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Current courses and other topics of interest (to me, at least)

I’ve been meaning to give an updated run-down of the classes I’m taking and my general opinions of them, but school and life and bronchitis (yeah, again, but I’m on the mend) got in the way, like they do. To make it up to you–and because I am waiting for my wonderful SO to come pick me up so I don’t have to stand in the cold and watch full buses go by–I’ll talk about extra-curriculars and such, as well.

Retrieving Information: I should have taken this course last semester. (I really mean this course; I can’t speak to whether or not I should have taken the version of this course that was actually offered. It had a slightly different teaching staff and some different assignments.) The textbook is pretty good and kind of surprisingly useful to me, specifically: I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I don’t know the difference between certain kinds of library resources, and I’ll be learning that very basic knowledge through this course. Had I known this stuff, going into my internship at the Engineering & Science library, I think I would have done a better job last semester. (Not that I did poorly. But there’s always room for improvement.) Just generally, I think it will make me a better librarian. I also like that it’s taught by a practitioner–if any course should be, it’s this one.

Introduction to Cataloging and Classification: No surprise that I like this class. I liked grammar in high school, too. Also, it’s taught by a really fantastic professor. Now, from recent discussions off AUTOCAT, I’m kind of in a tizzy over the oldness of FRBR and RDA and the relative lack of implementation–or alternatives–put forth by the library community. And so I am studying this not just for the nitty-gritty rules of cataloging, which interest and intimidate me, but perhaps even more for the sociological understanding of how catalogers think and why change is so hard for the cataloging–and library–community at large. Also, you know, I kind of still want the title “Metadata Librarian.” I liked scripting, in limited quantities, and would be interested in doing some serious data wrangling; this class will bring me one step closer to being really qualified to do that.

Issues in Academic Librarianship: Another fantastic course, exploring various … well, issues faced by academic librarians and academic libraries. The professor is great–she actually treats us like graduate students, which left a few of us in mild shock and will require readjustment, after last semester’s freshman seminar. (Yeah, still bitter.) Her co-instructor and TA will bring some excellent insight to the class, as well. There’s a lot of reading, a fair bit of discussion, and a complete split between the in-person and online versions of the class. I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I am that she decided to run the course that way.

Resources for Young Adults: Dropped. Would have been a really good course and almost* entirely worth my time, if I had it to give, but the amount of work required was all out of proportion to the likelihood that I’d ever get to use what I learned. I’m probably going to be an academic librarian, and, furthermore, I’m probably never going to be a parent; there’s very little reason I need to read 20+ YA books and discuss, in depth, the issues facing today’s youth. Though, yeah, the 20+ books would have been fun. … Also, I’ve just got too much else going on to be able to give my full attention to four courses.

Field Placement: (Institutional Repository at CMU.) This is going well, although I feel like I’m moving very slowly and taking up a lot of my site supervisor’s time. I’ve uploaded 15+ documents, all but the first 5 without supervision, as well as harvesting a few more than that, some with supervision and some without. I think I pretty much understand the whole workflow and can really begin to contribute, now. So that’s exciting.

As for the Aviary, which is not actually a course (though I do hope I can make it count as a field placement for the summer), that’s going pretty well, too. I have the bulk of the journals organized and inventoried, and I’ve been comparing the collections against Worldcat and Science Direct, to see where the gaps are. There are a surprising number of older ornithological publications available online, which is pretty nice. I’m sad that I won’t get to see the library reach its full potential: the construction work for the Aviary’s expansion won’t be done until 2010, so my library will continue to be scattered across multiple rooms. I did have a pretty heartening thought: probably not that many librarians can say with certainty, “I have touched every single book in my library.” Although I’ll never be formally employed by the Aviary, so it is not in all senses “my library,” I will still be able to say that, at least until the quarter after I leave, when the new journals come.

Other general news: 1) I’m VP of SCALA and am co-directing the Book Kart Drill Team. We’re still picking songs and putting together a routine, not to mention thinking of funding options. We aren’t much past square one-point-five, I think, right now. Lots of work to be done. 2) I’m still Membership Coordinator of SLAPSG. We’ll be doing a special tour at the Aviary on Monday, which is pretty exciting–and has pretty much nothing to do with my volunteering there, except I happened to ask about both at the same time. 3) I’m trying to do a little bit of crafting, to help maintain my sanity. I’m going to have a separate blog for that and other not-at-all-library-or-engineering-related things, but it’s not up yet. 4) I’ll send you a gift and sing your praises in my blog and, if you want, answer a hard reference question for you if you can figure out why my CSS doesn’t work with Blogger and how to fix it. (I don’t care whether it’s a javascript workaround that you write me or whether it’s a Blogger setting I tweak or whether it’s just some added CSS; I just want it fixed, without breaking the rest of my site.) The class I call “content” is the problem; everywhere else, it auto-sizes properly, but it just won’t auto-size through Blogger. (It did, for a while, briefly, and then it just stopped.) I’ve got a number hardcoded into my template, which is not just inelegant but actually causes problems (say when someone resizes my text, or views a single entry on its own, or I forget to update the number after I write a longer- or shorter-than-average post). If you’re up for the challenge, I will happily send you my Blogger template, and you can probably find my CSS file yourself.

*It did have several essays-in-300-words-posted-to-Blackboard, with required responses of 150 words, the latter of which is only a small step above “utterly useless,” in my experience.

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