless something better comes along).
  • Invest in therapy
    • Family, friends, or partners aren’t always available to listen to your frustrations (nor should they be). Sometimes you need an objective body to listen and offer judgement free advice.
    • If you’re attending classes on campus, your university likely has a counseling center that provides services for free.
    • Some health insurance plans include some coverage for mental health, which makes it wayy more affordable.
    • You job may provide access to therapy support through EAP
  • Take care of all dimensions of your well-being. One way to prioritize this is to choose one and do something to benefit that dimension in a given week or month.
    • Emotional
    • Physical
    • Spiritual
    • Social
    • Environmental
    • Occupational
  • Channel energy in constructive ways
    • Eating your feelings isn’t great. But if you must, choose something with low-damage impact (I know I’m weird, but I’m a fan of salad, fruit, and veggies. Blame it on my dad.)
    • Reward yourself with focusing on a dimension of well-being upon completing a goal. For example, maybe you treat yourself with a hike, if you’re into hiking.  Or plan a mini vacation for getting through a rough semester.
  • Set mini milestones
    • Instead of “I just need to get to the end of the semester,” try “I just need to finish this slide” or “I just have to write these three sentences.”
    • Chances are, if you give a grad student a mini milestone, they’ll get distracted and do more than the milestone. 🙂
  • You will never be perfect, don’t idealize perfection
    • Good enough is good enough, sometimes.
  • Set realistic goals
    • As my therapist friend tells me: SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.
  • Prioritize deadlines
    • Write down everything you need to accomplish within a week. List them according to priority and attend to the most urgent issues first.
  • It’s okay to hide occasionally
    • This is one I struggle with: when to say “no.” Especially if the individuals asking are people you care about. (Note: I’m not talking about life or death crisis situations.)
    • Set boundaries or refer to other resources as necessary.
    • You cannot be everything to everybody. Sometimes you might have to say, “Can I get back to you on this?”
  • Be kind to yourself
    • Life still happens. Sometimes it’s hard to be engaged with studies when you’re facing challenging life events.
    • Again, sometimes good enough is good enough.
  • Establish networks of support
    • Find a person or two or three who understands. We all need cheerleaders.
    • Establish a “No Committee” at work or among friends. These are 2-3 people who help you make decisions about taking on new projects.
  • Celebrate the wins
    • Acknowledge your successes, large and small.
  • Get sleep
    • A 15 minute nap after work is better than nothing, if you know you’ll be up late writing.
  • Never do this again. Seriously, though. This is my last degree. Probably.

What would you add?

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“In which we look to the future…”

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Most of the time, that just means applying for jobs. Just saying.

This time last year, I was gearing up for one last year of grad school. I am excited to announce that I have now completed my graduate studies in Library and Information Science!! It was tough going at times, particularly while juggling a full-time job and my personal obligations, but I am so happy to have persevered and finished. I am also thankful to my family and friends who supported me in achieving my goals. I know good people.

So what’s next? As most of you know, I am interested in working with African American collections and/or supporting research in African American history and culture. To this end, I have been seeking out opportunities on the job to create research tools and better support academic programs in this area. Most recently, this included creating a LibGuide for African American Studies. I’m continuing to work on that, as well as one for African American Literature. One of my courses involved developing a guide for African American Art and Artists, which was probably the highlight of that class. These experiences have helped me to not only navigate diverse information organization tools, but also to strengthen my skills in information design, user experience, and consumer outreach. I’m also taking this time to develop general practical skills in librarianship and information sciences. Part of that will involve working part-time as a reference librarian at my academic institution, which I am really psyched about. Hopefully, in the near future, I will be writing about my first teaching experience.

Oh, but speaking of African American art, I had the opportunity to stop by the National Museum of African Art this weekend and view the Conversations: African and African American Art in Dialogue exhibit. It was a beautiful and thought provoking exhibit. I encourage all to go see it! It’s not easy to comprehend the magnitude of the African diaspora, but the cultural context that is shared across continents…it’s something. It inspired me to return to my art form(s). There’s such a voice in creating. Art transcends boundaries and it challenges people.

Have a great beginning of the year!! Happy 2015!

Web Accessibility

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  • Fulton, C. (2011). Web accessibility, libraries, and the law. Information Techoolgy and Libraries, 20(1), 34-43.
  • Gruder, C. S. (2012). Making the right decisions about assistive techology in your library. Library Technology Reports, 48(7), 14-21.

Gruder mentions the college student who relies on the the academic library to provide access to the learning tools she needs to succeed academically. Fulton describes the scenario in which a visually impaired student is unable to adequately complete a quiz worth twenty percent of their grade. Accessibility, referring to support of users with differing accommodation needs, is something the library should especially be concerned with. Given that the library’s purpose is to facilitate information access for all patrons, accessibility of software, hardware and information systems is of utmost concern.

When making choices about what, how much, and when to buy, Gruder suggests not getting carried away over the shiny things. Most people are familiar with voice recognition software, OCR scanners, or text-to-voice options on popular software, such as Adobe. However, there are many other options. Know your users and make sure that whatever tools and technologies are purchased will serve them well and meet their needs. This includes taking learning abilities and prior technological experience into account. This would be especially prudent for public and public access libraries, as their patrons are such a diverse group. Also of importance is know restrictions on licensing for specific programs.

In some cases, libraries or other learning centers may have separate rooms, such as campus disability support centers. Marketing tools and technologies to users is also important. If no one knows the resources are available, they’re unable to take advantage of them. Also, training staff to be able to work with systems, troubleshoot, and otherwise support users.

Fulton mentions steps that can be taken to address basic web accessibility issues, such as proper heading data, alternative image descriptions, and captioning images and audio files. For example, when creating LibGuides at my place of employment, creating an alternative description for images, links, and embedded content is something that we’re mindful of. As Fulton mentions, individuals in  need of accommodations are consumers and patrons too. They deserve to get every as much out of the services they pay for as anyone else.

Human Computer Interaction (HCI)

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  • Gupta, R. (2012). Human comptuer interaction: A modern overview. International Journal of Computer Technology and Applications, 3(5), 1736-1740.
  • Moreno, A. M., Seffah, A., Capilla, R., & Sanchez-Segura, M.-I. (2013). HCI practices for buidling usable software. Computer, 46(4), 100-102.

Human computer interaction heavily plays into the user experience, including system functionality and the ability of system to support and understand user input and feedback. According to Moreno et al, when designing systems, it’s an important part of obtaining a positive outcome. The basic physical component of user interaction involves concrete workings with the computer itself. There is also the manner in which users comprehend and have a working engagement with the system on a higher order of thinking level. User satisfaction is important, because when users are satisfied, they’re more likely to use a product and become loyal consumers. Loyalty drives up sales and guarantees long-term use. Knowing who your system users are and what usability and functionality features they’re looking for will drive how the system is developed going forward. In terms of libraries, satisfied patrons guarantees return users and patrons who refer their peers, thus building the user base. More demand is a good thing, provided the supply meets the demand.

Gupta mentions speech recognition software is an example of systems supporting HCI, which lends to the idea that well-crafted HCI compliant systems could serve the dual purpose of accessibility. Customizing systems to user-based interactions allows users to benefit from and interact with systems that specifically designed to handle differences in information access, such as users with impaired vision or hearing. It could also prove beneficial to those with limited physical abilities, by compensating for individuals needs through differentiated screens, touch-based feedback, audiovisual feedback, and text appearance. Gupta mentions that today’s system and design capabilities create the possibility and likelihood of more active systems vs. systems that are passive in nature.

Even for those who are not in need of accessibility accommodations, the idea is that systems will become embedded in the everyday way of life, instead of computers being an “other” part of life. I’m curious, though, what part increased security concerns will play into these future goals. I was just reading an article earlier that basically stated security scares, such as Heartbleed, are not anomalies. They are the new normal and will only get worse in scope. It’s kind of depressing, but necessary to consider, especially in terms of system tools that may span across all areas of life and productivity.

Considering ILS Updates

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  • Yang, S. (2013). From integrated library systems to library management services: TIme for change? Library Hi Tech News, 30(2), 1-8.
  • Asher, A. D., Duke, L. M., & Wilson, S. (2013). Paths of discovery: Comparing the search effectiveness of EBSCO Discovery Services, Summon, Google Scholar, and Conventional Library Resources. College & Research Libraries, 74(5), 464-488.

Integrated Library Systems (ILS) developed in the 1990s were designed to support and foster accessibility to online public access catalogs (OPAC) and allow libraries to manage and update interior catalog records for printed materials, such as books, folios, and journals. Many libraries today are spending a significant portion of their budgets on e-journals and electronic database development, in addition to electronic books. While physical books still make up a large part of the library collection, they are not the only part. Particularly in academic libraries, the tendency is for library collections to be fragmented, meaning patrons may have to use different tools and access platforms to access specific items. Books may be searched in the catalog, while online journals are accessed via a discovery tool and print journals hover in this weird space that is catalog supported, yet difficult to find and differentiate from electronic journals. Given these issues, libraries are moving towards ILS that will bring all of these pieces together and utilize well crafted discovery tools to search for and facilitate access to collections.

When designing or implementing an ILS, it’s important to make sure it will lend itself well to discovery. Currently, in the academic library at which I am employed, we use an OPAC, the Serial Solutions Summon discovery tool, and an alphabetic searchable listing of journal titles, which links to Summon. There is also the option to search specific databases, which may not be readily apparent or included in “all in one” tools such as Summon. We also have a Google Scholar option that is linked to our consortium portal. All of these options may create headaches for students who are not well versed in library research. Most students tend to default to the Summon discovery tool, likely because it is the first one to present itself. It’s visual appearance also mimics the seachability of Google, which students are very familiar with. However, the search interface may not be necessarily designed for each of use, which sometimes results in frustration on the patrons’ end. Serial Solutions has made some good changes to their product in recent years, eliminating some of the headache encountered previous. There is still the propensity for students unfamiliar with the tool to neglect to tweak searches to get desired  results, which is where library courses come into play.

Another important issue is the ability of the system to handle electronic resources. Again, libraries are purchasing and gaining electronic resources at a much higher rate than ten years ago. Many journals have turned to electronic only publications. For books that update fairly quickly or would take up considerable physical space (serials), it is preferable to purchase e-copies. ILS systems would need to support these acquisitions in a streamlined fashion. Also, the ability to display these items should also be part of the demand from vendors. We constantly hear complaints and frustration with trying to access e-books. That would play into the electronic resource management process.

When considering ILS acquisition and implementation, in order to ensure the ILS is suitable for institutional needs, it’s helpful to have the input of all involved. Evaluation of the current system and the changes necessary, input from library faculty and staff, and the opportunity to test drive the ILS before implementing it permanently is advisable.  In this case, I mentioned the ability to support hassle free discovery by researchers in an academic environment and the ability to seamlessly integrate electronic resources along with print resources. A smooth transition is always desired, so doing all you can as an institution to anticipate the needs and address them up front in the ILS will go a long way. Discussion of new ILS options will take into affect both the needs of the researcher/student, but also the needs of the staff (access services, technical services and research & reference). How easy will it be to maintain and implement changes? In information literacy and outreach, are there significant challenges in teaching users how to navigate? Will it require constant updates? How clunky is it to maneuver? What changes need to be made to the ILS to meet the institutions needs? Does the cost outweigh the benefits? These are some of the questions that will need to be addressed.

Blog Post on SIA’s The Bigger Picture

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Exciting news! I just learned that my blog post has been published to the Smithsonian Institution Archives blog. I researched, developed, and wrote an article on John N. Robinson in the course of my digital services internship at SIA this past summer. Here’s a link, because you know you want to check it out.

Enjoy!

“I knew the pathway like the back of my hand…”

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It turns out that the last semester is actually the hardest, for a number of reasons. But anyhow, I am going into my last semester of grad school, still working full-time, and serving as the president of my school’s SAA student chapter. So lots of fun all around! One of the classes I am taking, LSC 555 (Information Systems) requires periodic blog posts reflecting on required reading. Since I already use this blog for very periodic postings, they will be hosted here. Be informed. The other class I am taking is LSC 634 Humanities Information. It’s basically an overview of using and evaluating sources as a librarian for the arts and humanities. It seems interesting so far with a lot of practical information. Last but not least, I am taking….COMPS!! Because that means I am (almost) so done! So yes, I am excited.

We’ve started back into the semester at work. As such, I’ve been caught up in hiring and training student employees, teaching students (and sometimes faculty) how to use their library accounts and best take advantage of library resources, and trying a few new things on the job. One is that I started cross-training with Research Assistance (formerly known as Reference) over the summer. Now that the semester has started, I’m excited to see it when it’s busy. I’m also the liaison between Access Services and the Research, Teaching, and Learning divisions. It has allowed me to see what librarianship is like behind the scenes and what types of skills are priceless. It has also allowed me to build relationships with the librarians and find ways to get involved on their end. To that end, I’m currently working on a few LibGuides. One of which (seriously gleeful here) will feature resources for those studying African American Studies and the African Diaspora. In case you haven’t yet figured it out, AfAm Studies is a serious area of interest for me and I am tickled pink to be able to put my enthusiasm and skills to good use. I’ll be sure to post a link to the guide when it is done.

In other news, my blog post should be published at SIA pretty soon. Keep an eye out for that.