To Degree or Not To Degree – That is the Question

naughty-librarian I couldn’t resist posting this image — I was originally going to use it for another post I’m working on but fuck it, this works just as well.

For anyone that has spoken to me lately, I’ve become a homework recluse. I work, eat, occasionally knit, occasionally dream about sex, even more rarely catch up on Tivo and but read voraciously. But the bulk of my time is spent with my nose in books doing homework or doing “something” related to what needs to be done for class. My work load has gotten so heavy that I’ve dropped my job hours from 40 to 32, freeing up that one extra day a week that I can actually breathe. I’ve also had to stop hanging out so much with friends and had to give up the Walk For MS that I was planning on in a couple of weeks.

That was one of the hardest things I’ve had to come to make a decision on and while my partner in crime, Steph, totally knew this was going to happen far before I did, she graciously knew that my education comes first before anything else. I know that for the next 2+ years, I’ll be married to the program. It is not just the work load but the accouterments, if you will, of everything else associated with becoming a librarian that surrounds it. It is the networking, conferencing, professional development and hopefully at some point, a pint or two of Guinness. It is also the research on other topics that will be happening that also coincide with all this work that is making it worthwhile.

I’ve never been so exhilarated, frightened or have wanted something so badly as much as I want this degree. There are so many possibilities and opportunities that have arisen since I’ve started this program that I’m absolutely spell bounded by it all. But I need to address something due to a remark that was made to me tonight because I’m highly sensitive on the topic of education and the paths one takes to prepare oneself for the future.

In conversation tonight with a friend of mine who is also a graduate student, I was lamenting about the amount of work that had to be completed, in general. Her response to me was, “No offense to your old program, but welcome to a real Masters program.” She is, in fact, referring to my humanities MA from CMU, of which I finally received the diploma for several weeks ago. From her tone, you would have thought I would have sent in five cereal box tops and $5 dollars. And viola! Several weeks later, a freshly minted, laser printed degree was on my doorstep.

My educational background is not a straight line (and may I remind her, neither is hers). I did not graduate from high school, I in fact got my GED. I have never been ashamed of this fact (though for some reason, the fact that I am not ashamed constantly surprises people) nor do I regret my decision. It is what it is. I made some bad choices in high school, some other things did not work out and I obtained my GED one year from my “official” graduation date. I went to a local community college several years later, did well on a number of things and not so well on others and discovered technology.

Left the CC and worked in the technology sector for almost a decade before applying to, and being accepted by, a number of colleges and universities up and down the east coast and in Michigan. Left my fiancée, a job that would have been made redundant at some point or another and moved back home to finish my B.A. I was 30. Completed my B.A. at Aquinas College, a fairly presitigious school I might add in the Midwest, in May of 2005. My overall GPA walking in? 1.7. My GPA on graduation? 3.3. Not too shabby for a high school drop out.

During my senior year, while looking at graduate schools, I was torn by all the programs and choices that were available. It was suggested to me via several faculty members that I look into a general M.A. in Humanities to help narrow down my focus. Central Michigan University offered such a program, I applied to and was accepted to begin several weeks after my graduation date from Aquinas. Yes, weeks. The program, in cohort design, is set up that each class is done over weekend periods. So for my first class, American Art History up to 1960, I went to class every Friday from 6pm to 10pm and every Saturday from 8am-5pm, alternating weekends for 4-8 weeks. When that class was finished, another one would begin. Was the work load intense? Yes. You try cramming in two weeks of lectures into a single weekend. Social life? Out the window. Now, I joined the cohort in progress that summer and that was one of their last classes. When I started classes again in the fall, my mother found out she had cancer and a few other things were going on. I left the cohort and rejoined in the fall of 2006. I followed through for two years and finally completed the program in May 2008.

During this time, a lot of things happened in my personal life. I fell in love, I was working full time, my then boyfriend and I moved in together, we were quasi-talking about marriage. And I also started thinking about graduate school for something else, as was the then boyfriend. I had done a lot of serious thinking from May 2005 to fall of 2007 about what I wanted to do with my life and realised that I wanted to become a librarian. Becoming a librarian had been simmering in my brain for years, this was not a one-off decision (such as I am prone to make). A lot of things fell into place during that time frame that made the decision more concrete and I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, this is what I wanted to do with my life. Going back to the CMU program, I had often joked that it did not feel “real.” The set up, as it is, is not conducive for someone who is interested in doing serious academic work. Have people gone on to Phd programs from my program? Yes. But for the most part, many of the people in my program already HAD Masters degrees in something else and most of them were teachers.

All part of their enrichment process and professional development were the reasons why they were doing the program. But the work was real, the grades were real and the degree is also very real. Over the several years that I worked towards this program, there has been a number of times that people, not just my friend, who have made commentary to the fact that this degree was less valid than a “real” Masters. The now exboyfriend was one of them and so were several others.

I’m not sure what it was about the set-up that seemed to make them THINK that this degree is any less valid than any other Masters degree (especially coming from a highly accredited university), but nonetheless, the snobbery stings. So you know what? Fuck you people. The simple fact that I have to defend my decision or my choices is insulting enough, but to insinuate that my first Masters is not “real” is beyond reproach. I graduated out of that program with a 3.6 GPA. Just because the program did not follow “traditional” guidelines, did not adhere to the “rules” of traditional programs does not make this degree any less valid. If I went to a shoddy, fly-by-night university or took a class in underwater basket weaving, THEN you would have room to complain. But seeing as I am the one who willingly gave up social life, money, and time to obtain this “worthless” is my decision and my choice. You may not agree with how I did or do things, but you know what, it is not your life or choice to make, it is totally mine. And simply by suggesting that what I did was not “real” is not only insulting to me but shows me how very little respect you have for me.

At the end of the day, when my resume is printed and it showcases that I have a B.A., M.A. and a M.L.I.S. degree, not a single, solitary employer is going to question me on the method of how I did my classes or what I did to obtain my degrees. All that is going to matter is that I have them and the outstanding GPAs to back them up. (And the networking, professional associations, president of something or another by the time I graduate.) In short: Fuck you and the horse you rode in on.

Thank you and have a good night.

lib schooled: first month impression

I have to warn you that I’m currently battling laryngitis, I had a root canal finished today and I’m also PMSing. To say I’m not in a good mood is an understatement. I am also existing on only several hours of sleep at the moment as for some reason I could not get to bed at a decent hour last night AND had to get up at 5:30 AM to boot. So, there is that. So this post is more of a reminder of stuff I want to write about over a real “content” post, but it still has content, with most of it stemming from my first month in lib school.

  1. The work load is enormous. When they said that each class requires 3-4 hours of study time per credit hour (and I’m taking nine credit hours this fall), I thought they were joking. They were not, it seems, joking. The sheer amount of reading and participating is so overwhelming that it seems that all I do is homework. When ever I can get a free minute to study, I grab it. Except for tonight, with the whole root canal/laryngitis thing going on, totally understandable. And coupled with the reading is the projects and not only the projects but the side work that is to be completed as well (and observations and interviewing and so on). I’m so overly stressed right now that I have cut back my working hours from 40 to 32, effectively immediately, just to get a breather in. I don’t think I’ll ever really get caught up. I mean, I know I will if I continue on the path that I am on but seriously, I’m just like say whoa.
  2. This blog isn’t just about lib school, it is also about other diversions that I have going on right now that I have yet to write about (shame on me). Two of the main ones are going gluten-free and knitting. Several years ago, I discovered I was sensitive to a large number of foods. After going on a fairly strict diet for a few months featuring the foods I could eat, I felt a tons better and lost nearly 20lbs. For the first time in a long time, my stomach wasn’t giving me shit anymore. Then I met TheEx and I forwent my diet for love. Well big mistake on the forwenting part, because I’ve been feeling physically awful (more or less) for the last six months (longer but more noticeable shortly after the ex and I split) and of course the weight steadily came back. One of the big sensitivities was gluten and things have been MUCH better since I went gluten-free, again. More on this later.
  3. Dating. Last week I had a number of people attempt to fix me up with guys they think I may find interesting — which is all well and good but where is the freakin’ TIME to date these wundermen? There isn’t any, is the problem. If I can’t find time to shave my legs, then how am I supposed to work in these said dates? Last night I was mulling over this problem (i.e.: I’d like to start dating but when do I have the time conundrum) and realized that while I may feel pretty good overall, I don’t feel particularly sexy. I live in jeans, t-shirts and cardigan sweaters (of which I have a plethora). And while I may feel awesome about my self-image, not feeling sexy means I don’t want/think anyone will find me sexy in said wardrobe. This was a startling revelation to me last night and right now I’m not about to start getting out the hooker gear to get a man. The man can wait until I’ve progressed more in this degree. Also, I browsed through a week or two ago and went, “Ew.” So, there is that.
  4. I’ve taken up knitting in a big way again, after finding a number of projects via Ravelry that are not scarves. I’ve only knitted two projects and I’m so every looking forward to creating something new.
  5. I’ve also been itching to work on some new pop-up ideas. I’ve been thinking about creating pop-ups for family and friends for the holidays but I can’t remember where the hell my stuff is at — other than packed in one of the gazillion boxes in the basement.

And with that, I bid you adieu.

Future librarian confessions, part I

Master of Arts, 2008 To your left you will note a brand spanking new, ink barely dried diploma with my name on it. And it is NOT photoshopped. One MA down, one MLIS to go. Not too shabby from someone who did not finish high school. (I obtained my GED one year after I was to have completed high school. Statistically, I do not exist, imagine that.

I haven’t been to the library in ages.

Years, even. It had been so long that the information that the downtown main branch had on me was from several moves ago (i.e. years); I had $7 dollars in outstanding fines and I had to replace my library card as my old one was outmoded. Now I have a swanky, trendy library card and a key fob card. I’m not quite sure what is wrong with me, but I’m vaguely obsessed with key fob cards, especially when they are lime green!

When I was a kid, I used to haunt the library every day during summer vacations. In Port Huron, the main branch was located near the St. Clair River so each day would begin as thus: Get up, get dressed and have breakfast. Pedal my bike the few miles to the library with a knapsack on my back filled with water, snack foods, small blanket, pen and notebooks. Get to the library, drop off read books, check out new books; head towards the river where I had found some shady coves from prior visits, lock up bike, climb down path to said secluded spots, lay down my blanket and read all day long. I would do this, weather permitting, nearly every day. I never took anyone with me, and I don’t think anyone really knew where the hell I was or what the hell I was doing with my time every day.

This was in the early ’80s Midwest when one could leave their doors unlocked, cicadas seemed to sing louder and stronger, my favorite ice cream from the ice cream man was the red/white/blue rocket ices and I biked around town on my baby blue, boys 10-speed Schwinn. When we moved to Grand Rapids in 1985, the ability to get from one place to another was not as easily accessible as it was in Port Huron, despite the abundance of public transportation that Grand Rapids has to offer. Not knowing the street layouts, locations or places, for the better part of my early years in G.R., I was more or less library-less. In high school, I did take advantage of the school library, apparently so much so that my high school librarian remembered me after 15 years and did not seem that surprised that I was working at a bookstore OR that I was a MLIS candidate.

When we would later move several years later after our first foray to the area, I was within walking distance of our neighborhood library; a library so tiny that it would fit into the first floor of our then house. (Nearly a decade later, they razed the old library building, knocked out the gas station next door and did a complete rebuild.) And the one year that I lived in Toronto, working on my final year of high school, I championed the school library so much that the librarians knew me by name and began to recommend other reads or asked me questions about the authors I was inhaling. (This was the year that I fell in love with F. Scott Fitzgerald, began to detest D.H. Lawrence and read the entire Stephen King back catalog up to whatever was the most current tome at the time.)

My library-fu was strong, but as I got older and became more interested in boys, booze and clubbing, my interest in hanging out at the library wanned. It was not that I stopped reading, no, I was still inhaling books by the pound like I did as a kid but this time around, I bought them. Why be the 23rd person on hold for a book when I could go to the bookstore and buy it? After years of using the library system for everything from movies, music and books, the concept of purchasing said things just seemed weird and downright foreign. But the lure of having a job, disposable income (when you’re a teenager, every dollar you make is disposable income) and the ability to CRACK THE SPINES OF MY BOOKS, was even greater. No worries about late fees or not getting the book back in the condition I received it and I could highlight and write in books to my little hearts content. This to me was a stupendous revelation!

And as the years went on, I spent that disposable income on books (and shoes, clothes and make-up, but mainly books) and at the start of the internets thingy, when it came to looking for information, why one could it with a few clicks of a button! What’s this call system thing? Dewey decimal who? And the first thing I went looking for on the internets in 1995, something that I don’t think one could FIND in a library, were the words to R.E.M.’s It’s The End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine), using Veronica and Archie. I pretty much ditched hanging out in the libraries after that. Why wait for cranky Miss Kerfuffles’ to query my inquirer when whatever I needed and wanted as available online and could be accessed while sitting in my jammies!

And even though I brag that I have library cards from two different countries, three states, numerous cities and a sprinkling of college systems, it just isn’t the same. Or at least it didn’t use to be. Throughout my undergraduate and graduate career, whatever I wanted informationally has been available online, mostly via online editions of journals and periodicals. And if I couldn’t get it online, then I used ILL (inter-library loan), but that too was done online. I didn’t have to step foot in a physical building other than to pick up the books that I had requested, online.

Wandering around the downtown library the other day, I realized just how much I missed being there. I love the periodical room, with the long oak tables, comfy chairs and gazillion magazines and newspapers. The set up of the place, the smell of the printed paper after its been fondled a few dozens times. Just the essence of the library itself kept pulling me in. I wandered up and down the aisles, looking for reads and grabbing audio books for my trips to Detroit. I suppose it was then, that without a doubt, that I knew getting my MLIS degree was the utmost right thing to do.

I belong here, the library is my home and like a home, it will always be waiting for me no matter how long I’ve been gone or where. And no matter what happens, no matter where I may end up, I will always have my beloved books.

Now Listening: The Verve – Love is noise
Now Reading: Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Ninja Librarians: Reimagining the image of librarians

Quote of the night:

I organize, preserve, index and provide access for all of human knowledge — what do YOU do?

When I began researching library schools a number of years ago, I couldn’t quite get over the concept of why someone would need a degree in googling and bookshelving. But the more research I did on the programs and the sheer amount of flexibility that library programs gave to future careers, I was ready to be seduced in getting my masters in googling and bookshelving. And I couldn’t help thinking, as time progressed and I started pre-class research and book reading, that perhaps I was a tad righteous in my thinking.

And I love to be proven wrong.

Last nights class, Intro to Library Profession (or baby class 101 as I like to refer to it), dispelled many of mine, and apparently others, myths on the profession. Readings over the summer helped expand my knowledge on technology and librarianship, primarily that it was librarians that helped fund and start the first computer databases as a way of organizing and easily accessing knowledge. Yet, at the same time, there is the myth that as electronic cataloging of material grows the fate of the decline of physical libraries keeps growing larger.

Not true said the prof, as who else could manage, collate, collect, organize, and index all that electronic information but a librarian. Thus the job market is expanding at an astounding rate as more and more companies and individuals look for someone or something to help keep all of this information in control. The number of people who apply and go to lib school grows as the job market grows and as the job market grows so does the skill sets that lib school provides and teaches.

My prof went on to list what librarians do and what the skill sets are required and as she went through the list, she then demanded us to tell her exactly what company would not love to hire someone who had these specific skills. No one could provide an answer because what it boiled down to was that ANY company would love to hire someone who can provide this incredibly long and flexible skill base.

And it is not just in public, academic or even in a traditional library setting — companies are expanding to start their own catalogs, archives, special collections to name a few and who better to organize, index, and give access to this information other than someone with an MLIS degree?

In short: a librarian.

But the image problem comes in, namely, that while librarians were the first on the ball back in the dark ages with working with computers and electronic databases for organizing information, the profession has turned its collective backs to the onslaught of new media (which is slowly being changed as new technologies, classes, workshops and the like are provided to keep skill set fresh). The other problem is the image of the librarian — because when you say you are a librarians, the first thing that comes to mind is a Miss Kerfuffle, 60 years old with her hair in a bun, glasses perched on her noses, constantly telling you to shush in the library. And all Miss Kerfuffle wants to do is read her trashy romance and keep her books in line on the shelves. My prof talked about a study that was done some time ago (I forget exactly how long) in which a non-biased poll was taken on how Americans viewed themselves. 90% registered themselves as extroverts while 10% registered themselves as introverts. When the same poll was applied to librarians, the opposite was true — 10% were extroverts and 90% were introverts. Again, the problem of PR and marketing is holding true — librarians are constantly getting a bad rap on who and what they do.

What is needed, my prof said, was balance. It may be fine and dandy that you love to read and are into doing whatever but this job is a service job and we are here to provide a service to the public. You need, she intoned, to realise that you are providing a public service regardless of the capacity. The other image issue is the new fangled titling of librarians — information analysts, information architects, information managers and corporate information officers. But what it boiled down to was that at heart, they were librarians underneath the fancy titles. She told us a story of a friend of hers who was at the forefront of information architecture during the dot com boom rage. Her friend made a killing in the area and she joked that if his client base knew he was really a librarian, his pay rate would decrease alarmingly. Because clearly, being an information architect is MUCH sexier than saying one is a librarian.

Another interesting note is that she discussed about Michigan having two library schools when some states did not have even one. She talked about the differences between Wayne and UMich, expanding on why she was ecstatic that we choose Wayne over UMich. She discussed how she often guest lectures at UMich and told us an antidote about a professor at UMich who mentioned to her in passing that when that prof needs employees or students for projects, she comes up to Wayne to recruit, not necessarily within her own school. My prof said that was interesting and asked why that was so, to be told that UMich doesn’t necessarily teach the necessary skills for day to day work, rather, the students are more involved in research and development and are being groomed for professor tracks in academia.

Having gone over UMich’s website with a fine tooth comb, I can see why this would be true. Apparently, UMich doesn’t teach cataloging anymore, one of the foundational courses that almost every lib school teaches, and of which something you can’t learn on the job. Hence why the UMich prof recruits via Wayne.

Interestingly enough, I’ve heard this time and time again from students AND professors about the friendly rivalry between Wayne and UMich. Some of my classmates have joked that they are going to a high paying technical skills college in order to get jobs. Me? I don’t quite see it that way but the disparity between the two colleges does give me more food for thought as I battle on whether or not I should apply to UMich or not.

But that is a story for another time.