Capstone Video About the Douglass Alumnae Oral History Project

I’m super proud to finally share a project I’ve been working on all semester—a 4-minute promotional video for the Douglass Alumnae Oral History Project. The oral history project was the umbrella for much of the activity during my internship at the Margery Somers Foster Center over this past year, and as a capstone we thought it would be nice to talk about the project, what it meant to me, and to hear some pieces of the interviews.

It was a wonderful capstone project and so many people on the library faculty and staff came together to help me learn the skills I needed to put this video together. Everyone was so generous with their time, and I can’t thank them enough. I hope you enjoy watching!

Questions to Ask on an Interview

Last Friday the Rutgers MLIS program hosted its annual career fair and as the head of SCARLA I planned a discussion session about the job search process and academic libraries. Our small group had really interesting representation from four-year and two-year colleges, both with and without a tenure structure.

One of the really helpful moments in the discussion (and quite relevant for me at the moment) was when the librarians talked about the kinds of questions a candidate should ask during the interview.

It’s good to be prepared for a couple of reasons: 1) You’re interviewing them, too, to make sure the position and environment is a good fit. Asking questions is how you can find out if it’s a good match where you’ll be successful; and 2) The hiring committee will almost always ask if you have questions, and you don’t want to be caught off guard. Chances are you have questions, but processing some of the information might take more than 15 seconds, so have something to ask while you formulate on-the-spot questions.

And Now the Questions

Here’s what came out of our small group discussion.

  • Is there a structured on-boarding process?
  • Do you pair new hires with more experience librarians for mentorship?
  • What kind of projects is the department/people in the department working on?
  • How do those projects get started?
  • What are you measuring in the library and how are you taking on assessment?
  • What is the tenure process (if there is one)?
  • How often are librarians reviewed?
  • What kind of research and teaching support do you offer?
  • What conferences have the library faculty been to recently? What did they present about? What have they published recently and where have they published?
  • What are the faculty/librarian relationships like?
  • What are the committees that the librarians serve on?
  • How does [the department you’d be joining] work with other departments within the library?

Have an Opinion

They also said that if you’re looking for a public services position that you should also be able to demonstrate that you’ve thought about some of the issues that are important to the field, including:

  • The reference desk & chat
  • Teaching
  • The future of libraries

It was such a good discussion, let’s keep the conversation going. What are some other good questions to ask or things to consider before an interview?

Diigo Group for Academic Librarians

In my social media class we’ve been learning about curation tools like Tumblr, Pinterest, Diigo, and and for one assignment we’ve chosen a curation platform and started curating resources about a topic that is of interest to us personally or professionally.

Diigo Library ScreenshotMy curation has centered on academic libraries in the areas of teaching information literacy, flipped classrooms, digital literacy, and digital humanities initiatives. One key aspect of curation tools though is that they’re social, and you get more out of them when more people in your community use them. (Facebook would be no fun without friends.)

One of the affordances of Diigo is the ability to create groups, and then to share the resources you personally curate with the members of a group. While I’ve been able to find resources that other academic librarians have shared, there didn’t seem to be a space to share with each other. So I went ahead and created a group, Academic Librarians, and I’m hoping that other academic librarians will join. Hope to see you over there!

Digital Humanities: New Roles for Librarians

I recently participated in an MLIS Colloquium Speaker Series panel, “Digital Humanities: New Roles for Librarians.” The talk, which was organized by Nancy Kranich of Rutgers University Libraries and sponsored by ACRL-NJ, centered on how libraries and librarians are becoming involved in digital humanities efforts at colleges and universities, and some of the challenges and opportunities in doing so.

Also on the panel were:

  • Monica McCormick, Program Officer for Digital Scholarly Publishing at New York University Libraries and NYU Press
  • Zach Coble, Digital Scholarship Specialist at New York University Libraries and co-editor of dh+lib
  • Kayo Denda, Head of Margery Somers Foster Center and Women’s Studies Librarian, Rutgers University Libraries, and Douglass Alumnae Oral History Project Organizer
  • Krista White, Digital Humanities Librarian, Rutgers University Libraries-Newark

My portion of the discussion centered on how students, who were the primary audience of the talk, can get involved with DH efforts. My answer, in short, was that very rarely would anyone approach them out of the blue to say, “Hey, you look like a promising young librarian. Would you like to work on this DH project?” It’s important to be interested, to learn about it on their own, and then to find the people who are doing DH projects and ask to help (or be entrepreneurial and start a project). And the good news is that people in the field are usually enthusiastic about sharing what they know and bringing people into the fold.

If you missed the panel, you can watch it here.

Presenting at the 2014 VALE Users’ Conference

On Friday, January 10, I had the great opportunity to co-present my work on the Douglass Alumnae Oral History Project with my supervisor, Kayo Denda at the 2014 VALE Users’ Conference. Our presentation was titled “Doing Digital Humanities: Expanding Undergraduate Research Capabilities through NVivo.” We were lucky to have a full room and many attendees from Rutgers as well as other institutions from around the state.

Here’s the story behind the presentation:

Kayo is supervising an undergraduate student in the Aresty program at Rutgers. These students take on an independent research project over the course of an academic year and present at poster in April about their work. We’ve been working with a student on the Douglass Alumnae Oral History Project to perform textual analysis using NVivo. We helped her develop a research question, which is: What were the expectations of women before, during, and after WWII in terms of a college education, a career and marriage/family?

So why is this important for academic librarians? We think there are a bunch of reasons (in a nutshell):

NVivo is naturally suited to librarian’s sensibilities. It’s about research, metadata, coding and creating taxonomies. Therefore learning it, teaching it, and using it makes a lot of sense. It’s an opportunity for librarians to learn an emerging technology that actually dovetails with the work they already do instead of having to become a graphic designer or application developer.

It’s a way for librarians to expand their role in the research process. As more and more research takes place online, there seems to be a perception (real or not) that librarians aren’t playing as large a role in the research process anymore. I staff the reference desk and chat and still get plenty of research questions, but probably not as many as a librarian would have received 15 years ago. Teaching students to use NVivo to help them read carefully, annotate their readings, and organize their research is a way to be a part of the process. There are also lots of ways that librarians can collaborate with faculty to create assignments using NVivo that can help build the skills that professors and librarians are working to nurture in students.

Digital humanities is hot right now and NVivo is a low-stakes way to participate and experiment. What new conclusions can you draw now that you can mark up, organize, and run queries?

I also talked about my involvement in the project, which has been personal and unexpectedly moving for me. I’m a Douglass grad, but never felt all that connected to the college while I was there. Being a part of the oral history project made me feel like I was a part of something bigger. I’m also learning audio and video preservation softwares, managing workflows, teaching non-traditional info lit classes like interview workshops, and presenting at conferences.

Developing a Professional Identity

Over the summer I took an information literacy course and one of the articles we read was about developing a teacher identity. Many entering the field of librarianship don’t consider that a large part of their job will be as educators, and thinking of one’s self as a teacher can help to feel more comfortable with the role. 

When I read the article, it seemed obvious to me. I already felt like a teacher. Of course a librarian is a teacher. But then I had to rewind. I felt like a teacher because I’d been teaching for more than three years–not library sessions, but an actual class that met twice a week where I planned the syllabus and assignments. I did the grading and set the expectations. 

And then I thought back to my first year, maybe even two as a teacher. Did I feel like a teacher? No. I felt like a sham. Like at any moment, someone would find me out. I was an imposter. It took a long time to feel like a teacher, and to identify myself as one when people asked. 

It was the same with being a writer. For years, I never really thought of myself as a writer, until I was years into being a professional writer and realized–hey, people are paying me to write, I guess that makes me a writer. 

Now, I’m experiencing a similar crisis. Just as I have come to finally accept my identity as writer and as educator, I’m letting them go, not totally, but more than ever before, for an identity that doesn’t feel quite like me yet–librarian. People ask what I do, and I can’t yet say with comfort that I’m a librarian. And perhaps this is because I’m still in school for librarianship, but I think it’s more the process of identity development and the confidence that comes with a couple years experience. 

The Informational Interview

One of the best things about being in library school is getting to talk to people in the profession who love their jobs—and they all almost always do. They’re enthusiastic about talking to you, almost like they’re prosthelytizing and your a new convert. They get to talk about things they love, and you get a lot of great information about what it means to work in the profession.

But how do you even arrange an informational interview?

So far, I’ve sought out people who are doing something I want to do. Then I’ve said, “Hi. I’m Jen. I’m an MLIS student and I’d love to know more about what you do. Do you think we can have coffee sometime?” In every case, people have been kind and generous.

When I was considering going to library school, a colleague referred me to a librarian at our institution, and he was very helpful in giving me confidence that I was making the right decision.

I read an article about one librarian in the Targum, the daily newspaper of Rutgers, and she was doing just the kind of work I hoped to one day be doing. I sent her an email, and got to hear about the great work she’s involved in—and now I’m working for her as an intern.

At a conference, I heard someone give a Battle Decks presentation that was great, and I introduced myself. We had lunch a few days later, and I got to learn more about public librarianship and being a manager.

For a class, I had to do an instructional observation and the librarian I was observing was generous enough to give me some time the next day to talk about what he does and ideas he has about teaching.

All of this is to say that there’s an amazing support network I never expected when deciding to go to library school. I didn’t realize that it would be available to me if I just asked.