Saturday, January 30, 2010

Grad School: Day 2.

On Saturdays I have two courses: Reference and Information Services and Technology for Information Professionals. What is obvious by looking at the titles of those courses, and became glaringly apparent as I attended my classes today, is that I am about to be power-leveled in my expertise on information. This is going to be quite a bit more intense than I thought it was going to be...and I had no doubts that it was going to be pretty intense.

It is also going to be very fascinating, though. There is a lot of information out there stored in a lot of different ways in a lot of different places. There are also a lot of different types of users looking for an interface with various samples of all that information. This program is going far beyond simple vocational training. It is going to be about understanding the theory, construction, and practical use of data generation, storage, the liaising of data with people and more data, and the evaluation of all the above.

I see where this road is heading, and it is both exciting and dangerous. Kerry had already pointed out that a librarian makes a very boring drunk, as after a martini I was going off about action research vs. usability testing. I'm plunging into this profession, so I hope I made the right choice.

If you read this blog, you might be interested to know that I now have a twitter account, @snookju. It is apparently a tool relevant to librarians.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Grad School: Day 1.

So the first thing you should know is that on my first day of graduate school, I was sick as a dog. I have one of those sinus infections that has my cheeks and forehead swollen and throbbing, and my eyes on the verge of popping out of their sockets. So I put some Tylenol sinus and a bottle of blue stuff in my briefcase (along with a schedule so I could take the maximum dosages), popped Kleenexes in my coat pockets, partitioned off a part of my briefcase to be a paper/snot receptacle, and shoved off at about 7:30 yesterday morning to beat rush-hour traffic.

As it turns out, there is no rush-hour traffic between Worcester and South Hadley, so I got there and hour before orientation registration started. I did however, realize my mistake halfway there...at the point when it started snowing on me. It's been warm here recently, so I hadn't taken weather into account. No snow brush. No de-icer. No hat. No scarf. Ah, well. I arrived without incident and enjoyed a nice Irish cream (syrup) Cafe-Au-Lait before making my way to the conference center.

First point, Mt. Holyoke campus is beautiful above and beyond any university I've ever seen. The buildings are all incredibly old, dark brick, classical edifices...surrounded by equally classical trees. Seriously, one tree was so large that they had scaffolding set up in the branches to trim it. The campus has a stream with a waterfall as well, around which is built the conference center where we had our orientation.

After arriving at the center, signing the honor code, and getting my ID made (I looked good), it started to snow in earnest. So while listening to explanations about courses, advising, program goals, organizations, acronyms, events, etc., I got to sip on chamomile tea watching snow fall into a waterfall. Orientaiton talks were supposed to be delivered by multiple faculty, but they were all sick...so bravo Terry Plum for taking care of it all for us.

After orientation talks, we had lunch. My academic advisor was also under the weather, so that is forthcoming for me. My next big event was a library tour, which was absolutely astounding. The campus library spans three buildings, one of which is seven stories tall. The central foyer looks like the anteroom of an imperial castle, and the functional bits come off of it like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle--making it feel even more castle-like. And I'm not exaggerating when I say that I would rank their main reference room on par in beauty to the National Cathederal. It had nearly a three story vaulted ceiling with ornately carved strutwork, massive thick glass windows with thousands of tiny little panes, real dark-wood bookshelves, and random windy little wooden staircases that led to reading balconies big enough for one. It is like a book cathederal. I could go on about the rest of the library...I'll just say that it was all amazing.

After the tour, we had a couple-hour orientation to the various technological tools available to us. We mingled for a bit and dispersed, thinking that the snow was over.

The snow was not over. After enjoying a corned beef sandwich from the Tailgate Picnic, I was walking back to the GSLIS office when the whiteout hit. It came from behind me, so I didn't even see it before it hit the back of my neck and head. I turned around to see that the world had transformed into a ghostly white. Teeny tiny particles of snow were falling in such quantities that I couldn't see my own hand at arm's length from my face. It was neat, but very cold and windy. So I read Peter F. Hamilton on a couch in the office until class started.

My first class is Evaluation of Information Services. From my first impression, it is going to be all about using qualitative surveys and quantitative statistics to evaluate the efficiency of library systems. So I get to learn about statistics and bibliometrics. Yay. That'll be new. I've never been a big numbers fan, but I am a little excited about this. For my first project, I think I want to try to compare the relationships between collection development expenses and staffing expenses in Massachusetts public libraries as they change based on the size of the library and the number of patrons they serve. I honestly really want to graph this.

Class let out at 9:00 p.m. By then, I was ready to go home. So I chiselled my way into my car and let the defrost work for a while before driving the pike back to Worcester. I really, really hope that I'm a little better before my Saturday classes. Being the creapy guy who carries around kleenexes, blows his nose every ten minutes, sneezes every fifteen, and takes swigs from his bottle of blue syrup just doesn't suit me.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Decade's Worth of Evolution.

We get used to changing the number we write next to our signatures, on our papers, and in our correspondence. But do we really count the years? Ten years doesn't seem like that long a time, but a lot has happened in the first ten years of the new millennium.

On Jaunary 1st, 2000, the world did not end. I was in ninth grade. I was still as devoutly religious as an angsty teen can be and halfway convinced I would end up being a Baptist preacher. I played Runesape and watched the scifi channel every Friday night at my grandparents' house. I was very proud of my 512 mb of memory and my cutting edge 1 gig processer. I thought that Yahoo chatrooms were the mecca of intellectual/religious/philosophical discussion. I worried about wearing cool clothes and looking good...despite having horrible acne problems. I still weighed in the 140's. I still knew how to do math, but I wasn't capable of growing a mustache--much less a beard. I thought that all science that didn't line up with traditional Jewish mythology was quackery, but I still hated tomatoes.

It would a year before I lost my best friend from my childhood: my Grandma. Another half a year after that before I would go to ASMS, discover people who didn't think exactly like me, declare open war on them all, and lose. Soon after, I would first begin to secretly question my worlviews upon meeting my very first gay person, becoming friends with him, and realizing that my entire religious philosophy did an inhumane injustice to him. Oh how the dominoes tumbled from there.

It would be two years before I got my truck (I'll never let you go). Three years before I graduated high school, started college, and met my best friends of today. Four years before I started dating Kerry. Seven years before I would graduate and get married (I'll never let you go). Eight years before I would work at the library in Little Rock and my knee issues would start to become debilitating instead of just painful. Nine years before moving to Massachusetts, failing to find work, and wondering what to do next, and finally deciding that I want to spend the rest of my life as a librarian. Ten years before starting graduate school.

Television had yet to be transformed by reality TV, as Survivor was still in its first season. Terrorism was a word few people ever heard or spoke. Cell phone networks were patchy at best, and text messages were just coming into their own. Social networking meant going to dinner. The closest thing our nation had come to a war in nine years was Kosovo. When someone talked about the Lord of the Rings, you knew they were a fantasy reader. And Warcraft was just that--no World of.

Yep. Things change.